PARTICIPANTS OF CLOSING STATE AID PROJECT EVENT IN SERBIA EXCHANGED WORK EXPERIENCE DURING PANDEMIC
The Regional Conference "State Aid and Western Balkans’ Economies" gathered on 24 November 2021 representatives of the Serbian Commission for State Aid Control, European Commission, state aid control bodies from the region and European experts who exchanged experience during the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly affected the area of state aid.
The conference, which took place in Belgrade, was organised under the project Support to the Commission for State Aid Control, which in the Republic of Serbia is financed by the European Union from IPA funds with almost EUR one million.
Opening the event, the Chairman of the Commission for State Aid Control Vladimir Antonijević said that during the project the new Law on State Aid Control was entered into force in Serbia, the new Commission was formed and the EU regulations were transposed into the national legislation. “We have closely followed the European Commission's practice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked intensively in drafting the by-laws and started harmonisation of the EU temporary measures, being among the first states outside the EU that have adopted these measures”.
V. Antonijevic said that in the process of the transposition of the EU acquis into national legislation, more than 20 by-laws were adopted. The introduction of an electronic register of state aid is in the plan, he added. V. Antonijevic expressed gratitude to the European Union on the support given through this project.
The Head of the Operations II of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia Martin Klaucke said that state aid proved to be one of the most difficult areas when it comes to the alignment of the framework with the EU acquis and, more importantly, to effective enforcement. M. Klaucke invited all authorities across the region “to reap the benefits of this regional forum because exchange of experience and knowledge among peer institutions within the region has already proven to be very effective and relevant for all”, M. Klaucke said.
Team leader of the project Radmila Mihić pointed out that the public sector, due to the challenges the world is facing, has a special weight in choosing policies and strategic goals. "Financial instability, the fight for a healthy environment, healthcare are examples of areas in which public authorities must act. That action must be justified, effective and in the interest of the citizens. And that is why there are rules on state aid. Good state aid is an instrument to ensure the economic security of citizens and the development of society as a whole," R. Mihić said.
The representative of the General Directorate of the European Commission for Competition Policy, Alberto di Majo, presented an overview of the latest developments in the European Union in the field of state aid. He reminded the words of the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, that the European Recovery Plan includes a funding facility worth EUR 672.5 billion in grants and loans, “which is a huge opportunity to drive forward the digital and green transitions”.
Professor of King’s College and College of Europe Andrea Biondi spoke about fiscal measures and state aid, while the Head of Dominant and Public Entities Investigation Group of the Competition Council of the Republic of Lithuania Justina Paulauskaitė shared the experience of granting state aid in the country during the coronavirus pandemic. "The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that crises are difficult to predict, so it is important to strengthen the capacity of public administration in the field of state aid to enable the process of distributing business support quickly, transparently and accurately”, J. Paulauskaitė said.
The gathering represents also the closing conference of the EU-funded project, which began in February 2019, and in 34 months of implementation contributed to the establishment of a new legal framework for state aid in Serbia, organised training sessions on the EU state aid rules for more than 1,100 public sector employees and on-the-job trainings in 146 local self-government units. In total, 14 workshops were held to disseminate basic knowledge and exchange experience of the EU member states on state aid. The State Aid Register has been prepared as a database available to the competent institutions, members of the Commission for State Aid Control and its professional service have been trained to use the Instrument for Economic and Financial Analysis and the State Aid Calculator. Finally, two manuals on state aid rules have been prepared within the scope of the project activities.