Serbia has been plagued by serious environmental problems for decades. According to the results of the air quality monitoring, last year Serbia was one of the most polluted countries in Europe. Environmental protection is one of the weakest sectors while reforms needed to achieve EU standards are very complex and demanding. Negotiations on Chapter 27 are amongst the most difficult ones because of the sheer volume of legislation and its cross-cutting character. Taking into consideration the extent of environmental problems, this arguably will be the most challenging part of the acquis to implement. The institutional and administrative capacity to implement, enforce and comply with the EU environmental legislation is very weak, especially at the local level.
Besides executive power, protection and improvement of the environment is also the responsibility of the Parliament of Serbia, in particular, the Committee for Environmental Protection. In addition, the Green Parliamentary Group (GPG) that was established in 2009, as the first informal group within the Parliament, on the initiative of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence and Center for Modern Skills, includes MPs from various political parties who are committed to issues concerning environmental protection and sustainable development, and is an example of MPs gathering around a cluster of issues demonstrating that the domain of environmental policies does not recognize political turfs and boundaries.
On the other hand, local parliamentarians (besides not being gathered in similar groups, since such green groups do not exist in local parliaments) are not sufficiently sensitized and do not have the know-how for dealing with environmental issues in their communities which this project intends to change.
The goal of the project is to increase interest among local parliamentarians in Bor; Niš; Sombor; Zaječar and Zrenjanin for their more active engagement in dealing with the most pressing environmental issues in their respective communities.
This will be achieved through the transfer of knowledge from the experienced Green Parliamentary Group of the Serbian Parliament and by linking local and national parliamentarians to jointly work on the mitigation of climate change and environmental protection in the future. It will also contribute to the active engagement of the entire communities in public policy debates on how to address and work on becoming part of the green agenda, thus, bringing the whole country closer to the EU. There is already a growing desire in the local communities to make these debates a cornerstone of democratic and sustainable development, thus, this project will be welcomed by the great majority of the citizens in the chosen municipalities.
Interested local parliamentarians will become agents of change in their communities when it comes to environmental issues by prioritizing green policies at the local level, but also creating preconditions for the introduction of a gender perspective in policy-making in the environmental sector. In the long run, they will be expected to establish green local parliamentary groups that will work according to the model of the Green Parliamentary Group in the Parliament of Serbia. The Covid 19 pandemic revealed to the citizens of Serbia the devastating effect of pollution on the entire environment and triggered a much more articulated demand for action on the local level than ever before. Thus, the engagement of local parliaments on this front can also raise their credibility, intensify social cohesion and strengthen the democratic potential of local governance, by dealing with one of the most burning problems Serbia is faced with: how to secure a green, sustainable development.