13. 07. 2012.

Andrea Štefan: Transnational cooperation has been phenomenal

Andrea Štefan
In the end of June, a project with which WWF and its partners NGO Green Home, Young Researchers of Serbia and Institute of Applied Ecology - Daphne, laid the foundation for the implementation of Natura 2000 in Montenegro and Serbia, came to an end.  We have talked about the results with the project leader Andrea Štefan, Advisor for Regional Cooperation and European Integration of the WWF Mediterranean programme.

Did Serbia and Montenegro provide the foundation for the implementation of Natura 2000?

- Both countries have begun work on the harmonization of legislation and the technical aspects necessary for the establishment of Natura 2000 network under the project “Strengthening the capacity of governments and civil sector in Serbia and in Montenegro to adapt to EU nature protection aquis“

The main idea of the project was to build capacity in governmental institutions and also to strengthen civil society involvement in nature conservation in Serbia and in Montenegro. In your opinion, who has shown more interest and activity, government or the civil sector?

- The capacity of governmental institutions and civil society to comply with EU requirements is relatively low, so we have decided to simultaneously strengthen both target groups that have a different role in the pre-accession process. Flexibility and receptivity is traditionally better in the civilian sector, but when you once start a process in state institutions, that process can bring major changes that may have a greater impact.

At the beginning of the project the same interest was showed, but the NGO scene was quickly formed and organized platform of NGOs in each country that support the Natura 2000 process - 37 NGOs in Montenegro and 55 NGOs in Serbia.

The idea was to initiate dialogue and cooperation between the civil and governmental sectors and I believe that this was the right move.

Which of the methods implemented during the project have showed the best results in the purpose of carrying out your goals, a few methods that you would definitely repeat in the execution of the next similar project?

- It's hard to pick just one method because it should always start from something - we started with modules that we have adapted to the needs, interests and previous knowledge of the participants and that gave a good foundation for future activities. Personally, my favourite method is expert exchange- regardless of whether they are experts from state institutions or nongovernmental organizations. In addition, I am a big fan of concrete actions in which personal involvement of each of us is becoming recognized.

How would you assess the cooperation of different countries in one project?

- In one word - awesome! Despite the fact that there was no cooperation for the last 20 years, cooperation between the countries was beyond all expectations, it still lasts and brings the new results, new projects. Well, it's easy with "naturalists".

Have you encountered some significant problems during the project in its implementation? If so, can you name them and what you should do next time to avoid them?

- There were some troubles occurred, but as well, there was the will for solving the problems along the way. Everybody was fast adapting to the new situations. In three years of the project, many ministries were changed (three in Montenegro, and two in Serbia), change of staff, laws ... but we have had worked and finally we had the results.

We could choose the way in which, for example, we did a whole job, had great results that we have set up at the beginning of the project or the way in which knowledge remains in the countries where the project is implemented with all the changes and adjusting the final results of the project - we chose the second option, and we would repeat it again.

The two most important lessons that you have learned on this project?

- We have learned that it is easy to work on trainings and education, but if you want to work on the sustainability in the institutions, this is time-consuming, require an effort and great personal commitment.

Martina Šubašić, WWF Mediterranean Programme

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