OVERVIEW OF MAJOR PROJECTS

Special attention was paid to the long-standing unresolved bilateral disputes, the so-called open issues that Serbia still has with all its neighbors. Besides, of the eight neighboring countries, four are former Yugoslav republics interested in, among other things, the issues of succession, so this area was also covered by the analysis of Serbia’s bilateral relations with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro.

As stated in the project: “Starting to resolve open issues and moving forward from the existing “deadlock” is also a way of shaping a new Serbian foreign policy, since country’s foreign policy has been without clear content and goals for years. At the same time, defining relations with our neighbors represents a path towards policymaking against the “great powers” (EU, USA, Russia, China) as an essential part of Serbia’s new foreign policy.”

The process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union depends on the dynamics of the opening and successful completion of 35 negotiation chapters. Although the EC holds that bilateral disputes between EU member states and candidate countries are to be resolved independently of the negotiation process, so far the experience has shown that such disputes can significantly delay – or even completely stop – the opening of negotiation chapters.

Despite the fact that all the countries are officially committed to improvement of bilateral and regional cooperation, progress to date on all the outstanding issues has not been great. Given that bilateral disputes can be an obstacle to the negotiation process between Serbia and the EU and cannot be left out in foreign policy-making, a rational debate on issues affecting relations between Serbia and neighboring countries, as well as research engagement by the professional public and CSOs, can make a significant contribution to accelerating integrative processes.

The aim of the project is further progress, as well as acceleration of the EU integration process of Serbia by improving relations with its neighbors, some of which are already in the EU. In this regard, we have identified some of the possibilities for resolving numerous bilateral issues that have burdened Serbia’s relations with its neighbors, issues that represent a potentially major obstacle to their progress as well as to the whole process of European integration.

The specific objective of this project, and of the whole program, is to raise the issue of Serbia’s foreign policy strategy. Serbia needs a new foreign policy, regardless of its path to the EU, and in that sense, opening these issues and tracing solutions to the bilateral disputes is an important step towards shaping it.

The project was supported by the Open Society Foundation, Serbia.

Specific objectives define the most important contents of the planned reform measures and activities. The key principles on which the Government’s policy in this field will be based are identical to the principles of the European Administrative Space: reliability and predictability, that is, legal certainty; openness and transparency of the administrative system and promotion of participation of citizens and other social entities in the public administration work; responsibility of the work of public administration bodies and their efficiency and effectiveness.

The tasks of the project are thematically related to the analysis of the aforementioned principles, which will be performed on the basis of the methodology established for the purpose of this project. In addition to the European principles as a starting point, the further process of public administration reform in Serbia will be based on the principles formulated in the Public Administration Reform Strategy: decentralization, depoliticization, professionalization, rationalization and modernization.

These five areas were the topics of five professional thematic conferences organized within the project. Although the Strategy is rated as good, there are still many challenges to its implementation. This is particularly pointed out by the World Bank, which highlighted the following main risks: a) low level of trust in institutions that makes it difficult to build social consensus on reforms, and b) insufficient institutional capacity to implement reforms, especially in the area of accountability for results.

The project was implemented in the period 2016–2017 with the support of the Open Society Foundation.

The subject of analysis of the above-mentioned independent bodies were three key aspects of independence: personal independence – election, conditions and procedures for dismissal from office and ensuring adequate immunity for members of governing organs of independent bodies; financial independence – the independent body’s right to independently plan, propose and justify its own budget before the organ that elected it; operational independence – freedom of the body from any external pressure, timely implementation of the decisions of these bodies, but also respect for the recommendations made by the body.

In the previous period, CPES has prepared analysis of twelve independent state bodies, including the bodies that guarantee democratic order and provide external control of government bodies, independent state bodies related to free market and sustainable development, and bodies dealing with the protection of human rights. Besides that, CPES has produced an introductory study which, among other things, includes the methodology used in the analysis of independent control and regulatory bodies, that is, government bodies.

The project was implemented in the period 2015–2017 with the support of the Open Society Foundation.

Special attention was given to the output group of indicators that measured the relationship between institutions and their beneficiaries – citizens. The initial premise was that efficient institutions generate trust, and that trust is driven by results. This group of indicators has two dimensions: citizens’ perception of the work of institutions, and citizens’ experience related to the work of institutions. The indicators provide answers to two general questions:

– Do citizens express trust in the work of institutions?

– Are citizens satisfied with the work of institutions (their efficiency, accessibility, professionalism)?

The second group of indicators, related to the institutional structure, was meant to assess the institutional structure, that is, how the institutions function within the institutional context. This group of indicators measured the responsiveness of other institutions, which – together with the institution being analyzed – make up a system where the “outputs” of one institution represent the “inputs” of another. By looking at the links between these institutions, we can see whether the problem lies within the analyzed institution or elsewhere in the system. This group of indicators provides answers to the following questions:

– How responsive are the other institutions to the activities and outputs of the observed institution?

– How responsive is the observed institution to the activities of other institutions?

The focus of the third group of indicators is on internal efficiency, i.e. on the internal functioning of the observed institution and its capacities. This group of indicators provided answers to these two questions:

– Does the institution have adequate capacity to function properly?

– Does the institution make optimal use of human and financial resources?

The project was implemented in the period 2015–2016 with the support of the Open Society Foundation.

Unlike the Lisbon Strategy, the Europe 2020 Strategy stresses the need for more rigorous monitoring of reform programs, and in this respect the division of duties between the European Union and its members is more clearly defined. On the other hand, this strategy is of great importance for the EU candidate countries as well, as it is a signpost for acceleration of the reforms in these countries. The strategy calls for attention to be paid to national and regional specificities, countries’ own goals in specific areas, the practices of other countries and the adoption of necessary documents. The implementation of the strategy is supposed to go in three directions: 1) smart growth; 2) sustainable growth; 3) inclusive growth.

The Southeastern Europe Regional Strategy adopted by the SEEIC identifies the main objectives taking into account the economic specificities of the region. While some indicators are taken from the Europe 2020 strategy, some are region-specific, so each country can make suggestions as to what indicators are needed for the region and what values should be set as goals to be achieved. Accordingly, besides aforementioned three strategic directions, the regional strategy adopted two additional ones: integrated growth, which involves measuring trade and investment integrations intra-regionally and with the rest of the world, and managing for growth, i.e. the extent to which public policies strengthen the rule of law and reduce the rate of corruption.

In the concept of development of the Republic of Serbia until 2020 (Serbia 2020), the directions of action are not mentioned in the way they are in the European strategy, although the general guidelines of the Europe 2020 strategy are followed, and the domestic specificities are taken into account. During the implementation of the project, in addition to analyzing several local (municipal) strategies, CPES researchers paid particular attention to sectoral policies in Serbia and to their relationship with the three general development strategies by 2020.

In addition to the introductory study “Independent State Bodies”, which explained in detail the position of independent bodies as the “fourth branch of government” in Serbia’s institutional arrangement, along with the relationship this branch has with the three traditional ones – judicial, legislative and executive, at thematic conferences organized by CPES in 2014, the other 12 studies were presented that addressed three aspects of the independence of independent control and regulatory bodies.

A key product of this project is a proposal for a general methodology for testing the effectiveness of independent government bodies. This methodology combines solid indicators of the effectiveness of independent bodies, their relationship with other institutions in the system, and the perception/trust that independent bodies enjoy with citizens.

Along with the case studies analyzed, CPES has also built a framework for indicators – three sets of indicators reflecting three dimensions of institutional functionality: output legitimacy, institutional structure and internal efficiency. These three dimensions give clear picture not only of the institutional arrangement, but also of the successful functioning of the state in certain areas.

The project was implemented in the period 2013–2015 with the support of the Open Society Foundation.

In its researches, CPES was able to use the findings of another project analyzing the position of independent anticorruption bodies, which was being implemented at the same time.

The main result of the “Anticorruption Algorithm” that CPES has achieved in 2013 is the design and installation of an online interactive visualization of existing institutions and mechanisms in the fight against corruption. This interactive scheme provides an opportunity for a quick and easy understanding of the otherwise very complex system set up by the state in the said area, showing the entire path from reporting corruption to sanctioning it, in three selected areas: public procurement, political party financing and conflict of interests. The visual anticorruption algorithm is designed to give the ordinary citizen an insight into all the possibilities he or she has when corruption is discovered: the scheme shows all relevant institutions and their interconnections, with a brief description – an identity card giving an overview of the scope of work of these institutions, along with their contact information.

After the anticorruption algorithm was set up online, on March 14, 2013, CPES organized a (very successful) conference at the Media Center, where the platform was presented to the general public. Apart from Srdjan Djurovic and Jasna Filipovic from CPES, Rodoljub Sabic, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, as well as Zlatko Minic, a member of the Anticorruption Agency Board also participated at the conference. The conference was attended by about a hundred representatives of various state institutions, civil society organizations from Belgrade and other cities, as well as the media representatives, many of whom took part in a discussion that followed the presentation and was focused on the performance of institutions in this field so far. The event was reported by several media outlets, primarily by various web portals.

Anticorruption algorithm, an online presentation of the anticorruption system, which provides an overview of all relevant institutions, the links between them and the specific responsibilities they have in the fight against corruption, was presented at the Media Center…

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Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection Rodoljub Sabic said that it is very good to have a project like this one due to the fact that despite good laws, there are still many problems. “I don’t think it’s a phrase and we can easily agree that the problem of corruption has long gone beyond the dimensions within which the state itself could solve it. This has become a matter of survival, since we’ve spent last seven or eight years in this deadlock and we kept failing in this fierce struggle. If we don’t turn things around for the better, this whole situation will turn into an existential question in the most literal sense of the word”, Sabic said.

The Republic of Serbia has demonstrated clear progress in the area of building anticorruption systems in the last 10 years. Regulations have been adopted and institutions have been established that fully meet the modern standards both in theory and practice. The European Commission’s opinion on Serbia’s candidacy reads the same: “… the legal and institutional framework for the fight against corruption in Serbia has been established”. In addition, it states that the capacities of the Anticorruption Agency have been improved, and that the State Audit Institution has started to play an important role in controlling public spending and detecting irregularities in spending. However, the latest request made to Serbia by the EC, the request that represents the base for the CPES’s research, is a request to significantly increase the number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions in corruption cases at all levels. The European Commission will consider “open investigations and final court verdicts” a “credible result” in the fight against corruption.

The research was conducted in areas where, in addition to traditional institutions with anticorruption function (police, prosecutions, courts), new anticorruption mechanisms have been recently built, mechanisms specialized in the fight against corruption, i.e. in prevention, detection and sanctioning of corruption. The Anticorruption Agency, the State Audit Institution, the Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures and the Public Procurement Directorate are institutions specialized in the prevention of abuse in the public sector and in the fight against corruption. In the area of control of these institutions, most of which belong to independent bodies, the areas most exposed to corruption have been identified, as indicated by the European Commission in its latest opinion: financing political parties, conflicts of interest, unlawful spending of public funds, and a particular sort of spending the public funds that is probably most exposed to corruption – public procurements. Also, specialized bodies with the anticorruption function were created in Serbia in the process of adopting European standards (which weren’t necessarily EU standards).

The project was implemented in two phases: the first one lasted from December 1st, 2011 until September 9th, 2012 and was supported by the Open Society Foundation, and the second one lasted from November 1st, 2012 until March 15th, 2013 and was financially supported by the USAID/Institute for Sustainable Communities.

Istraživanje koje je realizovano u okviru ovog projekta obuhvatilo je analizu sprovođenja antikorupcijskih propisa i manjkavosti antikorupcijskog sistema koje su uzrok niskog učinka antikorupcijskih mehanizama.
Istraživanje je rađeno u oblastima u kojima pored tradicionalnih institucija čija je jedna od funkcija borba protiv korupcije (policija, tužilaštvo, sudovi) postoje izgrađeni antikorupcijski mehanizmi koji su novijeg datuma i specijalizovani su upravo za borbu protiv korupcije, odnosno prevenciju, otkrivanje i sankcionisanje korupcije. Agencija za borbu protiv korupcije, Državna revizorska institucija, Komisija za zaštitu prava u postupcima javnih nabavki, Uprava za javne nabavke su institucije specijalizovane za sprečavanje zloupotreba u javnom sektoru i borbu protiv korupcije. U domenu kontrole ovih institucija, od kojih većina spada u nezavisna tela, nalaze se oblasti koje su najizloženije korupciji i na koje ukazuje i Evropska komisija u svom Mišljenju: finansiranje političkih stranaka, sukob interesa, nezakonito trošenje javnih sredstava i poseban vid trošenja javnih sredstava, verovatno i najizloženiji korupciji – javne nabavke. Takođe, specijalizovana tela za koje imaju antikorupcijsku funkciju nastala su u Srbiji upravo u procesu usvajanja evropskih standarda (ne nužno i EU standarda).
Projekat je sprovođen u dve faze od kojih je ova prva trajala od 1.12.2011. – 30.09.2012. uz finansijsku podršku Fondacije za otvoreno društvo, a druga od 1. novembra 2012. do 15.marta 2013,. godine uz finansijsku podršku USAID-a/ Instituta za održive zajednice.

Until now, it has been common that only involvement in a NATO-led military mission is considered “operational engagement”. There are several issues regarding this concept: first, can NATO secure its participation in civilian crisis management phases, once peace is established and maintained; would such a NATO role allow for wider engagement of countries, not only NATO members but also its partners, and could such participation be considered operational engagement in NATO missions. Can NATO, in fact, also consider its operational partner a country that does not contribute to the military part of its operation, but ensures in other way with its own capacities that the crisis is managed after the peace is established. The answers to these questions are closely related to the nature of Serbia’s involvement in peacekeeping operations and may serve to open a debate on the future of Serbia-NATO relations.

Brief description: CPES was a local partner for producing a competitiveness report for Serbia. It included extensive survey with relevant stakeholders after the unique methodology. Report was published and it is a reference publication for investors, think-tanks and decision makers.
Partners: World Economic Forum
Supported by: World Economic Forum

The process of fiscal decentralization, which began with the adoption of the Law on Local Government Financing in 2006, has undergone frequent changes to its legal framework, but also to a partial suspension of applicable legal regulations. Shortly after the changes to the 2011 law, amendments were made in September 2012, which rounded off the rather infamous balance sheet: in just over five years of law enforcement, it was partially suspended and then it underwent two major changes over the next two years. It is difficult to escape the impression that the last two amendments to the law were more motivated by the needs of political campaigns and electoral platforms of certain political groups than they were an adequate and systematic response to the problems of financing cities and municipalities in Serbia. This practice, regardless of the direction of change, certainly does not contribute to the stability and predictability of local government financing in Serbia and significantly complicates the process of financial planning at the local level.

This project was implemented in the period 2010–2011 in cooperation with Expert Forum Romania, and was financially supported by Balkan Trust for Democracy.

One of the basic measures of a country’s degree of democracy is the extent to which institutional arrangements are established, as well as practices in their functioning, in accordance with the principle of separation of powers and control. The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, in its principles, establishes the existence of three branches of government. The relationship between the three traditional branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – is based on the principles of separation of powers, balance and mutual control. In addition to the bodies of the three traditional government branches embodied in the National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the judiciary, there are numerous control and regulatory bodies in the legal-political system whose common determinant is that they are independent from other branches of government. The project analyzes key problems (constitutional, legal and those arising from established practices), which should be eliminated in order to improve the existing institutional structure and ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the functioning of a functional state.

Monitoring the Europeanization process, i.e. pro-European development policies, legislation and practices, as well as advocating their adoption and effective implementation, are affirmative activities of civil society directed at Serbian citizens. For the purpose of the project, a survey was conducted that included 50 pro-European civil society organizations from Serbia. The results of the research were published in the publication “Europeanization of Serbia – Civil Society“, which in addition to the practices and plans of civil society organizations (CSOs) and their perceptions of their own capacities, brings the recommendations and expectations from the state related to the improvement of working conditions of CSOs in Serbia so they could fully play their part in the EU integration process. The project was implemented in 2011 with the support of the Open Society Foundation.

The main normative basis of the research is based on the fact that the key reason for the existence of public enterprises is the pursuit of public interest. The research has shown that political parties are a decisive factor in the functioning of state-owned enterprises in Serbia and that the influence on the functioning of enterprises is exercised through the appointment and control of their leadership. Such practice leads to a series of dubious decisions that have or may have negative consequences for the public interest.

The publication “Curbing the Politicization of Public Enterprises in Serbia“, which presents the results of the research, also mentions specific recommendations from the research. The project was supported by the Budapest Local Government Initiative in 2011.

The research focused on examples of specific local communities and it was conducted using the case study methodology, which made it possible to easily identify the potential effects of Europeanization on practical examples in the recognizable environment in which Serbian citizens live, face specific problems and try to solve them. The aforementioned three areas were selected for research because they are either referred to as an important development resource, regardless of the limits for their exploitation (agriculture), or without a sufficient understanding of their function (cross-border cooperation), or without a clear identification of how and under what conditions they act restrictively or stimulating to other development potential (environment protection) and development resources.

The results of the research, along with specific final recommendations, were presented in following three publications: “Environmental Protection: A Condition for Sustainable Development“, “Agricultural Policy – The Dairy Industry Sector” and “Cross-border Cooperation as Serbia’s Development Instrument“. The project was implemented in 2009 and it was supported by the Delegation of the European Commission to the Republic of Serbia, with technical assistance from Press Now.