Reforms in the field of environmental protection are a very complex process both in terms of harmonization of the legislative framework and the necessary investments to carry out the reform. Due to the range of environmental problems, this is one of the most challenging aspects of accession to the European Union and is covered by Cluster 4, which was opened in December 2021.
Most of the competencies in environmental management belong to local self-government units, and considering the importance that the EU puts on healthy environmental policies, it is easy to see that a significant burden of reforms will depend on the capacity of local self-government. On the other hand, infrastructure and human resources for implementation and harmonization with EU regulations are noticeably low at the local level. The obvious solution for strengthening the capacity of local self-governments would be investments in environmental protection infrastructure, which were announced and planned with the issuance of green bonds during 2021.
Along with the investment process, it is necessary to raise the awareness of decision-makers about the importance of working to improve the environment in their communities. This would consequently lead to greater openness for cooperation with civil society organizations and participation of citizens in decision-making in the field of environmental protection.
The group of decision-makers who need special attention is local parliamentarians, who are often not sufficiently sensitized and do not have the know-how to deal with environmental issues in their communities. For that reason, the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society submitted 5 initiatives for the establishment of informal Green Local Assemblies Groups in Sombor, Smederevo, Bor, Zajecar and Nis. Four cities reacted positively to the submitted initiatives, and after the meetings with the local self-government, the next step is for us to focus groups with interested local parliamentarians. In the long run, they will, by prioritizing green policies at the local level, become agents of change in their communities when it comes to environmental issues. And local governments as a whole will become more prepared to implement high demands in this area.