The majority of support for creativity is given to cultural institutions, organisations and companies via project grants. Such calls for projects are published annually by the Ministry of Culture, the Provincial secretariat for culture and the City secretariats or offices for culture in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Subotica and other smaller cities.
The general issue with these calls is that their aims are very vaguely and loosely set, without clear indicators or goals. Hence, evaluating these calls as policy instruments is very hard and subjective. What can be said, though, is that the very procedures by which projects are chosen is often inadequate in terms of temporality (results of awarded projects are published in May-June while the projects have to end and to be reported on by 31stof December); choice of jury members (often persons with dubious professional experience); a vague and administrative project application and evaluation form; no feedback or public ranking from the jury; many awarded projects are not cultural. However, lately there are some signs of improvement. The Ministry has improved its application process with the jury acting autonomously and providing clear feedback. The City of Novi Sad stands out as an example. It has introduced an online application form with relevant questions for applicants and a Strategic plan according to which the applications have to be read. Also, juries have to publicly explain their choices. In many other instances and cities, calls are still very problematic.
When it comes to the Ministry of Culture, this year it supported 11 areas of artistic creativity. The call had at its disposal around 3 million EUR (4.86% Ministry’s budget), while civil society organisations received 1.310.000 EUR (2.06%). We can see from this that the overwhelming majority of the Ministry’s budget is devoted to supporting the public cultural infrastructure. When it comes to different fields, most funds were awarded to film (21%), music (20%), theatre (18%) and visual arts (14%), while dance, youth culture, culture for people with special needs and others received less than 10%.
Apart from the calls for projects, which have become a main source of financing for artists as well (many have formed their NGOs or private companies), artists are allowed a tax deduction of40-65% on their earnings for expenses related to their work (without documentation). Another important and much debated instrument for supporting the work of freelance artists is the system of subsidizing social security and pension for artists. By the Law on Culture, local municipalities and the Provincial government have the right to support all artists who have been acknowledged by the representative artist union by covering their social and health security. Currently, very few municipalities are offering such support for all registered freelance artists (the City of Novi Sad is covering health insurance and pension insurance and the City of Belgrade only the latter).
Unfortunately, the support to NGOs depends of the political stands of local and central authorities towards them. According to the Freedom House report (2018), “Foreign and domestic nongovernmental organizations generally operate freely, but those that have taken openly critical stances towards the government or address sensitive or controversial topics have faced threats and harassment in recent years. In January 2017, activists from the Youth Initiative for Human Rights were physically attacked at an event organized by the ruling party.” Many programmes and projects of the Centre for Cultural Decontamination (CCD) are under threat of right wing groups. On the last call for projects of the City of Belgrade, none of the seven projects which the CCD presented got the support (while only three got symbolic support from the Ministry of Culture and Information).