08.01.2013 / Project - News

11th Training Session in Giurgiu County / Romania on 15th of November, 2012

On 15th November 2012 – WWF-Romania and Giurgiu County Council organised the seminar ”European funds and their accessibility for nature conservation and a sustainable development of communities in Giurgiu County” between November 13-14th. This was part of the SURF Nature project (Sustainable Use of Regional Funds for Nature), funded by the Interreg IVc Programme and took place in Giurgiu, with the participation of various local stakeholders.

On the first day, the agenda included a presentation of the SURF Nature project, along with the most important publications produced under the project, which can help or guide the process of accessing European funds. Additionally, the new funding framework for the period 2014-2020 was presented, starting off with the Europe 2020 Strategy and the corresponding objectives for a “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, going through the investment priorities provided in the 11 objectives proposed by the European Commission and finishing with the national framework – the Partnership Agreement, a strategic national document which sets out the thematic development objectives and the allocation of European funds for the period 2014-2020 and which is to be signed by Romania and the European Commission and the subsequent Programmes, which are currently being developed and which will contain Romania’s firm commitments related to the European objectives. The aim of these presentations was to provide participants with information about the process of programming of the future European funds and to create a background for discussions.
The most important part of time was dedicated to open discussions with the attendees, on the basis of a questionnaire addressing such problems as investment priorities and financing needs at county level and possible programmes which could cover these local needs. Collaboration and interaction were encouraged during this session, as groups were formed depending on activity sectors: public authorities (representatives of local town halls), small local entrepreneurs (small farmers and local producers) and organisations which support the private sector and the local entrepreneurs (Giurgiu Commerce Chamber, The Danubius Cross-border Business Centre).
The most pressing needs identified by the attendees were related to agriculture, tourism, support for the local arts and crafts sector and the setting up of local processing centres for agricultural products. The need of improving and extending the irrigation system, the need of more simple regulations and procedures for accessing funds, of supporting the local craftsmen and famers or small producers in order to gain access to processing centres and markets – have all been deemed as crucial for the regeneration and relaunch of the local economy.  
Regarding environment and biodiversity they mentioned afforestation of degraded land, rehabilitation of former industrial sites, promoting sustainable energy, establishment of green/ forest belts, promoting of ecological agriculture, support for administration/ custodians of protected areas and Natura 2000 sites, support in developing the habitat and species conservation measures.
In this context, the WWF team presented an innovative and alternative financing mechanism for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable development of communities – the payments for ecosystem services, which represent the topic of the project PES Danube, currently under implementation in four pilot areas in Bulgaria and Romania. The highlight was one of the two Romanian pilot areas – Maramures, where the team works to implement a vision for the development of ecotourism in order to raise and direct funds towards the management of local protected areas which are not part of the national administration and funding system.
All of the information and opinions expressed by the participants during the group work session will be channelled into WWF Romania policy activities, as the organisation is part of several thematic work groups formed at ministerial and inter-ministerial levels for the elaboration of programmes financed through European funds in the forthcoming period 2014-2020.
The discussions continued over the second day of this seminar, when best practice examples from the Tarnava Mare and Harghita regions, where an integrated vision for a responsible and sustainable development of local communities is being implemented, have started an interactive session of idea exchange, experience and lessons sharing. The key elements for the success of such development projects based on the natural, social and cultural capital were identified as being a strong will and wish to collaborate, to work together shared by people from various activity sectors – public and private, a long term vision and model of thinking and the nurturing of an entrepreneurial and participatory spirit.
The session ended with a presentation of the remaining financing opportunities from the current National Programme for Rural Development, which is to end in 2013, and the prospects related to environmental and local development funding through the next NPRD 2014-2020.
This seminar is part of a series of training or informative sessions planned throughout the implementation phase of the SURF Nature project (2010-2012), with the aim of furthering the knowledge and the capacity of institutions and organisations from partnering countries to identify funding opportunities for sustainable development and nature conservation and to apply for them.
The general goal of the SURF Nature project is to optimise the regional policies and practices, to turn them into more efficient instruments for nature and biodiversity conservation, by increasing the funding opportunities through the ERDF and by boosting the impact of these measures.