An Interview with Mr Paul Collins, First Secretary and Programme Manager for Environment and Climate Reform Support at the Embassy of Sweden in Belgrade

As the First Secretary at the Swedish Embassy in Belgrade, Mr Paul Collins oversees the Swedish development cooperation environment and climate support portfolio. Sweden plays a pivotal role as the primary donor for environmental and climate initiatives in Serbia, actively contributing to Serbia’s EU integration process. This support encompasses collaborative projects with various stakeholders, including the Serbian Government, municipalities, NGOs, businesses, and academia.Mr Collins has a background in law having practiced in London, Brussels and Stockholm before joining the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida in 2017. He started working at the Swedish Embassy in August this year.

IED Srbija: Mr Collins, could you tell us more about the significance of environmental protection and climate change in the bilateral cooperation between Sweden and Serbia?

Pol Kolins: Sweden’s development cooperation in Serbia is designed to advance Serbia’s alignment with the European Union. The primary areas of emphasis include strengthening democracy, the rule of law, promoting human rights, and actively working to mitigate the country’s climate impact while enhancing environmental conditions. As one of the largest bilateral donors in Serbia and the lead donor in the environment and climate sectors. Sweden engages in numerous cooperative projects with Serbian authorities, spanning both central and local levels. These collaborative efforts involve international organisations, civil society groups, and the education system. A noteworthy aspect is the inclusion of municipalities, youth, and companies in various projects, emphasising a comprehensive and inclusive approach to development. 

Our focus is clear – to support Serbia in its journey toward achieving the environmental standards of the European Union and fostering a clean and healthy environment for all. Over the years, Sweden has been a dependable supporter of projects and investments in Serbia, particularly in the fields of chemical and water management. Initiatives have also been undertaken to enhance waste management and reduce industrial pollution, showcasing our commitment to addressing critical environmental challenges.

In close collaboration with the European Union, we are dedicated to supporting activities that promote environmentally and climatically sustainable development, including the sustainable use of natural resources.

IED Srbija: The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through the Embassy of Sweden in Belgrade has collaborated with the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy University of Belgrade on Industrial Emissions Directive implementation projects, supporting the projects through their three phases. The Embassy recently received a Certificate of Appreciation from the faculty as an acknowledgment for this fruitful collaboration. How do you envision the future of the partnership between the Embassy and the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy?

Pol Kolins: The recognition from the faculty was truly extraordinary, and we value it highly. Our Embassy’s enduring collaboration with the Faculty through the Industrial Emissions Directive implementation projects has been centred on providing assistance to the Ministry, other competent authorities, and industry representatives to attain higher environmental standards. Through this approach, we aim to minimize the impact of industrial emissions on the environment and human health. This Directive is also one of the key points in the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union. The project also facilitates improved environmental inspections of industrial installations and encourages investments in cleaner technologies.

We are equally thrilled that, through this collaboration, the Embassy has contributed to supporting students and young professionals in their future pursuits. Furthermore, on the margins of the student competition, we used the valuable opportunity to formalise the extension of the project. We look forward to maintaining this partnership and collaborating to achieve even more significant milestones in the future, especially as Serbia prepares for new industry legislation with elevated standards and improved permitting procedures.

IED Srbija: As a keynote speaker in the official opening of the Tech Case Study 2023 student competition alongside the Dean of the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, could you share your reflections on the event?

Pol Kolins: Being present and officially opening the Tech Case Study 2023 student competition was a privilege. For me, it’s an event that exemplifies the remarkable talent, innovation, and commitment showcased by the participating high school students. Our Embassy has been honoured to support this competition for the third time, aiming to engage high school students in “green” thinking as they will play a crucial role in shaping the future environmental landscape, both in the private sector and within government bodies. I extend my appreciation to the faculty for organising this competition, and for providing a platform for the next generation of environmental leaders.

The task of this year’s competition was centred around a topical and crucial theme – carbon capture. This topic holds immense importance, emphasising the urgency and necessity of discovering inventive solutions to address the impacts of climate change. Witnessing the intellectual prowess and creativity of the students as they confront this complex task was truly encouraging. Hopefully, the dedication of these students will inspire us all in recognising that collective action is the key to building a more sustainable and resilient future.