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Serbia is cleaning local government from political cronyism

Author : Yuriy Panchenko

11:20, 8 August 2017
Serbia is cleaning local government from political cronyism

Author : Yuriy Panchenko

The implemented program envisages creation of an independent system of municipal staff training

11:20, 8 August 2017

Read the original text at eurointegration.com.ua.

Open source

For several years, decentralization has been one of the hottest issues for the Ukrainian regions. This is probably the only political reform that is actively discussed not only by politicians, but also by people on the streets of Ukrainian cities.

It seems that this change is purely Ukrainian. But several states of Europe go through a similar process.

So, this spring, after massive victory in the presidential elections of the acting prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, mass protests took place in Serbia. One of the key requirements of the protesters was real decentralization in the country. "On the ground, all power belongs to the ruling party, all mayors belong to it. Moreover, without a party ticket it is impossible to claim any leading position in any city hall," people explained to the correspondent of Eurointegration.com.

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Interestingly, Ukrainian experience of reforms (even if we are accustomed to treating it skeptically) in other states can be perceived as progressive or even exemplary.

Indeed, the level of reform of local institutions in Serbia is significantly inferior to the Ukrainian one. Independent observers and diplomats working in Belgrade confirm this assessment.

Although, in our opinion, there are things in the work of the Serbian local authorities, which Ukrainians should also be armed with. This text is about them.

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A project implemented by the Council of Europe is called for changing the situation in Serbia. It envisages creation of an independent system of municipal staff training. "Any other local initiative will be faced with a lack of specialists, so that is what we need to fix," says Aleksandar Jovanovich, Project Manager.

He is cautiously trying to omit our questions about political corruption in the municipalities.

The project has been launched in March last year, the current phase will last until December. It includes trainings for workers from 20 municipalities - from Belgrade to small towns.

"We specifically selected the participants of the pilot project so that we would have represented both small cities and large cities, as well as all regions, of course, with the exception of Kosovo," Jovanovic adds. 20 cities – these are not the whole of Serbia. But if the project is successful, it will be continued. And most importantly, it will be much larger.

Serbian Ministry of Regional Policy, Public Administration and Local Government is in no doubt that the project will continue to exist. "For the first time, we were able to bring some sort of order in the municipalities. So far, the situation was close to total chaos," tells the State Secretary of the Ministry Ivan Bosniak.

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"Recently, hundreds of people were able to work in the municipalities - even small ones - with normal salaries only for mayor and chief lawyer, sometimes even a mayor, the rest was sitting on small salaries and merely imitating work," the official said. 

That is why the first step in the Serbian reform of the municipalities was to restrict the number of municipal workers and set minimum wages for them. "We do not interfere in human resources policy, but have established clear and transparent vaccinations for all," says Bosniak.

He convinced that the results of these changes have already been felt by the country during last year's parliamentary and current presidential elections.

"Any elections, especially early, were a stressful period for the municipalities. When it was unclear what the new government would be, the programs were frozen, which resulted in collapse in some cities, but last year's parliamentary elections were held without such problems," he explains.

 

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The Ministry of Local Self-Government reports on plans for the establishment of an institute for the training of regional officials.

"We want all regional officials to undergo this training in the coming years, since they do not have the idea of working with investors. If everyone has this knowledge, this will create the basis for real reform," Bosniak explains.

However, the question remains whether this education will be effective? Wouldn’t it turn into another simulation of reforms?

In the end, there is education for government officials in Ukraine, and despite this, the level of civil service on the ground remains far from the model.

According to the Serbian Union of Cities and Municipalities, the result will largely depend on what kind of career opportunities open to professionals who have completed these European trainings.

In the end, participation in the training will be voluntary. Therefore, in order to motivate municipal officials, it is necessary that a successful internship bears real benefits. For example, the prospect of raising, but here is the main conflict.

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After all, staffing decisions are the prerogative of the elected authorities. Accordingly, neither the ministry nor the Council of Europe will have any influence on the promotion of the professionals they have trained.

With the new government, the Serbian decentralization reform should get a "second breath". After all, the new Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, appointed a month ago, previously held the post of Minister of State and Local Government.

It is no coincidence that decentralization reforms have been identified as one of the priorities of government work. And accordingly, it is possible that soon we will have to fly to Serbia to write a new report, a report about the success of self-government in this country.

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