In the opening part of the conference, welcoming speeches were given by: Žarko Stepanović, Acting Director of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, Dušica Stojković, member of Parliament, Committee for European Integrations of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Sanja Putnik, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Nikolas Bizel, Head of the I Operations Department of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia and Đorđe Staničić, Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities.
Žarko Stepanović emphasized in his presentation that the "Europe for Citizens" programme fosters the common history and values of Europe, while citizens are being involved in the creation of public policies in the areas that are important for their lives, but in this way, at the same time, they strengthen capacities and prepare for future membership in the Union.
Member of the National Assembly, Committee for European Integrations, Dušica Stojković, said that, unlike other countries that are negotiating about membership, Serbia has developed cooperation with civil society organizations, which are gathered in the National Convention on the European Union. When it comes to the accession, the chapters, numbers and the incomprehensible foreign expressions are used, she assessed, which is why the citizens don't always have a clear understanding of these issues. In the media, unfortunately, the topic of European integrations is not sufficiently present and citizens can't hear what are the benefits from that processes, Stojkovic added, and also said that it is therefore even more important to participate in such programmes where the benefits of membership are directly seen.
Assistant Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Sanja Putnik, said that in a number of forums, such as the recent summit in Sofia, the focus of enlargement is shifting to high-level politics and opening some serious painful issues. The "Europe for Citizens" programme, in the most direct way, presents people what Europe is and what it means to be a citizen of the EU.
Head of the I Sector of Operations at the EU Delegation to Serbia, Nikolas Bizel, pointed out that Serbia is the most active participant in the EU candidate countries. In the past five years, 33 projects have been implemented, with 300 participants and representatives of local self-governments, and the budget amounted to two million euros, Bizel said. He also reminded that the EU supported various programs of civil society organizations with 30 million euros, that is, it supported various programs of the Government of Serbia for strengthening dialogue and cooperation with civil society organizations. According to him, the process of European integrations is unthinkable without a dialogue between authorities and civil society organizations, their expertise and experiences.
The Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, Đorđe Staničić, emphasized the role of local self-governments in the process of European integrations, as almost 70% of legal acquisitions are currently applied at the municipal level. He estimated that the overall objectives of the programme contribute to a better understanding of the EU, its values, diversity, as well as the promotion of European citizenship and the promotion of civic participation at the lelev of Union.
In the second part of the conference, Maja Tomičić, representative of the Office for NGOs of the Republic of Croatia, presented the experience of the Republic of Croatia in the Programme. Sanja Atanasković Opačić, Head of the Group for International Cooperation and European Integrations of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, presented the results of the participation of the Republic of Serbia in the programme "Europe for Citizens" from the beginning of 2013 until the end of 2017. During this period, 33 projects were approved by the lead applicants from Serbia in the total amount of over 2 million euros. Also, over 300 users from Serbia had a role of partners on projects that were implemented throughout Europe.
Representatives of civil society organizations benefiting from this programme participated in a panel discussion on the topic "Active citizens - the key to a better Europe". Representatives of the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, Belgrade Open School, Humanitarian Law Center, Center for Cultural Decontamination, Media & Reform Center Nis and Civic Initiatives, discussed the active citizenship as the focal point of the Programme, presented their experience of participating in the program, as well as the main advantages and disadvantages.
For the purpose of marking this five-year anniversary, the Office prepared a brochure on successful projects with Serbian lead applicants that successfully implemented projects in the previous period, as well as a promotional video about the experiences of participants in this program.