4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
In January 2001, the new government of Serbia was established and made the transition to a market economy and democracy. At that time, new cultural policy objectives were introduced (see chapter 2.1). New priorities were established, initially stressing the reform of the Ministry structure, creating new procedures and taking urgent action to eliminate the impact of previous policy decisions. Emphasis was placed on institutional reform (new management approaches), analysis and evaluation of the situation of each public institution and each field of art and cultural activity. Absolute priority was to stabilise the field, which meant to work on new legislation.
In 2005, priority was given to the renewal of the cultural infrastructure such as a network of cinemas, network of local libraries and cultural centres. Efforts have been increased to develop new legislation for culture in accordance with European standards.
In 2006, the government accepted a proposal of the Ministry of Finance concerning the realisation of the National Investment Plan in the period of 2006-2011 with the seven areas of priority: education, modernisation of the health care system and environment protection, transportation infrastructure, economic development (employment, entrepreneurship, energy, waterpower engineering, science and tourism), building, improvement in living standards (sport, culture and social care) and advancement of government management. Ministries, local governments, non-governmental organisations and others proposed projects in these fields.
The Ministry of Culture selected 50 priority projects, which were supposed to be supported within the framework of the National Investment Plan in 2006 and 2007.
By the end of 2006, responsibility for allocation and monitoring of the realisation of the National Investment Plan was transferred to the Office for the National Investment Plan, which was closed in 2010. Support to cultural infrastructural projects had a budget of 22.89 million EUR in 2007, which represents 3.2% of the total budget of the National Investment Plan in that year. 80 cultural projects were selected, which were supported through different levels of public authorities: the budget of 18.7 million EUR was allocated to supporting cultural institutions on the state level; a budget of 4.1 million EUR was allocated for provincial institutions; and 73 950 EUR was allocated to cultural institutions in the territory of Kosovo. It would be interested to mention that there was discrepancy between planed and realised budget for cultural projects. For example, in official list of projects which should be supported through National Investment Plan (publish in 2006) the planed budget for cultural projects was 33.34 million EUR and real investment 2007 is about 70% of planed investment (22.89 million EUR). There are still unclear criteria for reducing amount of money dedicated for different projects, especially if we have in mind that annual decision for transfer of money was revised several times in 2007. In 2008 the budget for 26 cultural projects was 7.8 million EUR which represents 1.3% of the total budget of the National Investment Plan in 2008.
Support for cultural projects have a budget of 50 million EUR (in 2006 – 16.57 million EUR and in 2007 – 33.43 million EUR) which represents 3.97 % of the total budget of the National Investment Plan for the period 2006 -2007 (1 649 million EUR).
Since the start of the economic crisis, the majority of investments in culture through the National Investment Plan were either stopped or slowed down, and the situation is not promising for the future of these projects. The strategy for cultural development of the Republic of Serbia should be approved by the Serbian Parliament (expected in 2012), and developed for a period of 10 years.
In 2009, according to more defined policies, the Ministry focused on programmes that should contribute to systemic changes in the cultural field, such as the approval of new laws and regulations (a new Law on Culture outlines the reconstruction of the cultural system); support to professional education, especially support to education and training which would facilitate participation of projects from Serbia in European and international competitions (The Cultural Contact Point was created as a consultancy point and systemic training centre for international projects).
During 2007, issues relevant to politics of memory and remembrance, intercultural and inter-confessional dialogue, and preservation of cultural heritage came into focus through the efforts of civil society and public authorities. Actions were in the form of cultural practices (festivals and events), policy actions (monuments, renaming of streets) and media debates. Several controversial actions occurred, such as the renewal of the Monument of the Four Faiths in Cacak, followed two days later by removal of the art project of the Italian artist (red and black flags), seen not as anarchistic but Albanian state symbols. The Centre for Cultural Decontamination held two days of debate on the issue of memory politics, while the media held extensive coverage of the controversial debate about historical figures and events.
Those debates continued in 2008, especially initiated by the events around the exhibition "Exception / Contemporary arts scene of Pristina", that was planned to be held in the Kontekst Gallery (NGO) in the Centre for Culture of the Old Town in Belgrade. The exhibition was censored through the closing of the event even before it was opened, which happened due to violence expressed by nazi-clerical organisations. The protesters, motivated by prejudiced feelings toward Albanians, destroyed the art work of Dren Malliqi, representing the Kosovo Albanian hero Adem Jashari, fighter or terrorist (for Albanians or Serbs) who was killed by the Yugoslav army. The exhibition was taken down and the space was protected by the police, but serials of debates around the issue of nationalism, freedom of expression ("street censorship"), and anti-fascism have been raised within the art and cultural community.
The sporadic violent and tragic events, as a legacy of the 1990s, still continue in different forms. Violence by criminals hiding behind groups of football supporters, connected with the homophobic nationalistic political groups ("Obraz", "1389") which promote ideas close to fascism, helped by the consequences of the economic crisis, were seen on the streets of Belgrade (an assault on police in stadiums; cancelling of the gay "Pride Parade" in the centre of Belgrade because of threats by nationalistic groups; the murder of a French supporter and assaults on foreigners). These events mobilised society to rethink their values. The cultural sector (especially cultural NGO's) joined these efforts strongly with new, socially engaged programmes and actions. In this respect, the Pride Parade was successfully organised on 10 October 2010 in a Belgrade centre, with extreme mobilisation of the police force, but nationalist extremists succeeded in causing violence and damage to public spaces. However, in 2011 and 2012, the Pride parade was cancelled, as state authorities could not guarantee the safety of participants.
On the other side, artists, NGOs and public cultural institutions are devoting more and more time to controversial and burning issues such as the spaces where war crimes were committed. "Four faces of Omarska" is a project implemented in a gallery space of the Museum of Contemporary Arts, and was researched through a series of public debates on the four different faces of Omarska, which was a concentration camp in 1992, but also provided a stage for making a film in 2007, etc.