Brick by brick

Brick by brick

27 May 2013, Jasmina Ilić

“I’m the sort of person who needs to produce something you can see and touch. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. It’s an irreplaceable feeling when I pass something as small as a shed and know that I am one of the people who contributed to building it. That’s one of the things I like most about working for the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme (EU PROGRES).”

It’s my job to manage the implementation of infrastructure projects in South and South West Serbia. We work in 25 underdeveloped municipalities and there are hundreds of different stories that come out of them. Though it’s not technically part of my role, I love being onsite. If I am stuck in the office for the whole week, that’s a disaster for me. By seeing what is going on in the field, I find it easier to follow the bigger picture and report on results.

I am a part of the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme EU PROGRES, an €18.1 million programme funded by the European Union and the Governments of Switzerland and Serbia. UNOPS is the implementing partner, with one of the programme components dealing with project management services in the areas of environment, social infrastructure and communal infrastructure. These projects span from the construction or renovation of kindergartens and schools to the treatment of waste water and improving sanitation in Roma settlements.

Personally, I prefer managing the construction of the smaller scale structures because they benefit the communities on a day-to-day basis. The structures don’t have to be big or appear in an architectural magazine for me to feel like I have really contributed to these people’s lives. One example is the bridge we helped construct in Vranje. Before we built it, for most of the year, villagers couldn’t cross the river to get to the clinic or the school on the other side. They had to make a huge detour to get to their destination. Now I am pleased to say that we have given them better access to the basic facilities they need.

I have been with UNOPS and EU PROGRES for three years now. We manage the grant funding and monitor spending and quality, but the municipalities do all the work. This ensures that communities feel ownership of the physical infrastructure being built, while also promoting national capacity building. Though sometimes things don’t move as quickly as we know that they could, this is how the programme has to work if it is to be sustainable. Now that Serbia has been granted candidate status for European Union membership, our support has come at an important time.

Jasmina Ilić
EU PROGRES Component Manager for Infrastructure

The attitudes outlined in this article represent personal beliefs of the author and do not necessarily reflect viewpoints of the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme, or the European Union, the Government of Switzerland and the Government of Serbia.

Please be informed that the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme – EU PROGRES was completed on 31 March 2014. If you would like to learn about the activities and results of the European PROGRES, which is a continuation of development support of the European Union and Government of Switzerland to the South East and South West Serbia, please visit