The European Union is one of the largest donors in several accession countries, as is the Republic of Serbia. Support from the EU funds is intended for legal, institutional, administrative, economic and social reforms necessary in the EU accession process. Various areas are considered, from the judiciary, public administration and public finances to education, employment, transportation, and agriculture and environmental protection.

During the accession period, the main funding programme for candidate countries is the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). One of the main objectives of the IPA instrument is to create administrative capacities to implement the funds available after the EU accession, i.e., the EU cohesion policy funds in particular. The cohesion policy is an important investment tool for the European Union to achieve growth and development and to strengthen economic, social, and territorial cohesion. Through the IPA funds, different projects are currently being implemented aimed at the regional linkage of public services/institutions in different areas. In addition, specific environmental projects, such as projects funded for the identification, designation and establishment of the Natura 2000 network in Serbia.

For the Member States, there is a big range of funding programmes. The EU funding programmes support research and innovation for a broad range of projects and programmes covering areas such as regional and urban development, employment and social inclusion, agriculture and rural development, maritime and fisheries policies, research and innovation and humanitarian aid. The most highlighted ones are:

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the EU research and innovation programme for 2021-2027 with a budget of €95.5 billion. It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU competitiveness and growth.

The programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges. It supports creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies. It creates jobs, fully engages the EU talent pool, boosts economic growth, promotes industrial competitiveness and optimises investment impact within a strengthened European Research Area.

Environment and climate action (LIFE)

The LIFE Programme is the EU financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the European Union. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed more than 4,500 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE contributed with approximately €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.

For more, refer to the following section.

European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)

More than a half of the EU funding is channelled through the 5 European structural and investment funds (ESIF). They are jointly managed by the European Commission and the EU countries. The purpose of all these funds is to invest in job creation and a sustainable and healthy European economy and environment.

The EU Member States can use the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support development in a comprehensive way by investing for instance in businesses, research and development, infrastructure, employment and training, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries development, with the overall objective to improve the quality of life of EU citizens.

There are 5 individual funding programmes related to research and innovation:

  • European regional development fund (ERDF)
  • European social fund (ESF)
  • Cohesion fund (CF)
  • European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD)
  • European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF)

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is one of the main instruments for the economic development of rural areas, and for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources. Climate action is one of the priorities, it is crucial to achieving a balanced territorial development of rural economies and the conservation of nature and biodiversity. The EAFRD comprises specific support to the Natura 2000 sites:

  1. aimed at the sustainable use of agricultural land,
  2. aimed at the sustainable use of forest lands,
  3. improving the quality of life in rural areas.

It is also important to highlight funds such as the EU Solidarity Fund, which was established as a response from the European Union to the unpredictable challenges that the Union and candidate countries faced (various natural disasters, the migrant crisis). It represents the Union’s solidarity in resolving the concrete challenges.