Speech by UNDP Resident Representative: Assisting less developed areas in Croatia

06 Sep 2013

Opening remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton

Joint press conference – MRRiFEU and UNDP / Official presentation of the project “Preparing the ground for EU funds: Creating a pipeline of project ideas for Croatia’s less developed areas“

Karlovac, 6 September 2013

Today is a very proud moment for the United Nations Development Programme.

We are delighted to accept the request from the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds to help Croatia’s less-developed areas seize the new opportunities for growth, job creation and improved living conditions presented by European Union funds.

Let me thank the Deputy Prime Minister and his team for their trust and recognition of our past achievements as the foundation for the new partnership that we are forging today.

UNDP has been working in Croatia since 1996. As this timing suggests, our first efforts were aimed at the physical reconstruction of community infrastructure destroyed in the war.

Over time, our work has expanded from post-conflict reconstruction and recovery to the broader aim of improving the quality of life in the many villages and towns in Croatia where living standards and economic and social opportunities lag far behind those in Zagreb.

Over the past decade UNDP has implemented more than 400 individual development projects in the areas of special state concern, with a total value of nearly USD 50 million.

Places like Glina and Dvor, Otočac and Udbina, Ogulin and Plaški are thus like a ‘second home’ for us, and let me take this opportunity to thank the three Prefects for the excellent partnership that UNDP has enjoyed over many years in the counties covered by this project.

In recent years, the EU has become the ‘guiding star’ for our efforts at the local level, and we share the Ministry’s vision of EU Structural and Investment funds as an opportunity to finally break out of the ‘vicious circle’ that plagues these areas: lack of jobs, lack of income, lack of social services, lack of investment that all combine to yield depopulation and despair.

Our work in less-developed areas has been driven by a dedicated team of local development specialists whose experience and hard-won credibility with local communities were the strongest references for the Ministry’s decision to enter this partnership.

These are the famous “project hunters” that Deputy Prime Minister Grčić has been talking about. The core UNDP team for this project is present here today, so let me take this opportunity to introduce our Project Manager, Mr. Nenad Kocmur, and our two Lead Experts, Ms. Ivana Laginja, who heads our local office in Zadar, and Mr. Davor Bončina, who heads our office in Petrinja. We are circulating copies of their CVs today, and they will also be available to answer any questions about the specifics of the project.

Let me stress here that this project will rely fully on Croatian expertise. We are not some sort of foreign SWAT team that parachutes in from outside to impose our own preconceived ideas.

Instead, our role is to consult with all the local actors; take stock of local needs; to review existing plans and projects; to take into account the strategic goals set by the counties, the country and the EU; and then to work with the full range of local stakeholders to define and refine the priority development projects that can be implemented with EU structural funds.

We have committed to produce a catalogue of 51 credible concepts within 15 months.

To achieve this, we will be relying heavily on the insights and experience of our local partners in the three counties, so let me use this opportunity to welcome your kind cooperation.

Since this project was first announced, UNDP has received a steady stream of requests for assistance in preparing projects for EU funds from many other locations outside the three counties – both from other war-affected areas such as Vukovar and even from more developed territories such as Istria.

So let me conclude by expressing the hope that this project will serve as a successful pilot for further expansion to other areas that are still in need of advice and support, and that the approach and methodologies devised for this project can be applied more widely.

EU funds offer Croatia a priceless opportunity to overcome regional disparities. It would be a shame to waste this chance, and UNDP is truly honored to contribute to this effort.

Thank you for your attention.