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A Place of Prosperity
Located in an agricultural region, Pećinci used to be the least developed community of the Srem District, and in 2000 it had a single factory burdened with problems. Today this Srem community boasts of over thirty factories originating from ten countries, and has the highest rate of new greenfield investments per capita in Serbia. It was also awarded the ”Kapetan Miša Anastasijević” prize as the best local self-management community in the country in 2008.  This resulted in a much higher budgetary income, allowing strategic investments in infrastructure, communications, people and a general increase of quality of life. Simple, isn’t it?  

By: Nenad Despotović 

Pećinci is the most recent community of Srem. It was established in 1960, comprising peripheral parts of former Donji Srem districts of Ruma, Stara Pazova and Zemun. The total of only 21,500 inhabitants live in fifteen settlements on the territory of 483 square kilometers, an averrage size of Vojvodina districts.  In the late twentieth century the sugar manufacturing factory ”Donji Srem” was the only industrial plant in the community. The factory used to be an important factor in the local agricultural activities, but in 1900s it was also faced with very difficult problems.
– The new management realised there was no use of idle waiting and harbouring vain hopes. It was time to roll up the sleeves and to turn the situation into our advantage – says Siniša Vukov, president of the Pećinci Community, for Nacionalna revija.  – Our community has important competitive advantages. It is located in the vicinity of the capital, and the distance to the international airport ”Nikola Tesla” is only fifteen kilometers. The highway E70, which is a part of the European ”Corridor 10”, cuts through the northern part od the community. This communication artery of European rank and importance makes us well connected with multimillion markets. On the basis of such characteristics we have established industrial zones and offered them to investors. But that was not all. When they started to come they were greeted by a hospitable and efficient local administration. We made the official procedures shorter, simpler and quicker, eliminating all nonessential formalities. We knew that both ourselves and the investors had a common goal: to make the plants functional and to create conditions for offering new jobs as soon as possible.
The efforts gave results. Today, on the territory of the Pećinci community there are thirty five factories originating from ten or so countries. They include companies like English ”Albon”, Israeli ”Don Cafè”, Slovenian ”JUB”, Filmski grad RTV ”Pink”... They sell their products and services on the markets of the entire South-East Europe. The uneployment in the community has been significantly reduced – only about one thousand people are officially without jobs, and the senior community administrators do their best to further reduce their number.


Such an economic growth, which can be surely described as a real boom at the local level, requires, of course, a number of prerequisites to be fulfilled.
– The investors who mean business, especially foreign ones, have no understanding for our ”no problem” and ”it’s easy” attitudes – says president Vukov. – They invest important sums of money, they enter the negotiations well prepared and from their hosts they expect the same. In order to achieve the necessary credibility we have prepared all relevant strategic documents and made the business environment absolutely transparent and predictable. First of all, we adopted a Strategy of Local Economic Growth. Our Territorial plan envisaged 2000 hectares along the highway for industrial zones, mainly in Šimanovci and Pećinci. Working zones in each of the fifteen setlements of our community have been defined. The Agency for Economic Development of Pećinci has been established as a special form of logistics support to investors. It is intended to be of service to the investors and provide them with necessary information and assistance, starting from their arrival to the community up to the completion of the projects. This conveys a clear message to the investors that we also mean business, and they welcome such an attitude.
Budgetary income from numerous greenfield investments is channelled to the increase of the citizens’ quality of life. For some years already, Pećinci has been a huge construction site. The local administration has embarked upon implementation of important infrastructural projects.
–Resulting from an intensive economic growth, the budgetary income itself is not and cannot be the purpose but only the means for providing better life conditions to our citizens  – says president Vukov. – The quality of life does not mean only jobs, which are, of course, necessary, but also education, culture, and many other things belonging to our everyday lives. In addition to the road network which is being renovated and extended, we have begun to construct the sewerage system. We want to make life easier for the people, to help them to abandon septic holes, to preserve environment, water systems and the food chain. An organized garbage removal will soon become functional in all settlements of our community, and the problem of unauthorized garbage dumps will be solved.  Gasification of the community is also under way, and another prerequisite for industrial development will be thus fulfilled. Considerable funding is envisaged for social programmes. A great attention has been given to the increase of pupils’ and students’ standards. We invested important sums of money in renovating and equipping our schools, and the community grants scholarships to all regular students from its territory. We are well aware that the generations who are now coming of age are guarantors of a continued economic growth and development.


In the Pećinci community an increasing attention is being paid to culture, which is often the first to suffer collateral damage in a period of transition. The main organizer of cultural events is the local Cultural Center. It gets full support by the community administration and the evident result is a better and richer cultural life. The cultural and artistic group ”Pećinci” preserves the region’s folklore tradition in its activities. The National Library is often the host to prominent Serbian literary personalities, thus allowing its numerous readers to meet their favourite authors.
– We have no dilemma in this respect: the industrial and cultural developments must go together. Preserving the community’s cultural identity is certainly not less important than the standard of living – says the Pećinci community senior official. – Only the communities which are able to follow the development trends and, at the same time, to preserve their cultural identity, their customs and special characteristics, can count on having real future and becoming truly successful. This year, a ”Cultural Summer” was for the first time organized in Pećinci by the Cultural Center, under the auspices of the Municipality. The intention is to extend its programme to other places in the community as well, making culture accessible to all its citizens.
Nearly twenty sports clubs, most of them football, but also basketball, volleyball, chess and cycling clubs, pursue their activities on the territory of the Pećinci community. The most successful among them is the football club ”Donji Srem” from Pećinci which has this year qualified for the Vojvodina Group of the Serbian League.  
– If we want to prevent the young people being left to the street, we have to offer them an alternative, the one that is appealing and close to them, that they hold dear – says Siniša Vukov. – Sport certainly belongs to such alternatives. Therefore, we have invested considerable funds in renovating and equipping sports fields. Fields fo so-called small sports have been constructed in all settlements, and good results have been achieved in improving the regular football fields. The interest of people for sports is evident, and it is up to us in the local administration to support it financially.
One of the main goals of the local administration in Pećinci is to achieve closer relations with the community citizens. The Community Service Center has been established in cooperation with USAID and supported by the Ministry of Government and Local Administration.
– A municipality has to be, above all, a service center for the citizens because they are the reason for existence of the local administration. We must never forget that. By establishing the Community Service Center we made it possible for the citizens to get quicker and better services, to complete administrative formalities at a single place, without having to wait in numerous and long queues.  Digitisation of the database is nearing completion. Once it has been completed, our citizens will have at their disposal the quality of services they deserve – says the president of the Pećinci community.


The results are evident, it might be said they are impressive, but the people of Pećinci are not used to rest on their laurels. Success is only an argument for new challenges.
– As far as we are concerned, the results we achieved are only a beginning of the development of our community  – says Siniša Vukov. – Ways and possibilities for improving the quality of life are many and we intend to make the best of them, both in respect of attracting new investors and extending capacity of the local administration. Working zones have not lost their appeal and the continued interest of investors, notwithstanding the present crisis, is encouraging. Already at this moment, negotiations with several investors are going on and we expect them to be completed in a mutually satisfactory manner, resulting in construction of new factories and in new jobs. Our next major strategic endeavour will be development of tourism for which there is a great potential in the Pećinci community, but, unfortunately, it has not been exploited.  Most of all, I have in mind the unique nature reservation ”Obedska bara”, a protected region second only to the Yellowstone National Park in USA, but also the ancient Serbian capital and princely town of Kupinik, the St. Luka’s Church in Kupinovo, the Serbian Museum of Bread ”Jeremija” in Pećinci, and many other natural and cultural resources that have a real chance to become important tourist destinations.  
If we have in mind the progress this Srem community in the vicinity of Belgrade has made in just a few years and the plans of its local administration for further development which are not wishful thinking but are based on realistic projects, its future prosperity appears certain.


Obedska bara
”Obedska bara” is a special nature reservation situated within the community of Pećinci, forty five kilometers far from Belgrade. It is a world renowned marsh, habitat of numerous flora and fauna rare species (220 bird, 50 mammal, 16 fish, and more than 1200 insect species, over 200 kinds of zooplanktons, about 180 kinds of mushrooms, 500 different plants, 50 different kinds of moss...). It attracts numerous researchers and nature lovers.
It has a shape of a horseshoe and it was once a part of the Sava river-bed. Its biological and biogeographical characteristics are unique in Europe. Hence it is state-protected. The first protection measures were introduced already in 1874. At the time Obedska bara was protected as a hunting ground belonging to the Austrian royal family, and after 1919 it became a property of the Serbian Karađorđević dinasty. In accordance with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Obedska bara was put on the list of marshes of international importance.


Museum of Bread
The Serbian Museum of Bread ”Jeremija” emerged as a result of collection-research activities of Jeremija, an artist who has fordecades concerned himself with the subject of the ritual bread. For more than thirty years hehas travelled throughout Serbia, visited more than six hundred villages, made paintings, recorded folk customs, collected recipes, ethnographic items, ritual breads, and written documents.  His main intention was to save the ancient customs of Serbian people, whose meaning is much deeper than we are able today to recognize, from oblivion and extinction. Jeremija has systematized his collection, organized it into a museum material and in 1995 he opened this unique museum comprising 1200 square meters of open space and a number of structures that he built himself.  The museum houses about 2000 items divided into three collections (ethnographic, archeological and artistic). ”Journey of a wheat grain from the soil to bread, and to the heaven.” ”Museum as a piece of art”.


St. Luka
St. Luka’s Church, the memorial of the prince Đurađ Branković, is located in the southwest part of Kupinovo, in the community of Pećinci. It was built in the middle of the fifteenth century and belongs to the preserved ancient orthodox churches north of the rivers Sava and Danube. When the Turkish sultan Suleiman, called the Magnificent, sieged Belgrade in 1521 from the North, he first captured Šabac, crossed the river Sava and devastated Srem. Kupinovo was also destroyed at the time.
According to the eighteenth century sources, St. Luka’s Church was renovated in the period 1726–1730 by captain Mihailo Vasić who was assisted by the local villagers.  Today it enjoys state protection as a cultural monument, together with its baroque iconostasis of Jakov Orfelin from 1780.


The Pećinci community is the recipient of the award ”Kapetan Miša Anastasijević” as the most successful local administration in Serbia in 2008. The celebration took place in the form of a formal academy at the premises of Matica Srpska in Novi Sad. The award is traditionally given as a recognition of the results achieved in affirmation of economic creativity in Serbia, within the project ”Road to the Top”.


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