CULTURAL POLICY PROPOSALS FOR SERBIA i
This paper contains recommendations for the improvement of capacities for implementation of structural reforms of the cultural system in Serbia. The proposals are related to:
- definition of the role of Council for Culture
- drafting the programme, strategy and priorities of cultural development
- definition of "the locus" of a decentralized decision making in the field of cultural development
- creation of a legal framework of cultural development
- introduction of an institute of a multi-year funding
- introduction of the institute of public competition in the appointment of directors
At the 2000 elections, the regime in Serbia was changed. Then the transition from the former cultural system tied to the autoritarian Milošević's regime, towards a projected democratic cultural system, with the aim to establish it on democratic institutions meeting real demands of the citizens, instead of assumed interests defined by a totalitarian elite. With such a vision in mind, in 2001 the Ministry of Culture set as its priorities: deetatization, decentralization, pluralism of cultures, alternative financial resources, harmonization of legislation with the EU, and establishment of regional and international cooperation.
The analyses show that the existing capacities are insufficient for building up of democratic institutions, and the establishment of a democratic cultural system in Serbia. The following facts are proving that:
- Though the valid Law on activities of general interest in the field of culture stipulates existence of an advisory body, only the Beograd City Assembly Executive Board has appointed Commission for Culture, while the Ministry of Culture (since 2002 also in charge of the media) has not so far founded an Expert council from which the minister, as provided by Law, should "acquire expert opinions and assessments regarding general interests contained in the programme".
- Despite the fact deetatization is among the declared objectives of the Ministry of Culture, the question whether Commission/Council should be a consultative or decision making body has not been discussed either at the level of the city of Beograd, nor at the level of republican administration. The fact that the issue of shared responsibility with other actors of cultural policy has not been raised, and the role of public administration in key decision making on cultural developent redefined, though the public insists on thatii, indicates that all key decision making is still done within the bodies of public administration, depriving professional public and other actors of cultural policy of an active part in decision making process. It shows that even three years after the elections, the process of deetatization has not started yet, and that the issue of institutional participation of the public has not been understood as an important step in the building up of democratic institutions in the cultural system in Serbia.
- Though the valid Law on activities of general interest in the field of culture mentions "programme" containing general interest in the field of culture, such a programme entails achievement of social consensus which was not attained in a public procedure, and is unknown to professional and broader public. The lack of concept, and the lack of clear strategy and priorities of reforms in the field of culture opens a number of strategic dilemmas, instigating feeling of transition confusion in cultural circlesiii. Not only that these documents do not exist in an explicit form, but the strategic planning has not been recognized as an indispensable instrument of cultural policy which would result in creation of capacities for a permanent mid and long-term planning. However, such a systemic planning used to exist prior to Miloševic's regime, when the Parliament of Serbia adopted social plans of development, plans of cultural development included.
- Despite that decentralization is among the proclaimed objectives of new Government and Ministry of Culture, "the locus" of decentralized decision making process has not been defined yet. Simply put, in each country there is a point below which administratively important decisions in making of which the government is involved could not be delegate to local administration - still less those entailing investment of government's money. There is also a point above which an individual, in demographic and sociological sense could not consciously and efficiently participate in decision making (H.T. Bourdillon, 1974). Therefore, absence of a programmatic framework based upon legislation defining the locus of meeting in the decision making process at all levels of public administration, points to the lack of capacities for development of local cultural policies harmonized with national programme and priorities of cultural development.
- In three years the Parliament of Serbia has not passed a single law in the field of culture, so all still valid ones are inherited from the Miloševic's regime, the supreme legal act - Constitution of the Republic of Serbia - included. By the beginning of 2003, a new constitution entered the phase of drafting. So far of laws in the field of culture only working versions of the Law on general/public interest and Law on cultural valuables were drafted, but as cultural public had serious objections on them, have not entered parliamentary procedure of adoption by spring 2003.
- All the above, plus absence of clearly defined criteria of funding, and criteria of appointment of directors of cultural institutions, result in insufficiently transparent process of decision making on investment priorities and personnel policy, leaving it within the framework of the state administration, are clear indication of insufficient capacities for structural changes in the cultural system of Serbia.
Objectives of the policy proposals
To facilitate the vision of a democratic cultural system in Serbia to come true it is necessary to strenghten the existing capacities for designing and implementation of innovative cultural policy. Therefore, the objective of this text is to suggest the key decision makers in Serbia the two necessary steps to be made by implementation of fundamental instruments of cultural policy, i.e. strategic planning, legislation and personnel policy. These steps would bring about harmonization of cultural development with legal framework, and establishment of a new model of functioning of the public administration, in the first place the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbiaiv, and the Secretariat for Culture of the Beograd City Assembly. In the long range perspective, these steps would contribute to legality and ligitimity of all other decisions related to further iplementation of reforms of the cultural system in Serbia, such as fiscal decentralization, privatization, institutional reform of cultural institutions network, etc., and we would certainly establish solid foundations for realization of priorities the Ministry of Culture and Public Information set up for itself in 2001.
The following two key issues are related to building up of capacities for structural reforms of the cultural system:
The transition cultural policy in Serbia faces the problem of the absence of an explicitly formulated objectives and strategies of cultural policy in Serbia, and at all levels of management of cultural development - from national, through city and municipal, up to institutional one. If cultural institutions and local governments are to devise their cultural policies in accordance with a national programme of cultural development, there must be a national programme and a strategy of cultural development. In this regard, the programme would define general/public interest, and the strategy - short and long-term priorities in the field of culture. However, these documents have not been adopted in two years since democratic government was constituted, which contributes to the creation of transition confusion and curbes reform process. Thefore, solution to the circulus vicious of strategic planning and unclear objectives and priorities of the cultural policy in Serbia, lies in decentralization/regionalization of cultural policy not to be completed but to leave republican administration to keep certain competences in the field of culture.As its competences should be expressed in adoption of programmes and strategy of cultural development, definition of priorities in distribution of budget funds, and creation of an adequate legal framework - a synchronized public procedure of adoption of programme and legal framework should be initiated, enabling participation of all the actors of cultural policy in the process of definition of key decision making on cultural development of the country.
- harmonization of programme and legal framework of cultural development in Serbia
- establishment of a new model of public administration functioning.
On the other hand, model of functioning of public administration organs - Ministry of Culture and Beograd City Assembly - should be based upon precisely defined roles of key decision makers, procedures and decision making criteria, as well as clearly defined development and investment priorities. As it is necessary for functioning of public administration organs to be be transparent, understandable and accessible to everyone, it is highly important that they face themselves with the requirements of cultural public in regard to three key issues. The latter are related to the role of the state in decision making process, criteria of financing, and personnel policy. In the first place, this means the public administration should choose between direct political control (the state model), and delegated responsibility in planning and key decision making in the field of culture (parastatal model), and also to introduce institute of public competition with clearly defined decision making criteria – both for financing programmes and projects (annual and long-term), and appointment of directors of cultural institutions.
Assessment of alternatives
Without systemic resolution of these problems, transition cultural policy is incapable of efficient and effective engagement of available resources and attainment of structural reform of the cultural system in Serbia. A democratic regime which is not enrooted in democratic institutions, and does not apply democratic instruments, resorting instead to the ones inherited from the totalitarian regime - is ony wobbly legs and could easily cave in, leaving space to autoritarian political forces to regain power and hinder reform process in Serbia. Since one of fundamental priorities of the Government in 2003 is - according to numerous public statements of high officials in January and February of 2003, passing of a new republican constitution, it would be unwise not to use this relatively favourable opportunity for a synchronized inter-ministerial action. This is because devising of programme and legal framework of culture are three years late - having in mind their drafts could enter parliamentary procedure no sooner than maybe by the end of 2003! If their adoption does not occur, it would mean the whole first and the most important mandate of the new democratic Government is lost for establishment of solid foudnations of a democratic cultural system in Serbia. The more solid foundations are, stronger and more capable the system would be not only to meet needs of citizens, but also to resist all challenges and temptations awaiting it.
The first step: harmonization of programme and legal framework of cultural development
This harmonization entails coordinated engagement of all the actors of cultural policy in:
Though the Government of the Republic of Serbia opened implementation of the decentralization programme, in the field of cultural policy it is necessary to leave it uncompleted, that is to enable republican public administration organs - the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the respective Ministry of Culture - to keep certain competences in the field of culture. These competences find their expression in creation of capacities for:
- devising of programme, strategy and priorities of cultural development
- definition of "the locus" of a decentralized strategic decision making at national and local level
- creation of a legal framework of cultural development
As only simultaneous exercise of all these competences facilitates effective and effecient cultural development - the Government of Serbia should initiate and coordinate a synchronized inter-ministerial action in which the programme, strategy and the law on public interest in the field of culture enrooted in a new Constitution of the Republic of Serbia should be drafted, and passed in the republican Parliament. Besides, at least three ministries have an equally important role - the Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Finances, and Ministry of Local Government, while for its competences in the field of education and scientific and research activities, in the inter-ministerial action should be involved also the Ministry of Education and Sport, as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology.
- drafting programme of cultural development
- creation of an appropriate legal framework
- direct/delegated strategic planning and definition of priorities in distribution of budget funds and implementation of other instruments of cultural policy, definition of "the locus" of decentralized decision making process included
Because of the need that such a synchronized action involve representatives of both executive and legislative authority, the action should also include members of permanent parliamentary committees: Committeee for Culture and Information, Legislative Committee, and Committee for Finances, with active participation of members of the Committee for Education, and Committee for Science and Technological Development. The legal framework of a new cultural policy - which, on the one hand, entails a new republican Constitution as a general legal framework of state's organization, and on the other, the Law on public interest in culture as a special systemic act regulating cultural development - is a necessary legal environment into which national prorgamme and strategy of cultural development should be enrooted. In the procedure of harmonization of programme and strategy of cultural development with the legal framework aimed to enable their effictive and effective realization, "the locus" of decentralized decision making should also be defined.
And finally, a public procedure is also necessary in the process of strategic planning, as well as in all other processes of key decision making related to cultural development - definition of investment priorities, drafting of legal acts, the like. Therefore, administrative organs should initiate public debates and discussions on all key issues and problems of cultural policy, so as to prevent a group of people, despite public functions they have mandate for, from making decisions of public interest far from the eyes of the public, in secrecy. This is of equal importance for both the state and parastate model of cultural policy - with difference that in the state model public is only consulted, and in parastate the decision making is left to it. Since the cultural public in Serbia insists on depolitization of culture, this way it would be - even if the state model stayed in effect - consulted and involved in the process of decision making on cultural development, granting these decisions legimity despite their making in political circles.
The second step: establishment of a new model of public administration organs functioning in the field of culture
New model of public administration organs functioning in the field of culture entails:
- definition of the role of the Council for Culture in respect to model of cultural policy
- introduction of the institute of multi-year funding
- introduction of the institute of public competitions into the appointment of directors
Model of cultural policy: direct control or delegated responsibility
The existing legal and normative system inherited from Milošević's regime recognizes only an advisory role of expert bodies, such as councils and committees for culture.The system entails that organs of the state/public administration are decision makers, or more precisely, at the republican level- the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Culture and Information, and on the level of the city of Beograd - Executive Board and City Assembly. It means that here at work is a direct control of the state, and it raises risks of political influence on key decisions in the field of cultural developmentv. In the last decade, that political influence was so strong that it almost completely had reduced culture to a single function: affirmation of the ideology of the ruling party. The consequences were marginalization of elite cultural values, current art and cultural production in favour of quasi-national values embodied in a newlycomposed cultural model the state had openly supported. Because the professional public in Serbia insists on depolitization and deideologization of cultural policyvi, it is necessary to consider the issue of responsibility for key decision making in the field of culture. As the issue is directly tied to the issue of the mdoel of cultural policy, public adminsitration organs will face the advantages and disadvantages of the two models developed in the European states. It gives an opportunity to choose between the decision making delegated to independent expert bodies - characteristic for more and more broadly applied parastatal model, and preservation of the existing system, with these bodies having only consultative role. However, in each case, it is necessary to open institutional communication channels wtih other actors of cultural policy in private and civil sector. Moreover, the raise of the share of mixed financial resources, inevitable having in mind plural cultural scene (plurality of ownership, and the fact the state budget could not provide for financing all needs in the field of culture), it would become more and more necessary for the family of decision makers to include representatives of nongovernmental and private organizations, foundations and sponsors. Thus the public adminsitration organs would, if not now, then in the nearest future would certainly be in the position to establish partnership with private and civil sector, in the joint attempt to coordinate strategic plans of development. Here we should have in mind that a parastatal model of cultural policy was once developed in Serbia in the age of self-management, when self-management communities of interest in culture used to be rudiments of delegated responsibility based upon arms length principle. In that light, this model already has its roots in the cultural system of Serbia, it only nEeds updating and adjustment to the existing circumstances and current tendencies.
Multi-year funding – instrument of innovating cultural policy
With the view of improvement capacities of long-term strategic planning, it is necessary to create conditions for a multi-year funding of institutional and non-institutional programmes and projects. This instrument of cultural policy would be mainly meant for institutional and non-institutional programmes and projects designed to accomplish strategic priorities defined by the programme and strategic plan of cultural development - both at national, and local level. Such a long-term planning of distribution of public budget - republican, city and municipal alike - has not been practiced so far, and consequently, planning and development of long-term projects or programme activities was impossible, with sufficient degree of certainty they would and could be realized within a certain period of time, and with the expected results. As we have no strategic planning procedures developed, for sure we have no capacities for better planning to enable multiyear funding and effective allocation to preserve legitimacy of public funding. In this connection, also arises the question of evaluation of programmes and projects apllying for budget funding at the City Assembly or Ministry of Culture. It is necessary to develop these methods and techniques, in the first place, at the republican level, for the City Assembly practices public competitions since 2001, and members of the city expert commissions have a respectable multi-year experience, while the Ministry of Culture started to announce public competitions in the field of cultural industry only in 2002, and its first public call for co-funding of programmes that with their outstanding quality contribute to the development of culture and art was announced in February of 2003. Besides, the evaluation should be based upon the criteria corresponding to national and local programmes of cultural development, and strategic priorities of a given short, mid and long-term period.
Personnel policy – instrument of (de)politization and (de)ideologization of cultural policy
Since two years after the elections - neither at republican nor city level - the institute of public competitions for appointment of directors has not been introduced, causing severe protests in cultural circles, as it was necessary to establish institute of public competition for financial support of programmes and projects, it is necessary for directors of cultural institutions to be appointed in a public procedure, on the bases of evaluation of the proposed programme which should be integral part of competition procedure. The criteria of their selection would be enrooted in the programme framework and strategic priorities of cultural development at national and local level, depending on the level institution in question belongs to. This would provide for transparency of cultural policy in all of its crucial aspects, and in the same time a kind of desirable recognition of positive achievements in the inherited cultural system in Serbia - as the self-management system knew the institute of competition for appointment of directors.
Only implementation of all these instruments of cultural policy might result in creation of conditions for further process of reforms of the cultural system in Serbia. It would also mean the establishment of continuity with democratic institutions existing in Serbia prior to Milošević' ascent to power - on the one hand, and on the other, stand as a model for other transition countries in the region in a similar position.
i This text is based upon the Research paper, and completed on March 20, 2003. Thus, it does not deal with the events and problems meanwhile occured, in the first place, the tragic consequences of the march 12, 2003 assassination of the Prime Minister, who was one of the fundamental institutions of the system, as well as other turmoils stemming thereof. (back)
ii Interviews with focus groups in cities and municipalities in Serbia (Beograd, Kragujevac, Sombor, Užice and Šabac), conducted within this research in October and November 2002, showed that the cultural public instits on depolitization and deideologization of culture and art. See more in: Final activity report, Final research paper (back)
iii Final Research paper and report submitted to the Beograd City Assembly (to be published in Serbian at www.zaprokul.org.yu) (back)
iv Once new Law on Ministries is passed, this Ministry will be renamed to Ministry of Culture and Media, according to minister Branislav Lečić, TV B92, March 19, 2003. (back)
v see: Francois Matarasso and Charles Landry, Balancing act: Twenty-one strategic dilemmas in cultural policy Council of Europe Publishing, 1999. (back)
vi See: Final research paper - research of focus groups (back)