Podgorica, 17 October – Today at the EU Info Centre an opening ceremony was held to mark the start of the Twinning Light project “Capacity development for the Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS)”.

The project, with total budget of €200,000.00, is being financed by the European Union and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Finance of Montenegro and the Ministry of Finance of Republic of Croatia, with administrative support provided by the Central Finance and Contracting Agency of the Republic of Croatia, with the overall objective of supporting the Montenegrin administration in protecting the EU’s financial interests.

The Head of the Cooperation Section at the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Hermann Spitz, reminded that Croatia, as the newest EU member state, has the most recent experience in the transposition and implementation of EU requirements into national legislation.

“Therefore, Croatian experts will be of valuable assistance to governmental institutions, namely the AFCOS office and the bodies in the AFCOS network. The most important aspect of twinning projects is precisely the sharing of experience and of best practice,” said Spitz.

He said that this twinning project would contribute to the implementation of the activities envisaged by the Montenegrin Programme for Accession 2017-2018 and, in particular, by Chapter 32 (Financial Control).

“Also, through the improved capacities of the Montenegrin administration to protect the EU’s financial interests, the project will assist in strengthening the financial stability of the member states, prevent the misuse of finances and contribute to more efficient, successful and accountable spending. All these results offer an important mechanism for fighting corruption,” added Spitz.

During the six-month implementation of the project, Croatian and Montenegrin experts will jointly implement activities in order to strengthen the capacities of the Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS office), as well as to improve the legal framework for the protection of the EU’s financial interests in Montenegro. An analysis of the current institutional set-up will be conducted, after which Operational Protocols, Guidelines on Managing Irregularities, National Anti-Fraud Strategy and Risk Assessment methodology will be prepared. Moreover, Croatian experts will conduct training sessions and organise study visits for their Montenegrin counterparts to relevant Croatian institutions, and organise seminars for the media with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of active participation by the general public in reporting and suppressing irregularities and fraud.

Montenegro, as the end beneficiary of EU pre-accession assistance programmes (IPA programmes), is also responsible for providing an effective legislative framework for the protection of the financial interests of the EU in Montenegro during the pre-accession period. The Anti-Fraud Coordination Service (AFCOS office) was established with this purpose in the Ministry of Finance, as the contact office with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which also has the role of coordinating legislative, administrative and operational activities between the institutions involved in the management and the use of funds from the pre-accession assistance programmes (IPA) and the institutions responsible for the suppression of fraud, corruption and any other type of irregularity in Montenegro (AFCOS network institutions).

It is expected that the sharing of experiences and lessons learned between the beneficiary institution – the Montenegrin Ministry of Finance – and the member state institution – the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Croatia – will lead to improved capacities of the AFCOS office in Montenegro and, as a consequence, to the more successful protection of the EU’s financial interests.