Dear Mr. Sapic, Mayor of Belgrade and our host today,
Dear Mr. President,
Dear Minister Martinovic,
Dear Mr. Cvetanovic, President of the Standing Conference,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege to represent Switzerland at the 50th General Assembly of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities.
Allow me to congratulate the Conference and its members on this exceptional anniversary, reflecting the unity of local governments and the longevity of the Association!
This anniversary also marks more than 15 years of cooperation between the Standing Conference and the government of Switzerland in our joint endeavor to support the reform objectives of the Republic of Serbia at the local level.
It is indeed at the local level, where we need to build the necessary framework for citizens and the economy to meet the challenges of modernization. Be it in the field of social protection, or in addressing demographic trends, fostering a skilled workforce or in tackling environmental degradation, introducing new digital services in order to render administration more effective or increasing the participation of citizens in decision shaping – local governments play a central role. Local governments are the key drivers of development.
We have been working directly with local governments and assemblies on various priorities such as the property tax reform, financial management, good governance, social inclusion, gender equality, environment, etc. Some of you know those programs under the names of Swiss PRO, Municipal Economic Development (MED), Reform of Local Finances (RELOF) or the Parliament and Local Assemblies Project.
The Standing Conference has not only been a strategic partner of Switzerland in implementing these reforms, it also plays a pivotal role in representing the interests of local governments at the central level and supporting local governments in implementing national legislation and policies.
Today is the opportunity to commend the good work done by the Standing Conference by effectively linking the local and the national level, especially through its partnership with the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self Government. This is particularly visible in the alignment and coherence between the Local Government Reform Programme of the National Government and the Standing Conference’s Strategic Plan for 2022-25. On this basis, Switzerland is also supporting the Ministry of Public Administration and Self Government to implement the said Local Government Support Program.
The current context of high inflation and high energy prices is very challenging for local administrations and their leadership. The crisis forces us to rethink the way we have been working so far. How can we increase efficiency and effectiveness? In this regard, I can only applaud that the Local Government Reform Programme offers the opportunity to explore possibilities of inter-municipal cooperation, allowing local administrations to join forces in order to afford services that are ‘more expensive’ or increase the cost-effectiveness of their service provision.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Switzerland has supported the Standing Conference to fulfill its mission with approximately 13 million Euros since 2005. Our plan is to renew our support by contributing to the implementation of the new Strategic Plan 2022-2025, which will ensure that key local government reforms, the implementation of good governance principles and sectorial reforms at local level remain on track.
I am sure that the implementation of the Standing Conference’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 will lead to more efficient and more responsive local governments, providing a better access of their citizens to rights and services.
Thank you for your attention!