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In order for Serbia to reach the European environmental protection standard, firm cooperation between businesses and the state is needed, concluded the panel discussion entitled Investing in Environmental Protection – Industry Challenges held at NIS’ stall. The panel discussion was attended by representatives of NIS as well as state officials, industry representatives and field experts. One of the main goals of the debate was to discuss major issues, legal obligations and environmental protection requirements expected from the EU accession process. “Since 2009, more than 115 million dollars have been invested in environmental protection projects, while investments in the projects that bring indirect and significant environmental impact are many times larger. They are primarily related to the modernisation of Pančevo Oil Refinery, which now produces motor fuels compliant with Euro 5 quality standards. Regarding the reduction of noxious emissions, NIS focuses on implementing the projects aimed at cutting air emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides. To this end, NIS has reconstructed tanker and railcar loading facilities and tanks and replaced production furnace burners. In the field of water resource preservation, NIS has concentrated on reducing water consumption, and we have managed, for example, to cut water consumption in our boiler rooms by 50 percent by installing a condensate recovery system which has enabled a multiple use of collected and chemically treated water. Furthermore, NIS has completed a reconstruction project in the Wastewater Treatment Plant of the Novi Sad Oil Refinery. As regards waste management, actions have been taken to cut down on generated waste so we have purchased a new, state-of-the-art equipment for oil tank cleaning that is able to reduce waste by minimum 70%; in addition, as part of the facility modernisation and construction project, the Sulphuric Acid Regeneration Plant has been built which can considerably reduce hazardous waste such as spent sulphuric acid,” said Svetlana Duvnjak, Director of Environmental Protection Sector of NIS. She added that NIS had actively strived to cut energy consumption by constructing small-scale power plants. Presenting NIS' environmental protection efforts, Nada Lukačević, Head of Integrated Permits Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, explained a rather complex issuance procedure for integrated permits required for all companies operating in the sectors specified in the Law on Planning and Construction. Ms Lukačević pointed out that the Ministry had launched a project to have translated several BREF documents to streamline the process for the business. “We have identified 196 companies that have the obligation to apply for integrated permit and 165 companies have done it so far, including NIS, Lafarge and Tarkett, setting examples as responsible companies. Since obtaining integrated permits is prerequisite to establishing a starting position in the EU negotiations, the companies and the state need to have defined their negotiating positions before embarking on the process. This means that we need to have clear-cut positions on what we have, what we can do and when to do it, to put on the negotiating table and avoid having negotiated unsatisfactory conditions and deadlines that we will not be able to meet and consequently paying penalties for that,” said Ms Lukačević. Svetlana Marušić, Advisor to the Provincial Secretary for Urban Planning, Construction and Environmental Protection, commended the effort invested by NIS, Lafarge and Tarkett in enhancing environmental protection and stressed that the Secretariat she was representing had excellent cooperation with them regarding activities of general interest. Svetlana Duvnjak stressed that a significant number of obligations taken over by NIS in the environmental protection segment were compliant with EU standards but a lot was yet to be done. “NIS can use its experience to help state authorities in preparing for EU negotiations. We hope to continue fostering the cooperation with the state authorities relevant in this area,” said Ms Duvnjak. Dušan Stokić of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce commended NIS’ practice to announce its environmental reports and stressed that the state and businesses need to work closely together to set interim deadlines in the EU negotiations. Nebojša Atanacković, President of the Serbian Association of Employers, emphasised that Serbia was faced with issues in applying environmental regulations, with the exception of the companies presenting their environmental achievements at the fair. “The country that has per capita income of 4,000 euros needs to invest and catch up with the countries that have tenfold higher income. This is the problem the country needs to solve and also to negotiate the conditions and deadlines that are viable for businesses. The examples of NIS, Tarkett and Lafarge are astounding, but the question is how many companies in Serbia can invest that much,” said Mr Atanacković. Sunčica Vještica, Environmental Protection Manager in Tarkett, presented the environmental protection projects pioneered by this company. “Such investments should not be considered as investing in environmental protection but in the business itself, since they cut costs and boost profit. Tarkett’s goal is to lower the share of raw materials in its operations from Serbia’s current level of 80-90 percent to Germany’s 50 percent. Our goal is also to standardise the procedures and materials to be imported into Serbia and we also plan cooperation with NIS since we have certain resources that could be of interest to them in this business segment,” highlighted Ms Vještica. Aleksandar Manojlović, Environmental Protection Manager in Lafarge, explained all aspects of the on-going and finalised environmental projects of this cement plant. He explained that Serbia still lacked awareness that it was more cost-effective to recycle and reuse raw materials thereby preserving non-renewable sources. Mr Manojlović said Beočin Cement Plant had already significantly increased the usage of alternative sources in production and as fuel, compared to previous years.