The final day of the European Week of Opportunities took place in Niš, where a trilateral agreement was signed, securing €3.6 million in funding for the second phase of the Serbia-North Macedonia Cross-Border Cooperation Program. This agreement holds significant importance as it will provide vulnerable citizen groups with access to social and healthcare services, with a particular focus on advancing tourism. The European Union finances the Cross-Border Cooperation Program, and the trilateral agreement was signed by Tanja Miščević, Minister for European Integration, Bojan Maričić, Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia, and Emanuel Giaufret, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia. Niš Mayor, Dragana Sotirovski, also attended the signing ceremony.

Emanuel Giaufret, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, highlighted the significance of this agreement as a tangible initiative to improve citizens’ quality of life. The financial support allocated to this project will be implemented through calls for project proposals, which will open in the autumn. These calls will enable associations, local governments, and civil society groups to propose ideas for enhancing the lives of citizens on both sides of the border.

Minister Tanja Miščević emphasized that this program will showcase concrete results of good cooperation between Serbia, the EU, and North Macedonia, particularly in the areas of tourism, social issues, employment, workforce mobility, social and cultural cross-border inclusion, as well as health.

Deputy Prime Minister Bojan Maričić of North Macedonia highlighted that borders are not barriers but opportunities for collaboration among citizens with shared interests and aspirations. He emphasized that the European Union provides support at the local level, which includes improving citizens’ quality of life.

The budget for the second phase of the Cross-Border Cooperation Program amounts to €9.7 million, with €8.4 million co-financed by the EU. This budget represents more than a twofold increase compared to the previous seven-year financial perspective.

The Cross-Border Cooperation Program encompasses the Jablanica and Pčinja districts in Serbia, as well as the Northeast region and a part of the Skopje region in North Macedonia, with a combined population of around 850,000 residents in both countries. This program is expected to enable the implementation of various projects that will directly benefit citizens and contribute to their improved daily lives.

Additionally, as part of the European Week of Opportunities, a series of informative sessions and panels were organized, covering various topics ranging from economy, business, education, youth, sports, culture, media, civil society, local development, green transition, agriculture, to cross-border cooperation. One of these panels was dedicated to cross-border collaboration, providing attendees with the opportunity to learn about bilateral cross-border cooperation programs, their success, achieved results, and benefits for citizens in the program areas. The importance of developing suitable and high-quality project ideas was emphasized, and funding possibilities within specific sectors such as tourism, social inclusion, environmental protection, employment, and investment in youth and sports were explored.

The new financial perspective covering the period from 2021 to 2027 (IPA III) will offer the opportunity to achieve these goals and meet the needs of cross-border regions through calls for proposals. It is expected that this support will further enhance cross-border cooperation, contribute to citizens’ quality of life, and generate long-term benefits for partner countries.