87 project ideas were presented for the less developed Croatian regions, which are eligible for financing from EU funds

Dec 15, 2014

photo: undp croatia

The Ministry of Regional Development and EU funds and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Croatia presented the main results of the project “Preparing grounds for the use of EU funds: creating a project pipeline for the less developed areas of the Republic of Croatia.”, today in Zagreb. The project started in August 2013 and lasted 18 months. 

The aim was to increase the administrative capacities of local and regional self-governments and to attract funds from structural and investment EU funds, with a focus on less developed areas of Croatia. For the duration of the project, 87 project ideas were collected, with a different degree of preparedness and the total estimated value of HRK 1.7 billion which was registered in the so-called catalogue of project ideas

Branko Grcic, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Regional Development, presented the project results: „New jobs are one of the most important criteria of the successful use of EU funds. With those funds we want to finance projects that will bring growth, enhance the lives of all our citizens and will encourage development of less developed areas. The European Commission adopted our ˝Operative programme Competitiveness and Cohesion, 2014 – 2020“ last week and now, there are no more obstacles in our way for using EUR 6,881 billion. We have also provided co-financing of projects and with this and similar programmes we help to create a project pipeline which qualifies for financing from EU funds. I can also announce that we are going to start with the activities of creating a project pipeline on islands.“ 

Sandra Vlasic, Head of UNDP in Croatia said that quality development needs a vision and a clear focus towards the goal, i.e. smart specialization based on available resources, strengths and needs of the community, but with an integrated approach that extends the boundaries of a project of a municipality or a city. 

With this project we have shown how important consolidation of project ideas into development packages with participatory approaches involving dialogue and cooperation of all sectors is, as well as including the needs of entrepreneurs and strengthening the knowledge and human resources in the community”, emphasized Vlasic. 

Specifically, there are 35 project ideas in the Sisak-Moslavina County, 36 in Lika-Senj County and 16 in Karlovac County with a potentially important effect on the development of these counties and are aligned with existing local, regional and national programming and strategic documents, as well as existing EU directives for the period from 2014 to 2020. For 19 project ideas the overall estimated value was HRK 552 million and additional documentation was made; pre-feasibility studies, and where appropriate, conceptual designs, main projects and other documentation necessary for further project development. 

Most of the collected project ideas are related to the protection of the environment and to the advancement of resource efficiency (measures for water supply, drainage and water purification) as well as the promotion of social inclusion and the fight against poverty (support to the economic renewal of neglected urban and rural communities and the support to the development of infrastructure for the care of children, elderly people and long-term care). Project ideas aimed at business development and the promotion of employment, mainly relate to the tourism and wood processing industry since in these counties due to the war damage, utility infrastructure is less developed, and the demographic situation is extremely unfavorable.

Quality preparation of projects has been for many years the main problem in less developed areas of Croatia, and therefore more than 270 people were educated on the possibilities to use Structural and investment funds through workshops as well as general and specialized seminars. 

Also, the methodology for the participatory development of project ideas is developed, since the series of unrelated projects, without the involvement of representatives of all sectors that are a part of regional development, can in a significant way increase the costs of investments and without finding a sustainable and effective solution to the existing problems of the local communities. As an example of this kind of approach is the development of a project package, “Velebit initiative – VN”, that focuses on adventure tourism and agriculture.

At the same time it is a good platform for the exchange and teaching of all the stakeholders about the possibilities of the development of projects and their potential connection. The development of integrated project units using participatory methods are also one of the major contributions of this project in strengthening the capacity of local and regional stakeholders in the planning of future projects. 

Within this project, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) prepared Strategic guidelines which emphasize the importance of comparative advantages for all three included counties to determine a smaller number of priorities for investment that can be the generators of general economic and social development.

“In the preparation of new development strategies for the period from 2015 to 2020 additional efforts are needed in order to identify priority areas with the potential to enhance the quality of life through employment, increased income and greater access to social services, and for those to which it is available and needed support from EU funds,” said Nenad Kocmur, project manager. 

A long-term vision with a clear focus on development priorities based on comprehensive analysis of the potentials is the base of future successful preparation and implementation of projects at a local level. Thorough planning of projects and distinct prioritization, the alignment of projects with other projects within the same priority area and the involvement of the private sector in the planning of investments from the public sector, as well as better education in project management and keeping high quality staff, are the recommendations from UNDP’s project team for the successful implementation of future development projects at a local level. 

Eight years of UNDP’s Local Development programme 

With this, after eight years the UNDP’s Local Development programme has officially ended. In this period, UNDP has conducted a wide range of programs and projects of social and economic recovery and development of less-developed Croatian regions: Banovina, Kordun, Lika, the Dalmatian hinterland and Eastern Slavonia - the Danube region, the total investment amounted to USD 33 million.

In accordance with the process of Croatian accession to the EU, the program helped rural and less developed areas in Croatia in adapting to the EU cohesion policy, with an emphasis on the Common Agricultural, Regional and Rural development policies and related financial instruments (European Structural and Investment Funds).

In particular, activities were focused on the development of the rural economy, providing social services with a focus on the needs of the elderly, returnees and marginalized groups, the reconstruction of basic targeted community infrastructures, strengthening the capacity of local governments for the use of EU funds, assistance in adapting to the EU rural development policy; strengthening the competitiveness of small farms, the introduction of the LEADER approach and the promotion of environmental protection and the use of renewable energy in rural areas through leading participative processes of establishing LAGs (local action groups) in the Dalmatian rural areas. Also, a series of proposals with complete technical documentation were prepared for the development of projects in selected local governments.