Sunday, September 13, 2009

Decentralization of Serbian Authorities

By Miodrag Stosic

Belgrade, Sept. 02 2009 ( Serbia Today ) Despite the fact that a matter of decentralization has been intensified since October 5th, 2000, this topic is constantly present in Serbian political life. During the 20th century, Serbia passed through several types of government. Nevertheless, a matter of decentralization has always been overshadowed by global changes of political system. Today, when Serbia is an independent Republic, various political actors try to solve the problem of a relation between central and local, as well as province governments in an appropriate way. An essence of decentralization process is to make an authority closer to local government, in order to enable it to solve local problems in a better way. All political forces in Serbia support this kind of determining decentralization. However, there are significant differences over the extent of the authorities that is to be transfered - a question whether decentralization should be limited on municipalities, or bigger autonomuous units, such as regions.
Milan Marković, Minister of state administration and local government says that decentralization is a necessary process with a purpose of effective performing of tasks. By his words, key problem of local government today is a lack of property, a problem which would be solved by a new Law on public property.
Certain political elites think of a decentralization process as an attack on Serbian teritorial integrity, recalling near history, when some autonomuous units expressed their will to become independent states. These days, this argument is frequently used to criticize an attempt to redefine status of Autonomuous Province of Vojvodina by a new Statute, as well as to express concern about Sandžak area.
Serbian President Boris Tadić says that decentralization strategy is pointed towards citizens, with an aim to ease their lives, not to make feuds that would jeopardize state’s integrity. „Regionalization is not a division of the country, but a division of resources and a creation of possibilities of even development for underdeveloped parts of the country“, adds Tadić. The President at the end concludes that decentralization is necessary because it is the most effective form of government, because local politicians know local problems better than those who stay as Reprsentatives in Belgrade.
Zoran Ostojić from LDP says there is a need to transfer much more central authorities to local level. As an example, he mentiones managing touristic resources by local governments, which is not yet the case.
In April, 2009, Council for decentralization was established. Its President was Nenad Čanak, the leader of League of Socialdemocrates in Vojvodina. This Council thinks, different than President Tadić, that a matter of decentralization can not be connected to a regionalization, but that changes in Constitution are also needed. Director of enterprise „Protekt“ from Niš, Mladen Jovanović, thinks that the goal shouldn’t be a decentralization itself, but that citizens should be actively included in a decision-making process about the matters that affect them the most. He says that the key purpose of decentralization is to break the political parties monopoly.
On its way to decentralization, Serbia could use successfull experiences of Switzerland, Italy, or Spain, but only if it pays attention to its own distinctive features. There is to be seen whether Serbia will manage to provide even development for all its regions.

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