European funds as chance for development
Interview: Boško Nektarijević, Senior Expert in the European Commission
 “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them “.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Albert Einstein

In the pre-accession negotiations Montenegro should adopt 80% of European regulations, and the remaining 20 percent should be adopted five years after joining the EU. Adopting regulations by the Parliament of Montenegro is a less complicated process than their implementation in practice so that everyone can enjoy its benefits. Some of the ways to achieve our goals and realize ideas are European funds, change in the system of values, joining together experts and creators, institutional appreciation of cultural heritage creators, etc. Bosko Nektarijevic, Senior Expert of the European Commission, discussed this topic with us.

Boško Nektarijević
Bosko Nektarijevic is a Senior Expert in the European Commission and he regularly lectures on the following topics:How to write a successful proposal on EU funds, how to improve leadership skills, how Balkan countries can develop their potential, implement reforms, and make the most of EU funds. He worked on multiple EU programs and projects, he was the executive manager of Balkan Security Network and European Training Academy, and currently works as a coach of the Executive Agency for Medium and Small Enterprisesin European Commission in Brussels, where he leads the Master for EU funds. Over 7000 clients, including some of the world's most prestigious companies, various governments, academic institutions and security serviceshave highly rated his services. As project writer he works for Top 10 Europe Aid contractors and leaders in the H2020 arena.He graduated management at the IFAM Business School in Paris. He obtained a master's degree at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, University of Brussels, and completed his specialization at the Harvard University.


 Support instruments
Balkans have a wide range of support instruments at its disposal,among them areEU grant making programs, non-refundable donationswith goals defined in 2012-13 and officially published for the period 2014 to 2020 ( is a good source of information on EU priorities).Not many people are familiar with all instruments and procedures and as a result these funds are used poorly. The situation is the same when it comes to the"impact" - the effect and results achieved by the EU in relation to the jointly defined goals of the Balkan countries and the European Union.Most state institutions are familiar with the IPA2 program, which has a large number of participants from Montenegro.However, according to the European Commission's analysis Balkan countries, particularly Montenegro, are at the bottom when it comes to results in almost all other programs and funds utilization.If we look at the report of the Court of Auditors, neither IPA1 nor IPA2 programs aren’t something to be proud of.
The causes are obvious beginning with the stalled process of the European Union enlargement and the fact that in the last few years EU has neglected Balkans then with the economic crisis, migration, Brexit, limited capacities of the Balkan state administrations, demanding procedures for users and finallywith the fundamental misapprehension that EU programs are designed to achieve the goals of the European Union, and not the will of the citizens of the Balkans.Therefore, it often happens that users, especially if they are unexperienced, spend more time, efforts and resources than they receive through donations.Consequently, potential applicants in Montenegro have poor motivation, they usually choose "shortcuts", or go the "wrong way" while trying to promote their goals and interests without deeper understanding of whether that fits into the broader (EU) context.
In his “State of Union” (State of EU) speech, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker defined new political priorities, which will have a strong influence on Montenegro and Serbia. Junker stressed that the process of association should be strengthened, but also the processes of the rule of law, human rights protection, freedom and democratic reforms, which have been significantly endangered in the past years. Various analysis indicate that most of the Balkan countries have “fake democracies”, which means that ruling elites “demonstrate democracy to the public” but in reality they are authoritarian oligarchies which don’t have anything in common with the conditions for EU membership and do not substantially meet the Copenhagen criteria.
Unfortunately, I my opinion new Junker goalsare not fully understood by the high political circles, and even less by the state, the NGO sector and the economy. Most people are used to “look the other way” when it comes to bad practices in the public sector due to the short-term political concessions that the Balkan countries make to EU.I personally do not expect some essential reforms in near future. However, it is obvious that European Union wants to protect its interests, primarily economic and security interests, and it wants to avoid repercussions of further destabilization in the Balkans,which is sinking into the economic crisis, nationalism and totalitarianism. We will soon see whether Juncker can make the prospect of membership in Montenegro and Serbia attainable and attractive. Very soon, a large number of contests for grants will be opened in Montenegro and there will be a lots of money available in order to strengthen the process of association, especially in those areas where Montenegro, according to the European Commission report in 2016 had the biggest problems. Therefore, there will be opportunities to “attract donations and investments”, but current capacities in Montenegro are limited and do not allow this opportunity to be fully realized for the benefit of all the citizens, quality of their lives and in order to strengthen the state economy.
Increasing EU fund utilization
On the basis of previous experience we can say that the members of the European Union, which successfully used funds, had, without exception, well-organized support system.More precisely, the tasks were clearly defined from the highest political levelsin order to maximize the use of resources and create effective structures to support anyone wishing to use EU funds. There was no political discrimination for entrepreneurs, companies, the academic community or anyone willing to work on the transformation of society towards European values.Therefore, it is necessary to unite all actors who recognize the interest in maximizing the use of resources and hiring the best experts willing to help. It goes without saying that the choice shouldnot be made along the family or political lines but on the basis of expertise. Most state structures in the Balkans have not yet understood how the globalization process works. For example, they do not understand that Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia and many other countries are paying me and my colleaguesfor their projects, at the same time while we are staying on the beaches of Montenegro.
It is pity that the Government of Montenegro does not use its tourist potentials, natural beauties, customs and cultural heritage, to gather leading experts for EU funds and to enable them to benefit from all the advantages of staying and working for Montenegro. I am confident that many of my colleagues would fall in love with Montenegro, as did I. It is important that EU financial instruments are not abused for political purposes, which is a major challenge for all the authorities in the Balkans, and Croatia wasn’t exception.However, during the previous government, Croatia had shown a satisfying degree of efficiency and achieved significantly better results than all other Balkan countries. Political climate was also favorable for Croatia to join European Union in 2012. I recall that the European Training Academy in those days gathered EU funding leaders in Croatia. At present, the situation in Croatia has deteriorated considerably, but as EU member Croatia now has at its disposal a considerably higher funding.
You get it done and we will split the money
I haven’t done a detailed analysis, so I cannot say whether Montenegro is capable of expressing “political will” and whether governing elite can make “positive selection” and hire the best available experts as a professionalassistance for the organizations applying for EU funds. Useful advice for every government, including this one, is not to “tell experts what they should do” but to “listen to what experts have to say” and to provide them with best working conditions. It is not impossible because there have been certaininitiatives from the highest levels of government. However, there is an overwhelming fragmentation and competition between individual initiatives. It would be useful to tie them up together and overcome fears that someone could see “how much we don’t know” or that we do it in a makeshift manner. Nobody is born knowing and dynamics of market changes require continuous improvement and innovation.
I am extremely fond of Montenegro and from my earliest youth I am deeply attached to the tradition and culture of Montenegrins.Unfortunately, the knowledge "doesn’t pay off" in Montenegro today, and in recent yearsthere is a dominant culture of “making deals” instead of doing our job professionally.That kind of climatedetersprofessionals. The leading experts are not interested in working with organizations from Montenegro, and consequently those organizations are lacking expert support. The results of these “deals” (You get it done and we will split the money) are obvious as well as the results of not hiring competent project writers. The best thing to do at this moment would be to refer all those who have the initiative to experts who can help. It is quite challenging to make an assessment of "who really can and knows" how to help, because the public of Montenegro is not aware that there are clear criteria for "measuring" the expertise in the consulting arena for EU funds.
As the official Senior Expert in the EU with more than 15 years of experience workingon the most demanding EU projects and programs, providing support for the governments, big and small enterprises, I often meet with the so called "experts" who dominate local communities in the Balkans and do more harm than good. Sometimes their activities are the result of ignorance, and sometimes they act in order to protect their markets and positions. I also meet many foreigners who are presenting themselves as experts. Very often it happens that most influential groups nominate their favorites for experts to the governments so that they could split money afterwards. I do not want to lambaste this approachor to describe in details what I have seen because I respect the fact that everyone struggles to survive and make the ends meet in this difficult times for Balkans. But I do believe that the most important message one cansend to the state and citizens is to make their own decision regarding experts, based on their references, successfully implemented projects, education, list of clients, YouTube videos, LinkedIn's publication, etc.
So it is up to the citizens to be informed, make their own decision and take the initiative and it is up to the authorities to promote the most successful ones. And also, in order to make EU bureaucracy more interesting, important message and the only correct answer to the most common question I hear in Montenegro from a business leaders:"Can you get it done and we will split themoney?" is "NO!"Knowledge, experience, network, ability, as in every business, should be appreciated and paid as much as they are worth. Countries, that have successfully used funds,for years have been paying for it from their budgets. And successful companies are competing for the best consultants. Take me as an example:although I work for the EU and I run the European Training Academy, as a consultant I am currently being paid by several companies including the most successful one according to the list of EU Aid contractors. I have been paid hourly the amount of the average salary in Montenegro to write projects for them.
So, if we put aside all the good will and love for Montenegro, the question arises as to what interest the leading consultants could have to make some uncertain deals "to split the money" with someone at the local level.Most people in Montenegro do not have a proper approach to the "gurus" in this craft, and the elite do not understand that this is an extremely competitive market when it comes to "big money" where you compete with the world’s finest. It is a general rule that the best ones are attracted by true values and they chose to work with the best ones and in the places where they have excellent working conditions.
Magazin Renome | 2014 all rights reserved | powered by InfoBit