Public-private partnership as an opportunity for the region

Possible ways of financing local development projects, funding for the green agenda and digital transformation, and sources to rely on – were some of the topics covered on the panel that was held on the second day of the CORE days conference in Dubrovnik.

On the panel “Innovative financing of local development in ZB6” moderated by Senida Mesi, the European Commission’s expert on sustainable financing, Gilles Kittel spoke in front of the European Commission DG REGIO project, Fokion Zaimis, the deputy governor of the West Greece region, Zoran Janković, the mayor of Ljubljana and Aleksandar Simurdić, director of the fund “European affairs” AP Vojvodina.

The Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) of the European Commission is responsible for assisting the economic and social development of disadvantaged regions of the European Union. As Gilees Kittel pointed out, their desire is to reduce the gap between countries and groups of people.

– The equalization policy is very important. The idea is to reduce the gap in employmentand gross social product. This transformation has been slightly slowed down by the corona virus pandemic as some social groups have been affected more than others. We should not forget that during the corona virus pandemic, five million people were faced with the risk of poverty – said Gilles Kittel and added that for this policy to succeed, a higher growth rate is needed, for which the creation of an innovative ecosystem and digital transformation is key.

He explained that the equalization policy is being developed through financing from the Cohesion Fund of the European Union and that it is possible for member countries to withdraw funds for their regions.

The Mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, pointed out that there is not much difference between running a company and a local self-government, since in both cases the most important thing is people’s satisfaction, rather than profit, which comes as a consequence of the good things you do during the year.

– Before I became mayor I was in business and back then I outlined 22 projects with exact deadlines for implementation. After 16 years, as the oldest mayor in the EU, I have completed 2,400 projects. The secret for succsess is to make the most difficult decisions in the first year of the mandate. Of course, the most important thing is to have a good team, and my task is to find the right place for everyone – said Janković.

He further explained that projects in Ljubljana are financed from the state budget, EU funds, and public-private projects.

Fokion Zaimis, the deputy governor of Western Greece, introduced the participants to his region and explained that they distribute an annual budget of 1.5 billion euros, among 19 municipalities under their jurisdiction.

– We were looking for new sources of financing, currently, we are financed by EU funds, state funds of the Greek government, but also from the private sector. The latest example of public-private partnership in our country is the pipeline that we are building, for gas and hydrogen – Zaimis explained and added that it is very important to recognize the needs of citizens and businessmen, remove all obstacles to their realization and find funds.

Aleksandar Simurdić spoke about how to use EU funds and how to overcome challenges. As he stated, Vojvodina is a success story for EU projects, but there is always a possibility for further progress and development.

– We noticed that there is a big difference in the allocation of resources because most of the funds go to Novi Sad, so we did an analysis and searched for a way to make the process more efficient. We realized that we must work on strengthening institutional capacities and on motivating people to stay in their communities. The resources we have are not large, but they are significant – explained Simurdić.

He pointed out that they do not have enough funds to solve everything, but that a combined method of financing and a sustainable public-private partnership model is important.