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In 2014, new guidelines for projects supported by international funds have been introduced, increasing transparency, accountability and economic efficiency.

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Serbia/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

The Serbian model of government is different from the models adopted by the different countries of Eastern Europe due to its legacy of self-government. In this system, there was relative freedom for art production and the majority of cultural institutions were owned by the cities. Since 1980, artists have been given the possibility to organise themselves in groups and to produce and market their own work.

It should be taken into account that the present system of institutions, arts groups and even artists had been created and developed throughout the ex-Yugoslavian territory, especially in the City of Belgrade. With the collapse of the ex-Yugoslavia, cultural productions (e.g. films, books, journals, festivals, etc.) lost their audiences, readers and markets. The cultural infrastructure that followed was, hence, too large to survive and demanded (in %) more and more public funds. This was one of the main reasons why there were few protests when the government resumed control of socially owned (self-governed) cultural institutions during the 1990s. Instead, it was considered a step to at least guarantee the survival of existing cultural institutions.

The current cultural policy model has changed slightly: key competence for cultural policy-making and funding is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and new procedures were introduced in Serbia in 2001. In 2014, the grants mechanism was slightly improved. Calls have been opened on time and results were published as planned (contrary to some previous years in which the Ministry was several months late with results). Juries for different art disciplines were selected from more diverse areas, both from the public and independent sectors and all the names of Juries were publicly announced. It is also understood that the Minister didn't intervene in the results as happened previously; thus the democratic element was strengthened.

There are three key calls for project grants: arts and contemporary creativity; media and public information; and cultural heritage. In 2014, in the area of arts, the Ministry allocated 330 million CSD (around 3 million EUR) to 959 projects in the following 13 areas:

  • literary manifestations and prizes;
  • publishing – art and culture periodicals (cultural reviews);
  • publishing – books;
  • music production (creation, production, interpretation);
  • visual arts, multimedia and architecture;
  • performing arts (drama, opera, ballet, dance);
  • cinematography and audio-visual creation (film production, workshops and art colonies);
  • research and educational projects;
  • autochthonous creativity (folklore) and amateur arts;
  • cultural activities of national minorities;
  • cultural activities of Serbs who live abroad;
  • cultural activities for persons with special needs; and
  • cultural activities for children and youth.

In the field of cultural heritage, the Ministry allocated 274 million CSD in 2014, and selected 465 projects to be funded. Projects were grouped in the following seven areas:

  • for the protection and presentation of immovable cultural heritage;
  • for the protection and presentation of archaeological heritage;
  • for the protection and presentation of museum heritage;
  • for the protection and presentation of archive materials;
  • for the protection and presentation of intangible cultural heritage;
  • for the protection and presentation of rare and old library materials; and
  • for library and information activities.

In 2014, in the field of public information, the Ministry awarded 92 million CSD in total (ca. 800 000 EUR) for 255 projects in the following areas:

  • public information (production of media content);
  • public information for content on the language of national minorities;
  • public information for Serbs in the diaspora;
  • public information for people with special needs; and
  • public information for organisations in Kosovo.

Apart from these key calls, there are also grant schemes for international projects (though mainly translations of Serbian authors and Serbian cultural organisations abroad), for books and visual artworks (the latter was reopened this year after a long period, which was warmly welcomed by numerous actors). Finally, with the signing of the Creative Europe programme, the Ministry also opened a call for co-financing projects that were selected in the programme (up to 30% of local budgets for applicant organisations and up to 50% for lead organisations). This support is also available for other international cultural programmes of UNESCO, the EU, Council of Europe and others.

The decision-making processes for these open competitions had been transferred to independent commissions. That is why the current cultural policy model is described as a combined etatist-democratic model. There are many different commissions and juries for different competitions in the field of culture and media.

It is important to note that open calls have several flaws, despite their high value as one of the very few funds for non-institutional actors. First of all, very little of the funds is distributed through calls (less than 10 per cent of the Ministry's budget). In the scenario in which cultural organisations would have diversified income streams, this would be fine. However, many organisations are highly dependent upon the Ministry. As a result of the vast number of applications (in 2014 - 3 440 projects), most organisations receive as little as 2 000 or 3 000 EUR. Even with such a small amount, only about half of the projects that apply were selected. Secondly, calls are vague and unspecified regarding the amount of funds, the goals of the projects or the needs of beneficiaries. With such a diverse and unfocused approach, it is hard to see how these calls might have any effect on solving the numerous problems of the cultural sector (lack of skills, lack of audience development, brain drain, etc.). Thirdly, with a sectorial approach (visual arts, music, arts etc.) cooperation between sectors is discouraged and many organisations face problems when developing multidisciplinary projects. Fourthly, even the approved projects might not be funded finally, especially in the case of organisations receiving several grants from different budget lines. Finally, approved projects are almost never properly evaluated and there is no report to date that has analysed any kind of impact of the calls.

The National Council for Culture was set up on 25 May 2011 and meets regularly since that time. There are 18 members chosen on the basis of achievements in the sphere of culture. Although, according to the Law (see chapter 5.2), it has a duty to approve the National Strategy for Cultural Development, and although a Strategic working group had prepared a document in 2010, due to the changes of ministers, this document never really reached public debate. Instead it was reviewed by the National Council, which just forwarded its comments and suggestions to the Ministry, as the Strategic group was dissolved in the meantime. The work of the Council is public and open, thus a website was created to enable direct communication by the Council with other cultural actors.

The programme of the Council for 2013-14 included the following tasks: discussing the draft of the newly proposed Amendments to the Law on Culture; discussing cultural policy models and priorities and commenting on the most important events in the sphere of culture; creating a public call for artists and professionals (February 2013) seeking to acquire a status of excellence (new institute foreseen with the Law on Culture). So far, the Council has been also dealing with important and controversial issues in Serbian culture such as the selection of distinguished artists; creating the list of National Cultural Institutions of Excellence, arguing for new legislation in music, theatre and cultural heritage; and other issues. For more information see:

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

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