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Serbia/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

The arm's-length principal is not part of the Serbian cultural policy model on any level – municipal, city or ministerial. Public authorities are responsible for nominating managers of the public cultural institutions and for overall management control. In order to set up this type of system, it would be necessary for the government to transfer its authority to the boards of cultural institutions and to the directors. However, in reality, the role of the boards is not known, and directors, nominated without public competition, are often too dependent on public authorities. The links and responsibilities between the public authorities and the boards, and the division of tasks between the boards and the managers of the institutions, have not yet been clearly defined. This means that monitoring and evaluation, as standard forms, have not yet been established. The boards of the cultural institutions usually approve a one-year plan and publish annual reports that are sent to the Ministry (or Municipal secretary for culture), where further financing is considered and decided upon.

A new role for the boards of cultural institutions as strategic policy-making bodies should be established to coordinate government priorities according to the mission and strategic priorities of the cultural institutions. Currently, the board members of cultural institutions in Belgrade are paid by the City of Belgrade and are only partially responsible for policy-making. It is not clear whether, or not, the boards of national cultural institutions are voluntary bodies that are left to their own sense of responsibility and knowledge about policy priorities in culture. A newly established Council for Culture in Belgrade (2012), if it gets a political support, will try to push more systematic changes in Belgrade as the strongest cultural environment in Serbia, and this could hopefully later influence changes on other levels.

Following the period of large tensions between the public and civil art sectors during the 1990s, after 2000 some of the key players of the civil sector moved to the public sector. Since then, the strength of the civil sector has still not been restored, and its role in the cultural sector still waits to be redefined. One of the new initiatives to strengthen the civil sector in the field of culture started in June 2010, during the first National conference of independent organisations and initiatives in Serbia. The participants from 59 organisations from the civil sector adopted a Declaration dealing with the development of the independent cultural sector and set up the Association of the Independent Cultural Scene in 2011. Through this Declaration they appealed to the representatives of public administration to reorganise the budget lines in the cultural sector; for availability of office space and other public spaces which are not being used; for changes in tax reduction policies for the cultural sector and tax policies connected with investment in the cultural sector; to put more pressure on the public media services to have more focus on the independent cultural scene; allowing quality projects from the independent cultural scene to participate in the official programmes of the promotion of the Republic of Serbia abroad. As a result of this initiative, The Ministry of Culture and the independent cultural scene in Serbia signed a Protocol on cooperation in January 2011, on the basis of which the non-institutional actors of cultural policy (initiatives / organisations belonging to the independent cultural scene in Serbia) are to be involved as equal partners in the achievement of general interest in culture and creating cultural policy in the country. The Protocol has been cancelled in 2013, however the cooperation has continued (for more see chapter 8.4.2).

The private sector exists in the publishing, film production and other related industries which can be connected to the term creative industries. Although they are profit based, some of their activities are not only commercial, and therefore they are also partially subsidised through the public sector and international foundations.

Chapter published: 18-08-2015

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