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With 4 changes in ministers from 2011 to 2014, the Ministry of Culture and Information’s most important long-term developments in strategy, legislation and investments have all been stalled.

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Serbia/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.3 Cultural policy objectives

The necessary priorities for all levels of public policy making created in 2001 were:

  • decentralisation and désetatisation of culture;
  • establishing an environment to stimulate the market orientation of cultural institutions and their efficient and effective work;
  • setting a new legal framework for culture (harmonisation with European standards);
  • multiculturalism as one of the key characteristics of Serbian society and culture;
  • re-establishing regional co-operation and ties; and
  • active co-operation in pre-accession processes to the CoE, EU and WTO.

The above priorities were never officially approved in the Serbian Parliament.

In September 2007, the new Ministry of Culture has officially expressed its own aims and priorities, approved by the Parliamentary Committee for Culture. The cultural system aims to guarantee the absolute freedom of artistic expressions, equality for all cultures in Serbia, preservation of cultural diversities and minority identities, respect for intellectual / artistic property and its European character. The main objectives have been defined as:

  • harmonisation of the cultural and media system with standards set by the UNESCO, EU and the Council of Europe – the development of a cultural system;
  • establishment of a modern, efficient, rational and creative cultural management system (creation of new organisational structures such as the National Book Centre, Music Centre etc.);
  • preservation of cultural heritage and its integration into contemporary cultural trends around the world;
  • development of creativity and art production through support of excellence and working conditions in all art branches;
  • raising the level of participation in all form of cultural practices throughout the territory of Serbia – decentralisation and inclusion as tasks;
  • internationalisation of Serbian culture – active participation of artists and art works in different events, networking and collaborative arts projects, in the region, Europe and the world; and
  • improving quality in media production and broadcasting programmes.

In July 2008, after the change of government, the Ministry of Culture expressed new priorities for the period 2008-2011 based on the postulates of freedom of cultural and artistic expression and respect for the right to culture; equality of all cultures on the territory of Serbia and helping the sustainability of cultural identities and cultural difference; responsibility of the public service for the development of culture and the arts; support for the development of artistic quality and innovations in culture; development of the modern, efficient, rational and creative system of management in culture; public action in culture and respect for authors rights.

The goals set by the new Ministry were:

  • establishing the new standards in cultural policy;
  • development and modernisation of cultural institutions;
  • preservation of cultural heritage and cultural diversity and their inclusion in contemporary cultural circles; digitalisation;
  • creating the conditions for development of creativity in all areas of art;
  • raising the level of participation of citizens in cultural activities and equal cultural development on the whole territory of the republic – decentralisation;
  • active participation of artists and the contemporary artistic community in the international cultural scene; and
  • raising the quality of media production, stimulating the development of self-regulation and harmonisation of the media laws to European standards.

The plan of the new Ministry of Culture was very ambitious, and demanded a rise in the state budget (which promised more than 1% for culture). It comprised a significant rise in the level of investment in the sector of culture and some structural and organisational re-definitions. Decentralisation as one of the most important processes promoted by the new Ministry of Culture was presented through the flagship project "Serbia in Serbia" where the most significant artistic organisations from the largest cities were hosted in the smaller towns of Serbia. This could be seen as a potentially good first step, in creating new contacts between the centre and the periphery which were completely cut in the previous two decades, but without further investment in the development of the cultural and art scenes in these smaller towns, this step could be perceived as a mere public relations campaign. However, the government demanded serious budgetary cuts that prevented or slowed down the planed institutional reforms and stopped or slowed down even those investments which had been approved and seriously developed (National library and National Museum reconstructions).

An important strategic step forward was made when the Law on Culture was adopted by the Serbian parliament. But, although it was expected that the real implementation of this Law should start in 2011 (see chapter 5.2) and new bodies foreseen in the Law have been created (such as National Council for Culture on state level), the Group for strategic planning although having finished its task of preparing the document for public debate has been dissolved while a draft was not debated nor sent to the Council or to the Parliament.

From 2011 to 2014, the Ministry of Culture and Information has seen four ministers with many changes in the direction of the Ministry. The most important long-term developments like the creation of the National Strategy for Culture, adoption of new laws in the areas of music, theatre, cultural heritage, film and major investments such as the refurbishment of the National Museum and Museum of Contemporary Arts have all been stalled. During this period it is hard to determine the policy priorities of Ministry. Similarly, many city councils changed in this turbulent period and it is hard to distinguish the strategic direction of local cultural policy.

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

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