Consistent implementation laws and by-laws in the area of freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression is needed at all state levels in order to defend achieved standards in the legal framework, as well as strengthening the accountability of all relevant institutions responsible for the protection of fundamental rights. Urgent reaction of the competent authorities is also needed in cases of threats and attacks against activists and journalists, their personality, property and lives. A strong message must come from the highest political representatives as well as from the relevant EU institutions. Constant monitoring of the European Union with the pressure on political representatives. Clear messages and political punishments in this regard (“Pribe mechanism” or similar instruments).
Violation of fundamental freedoms is one of the strongest findings of this report. Numerous recorded cases of violations of freedom of association, expression and assembly are recorded. Cases include smear campaigns, intimidation and security threats in online and offline spheres, interference gatherings and public events. In some cases, high government officials initiate or participate in campaigns. This particularly affects CSOs with critical attitude toward the authorities at the national and local levels, who are intimidated and abandon their attitudes in the public space and media support the narrative of foreign mercenaries and traitors. It weakens citizens’ confidence in the sector. CSOs and activists are committed to defending attacks that interfere with their daily work.
Stop using GONGO and PONGO organizations for the purpose of legitimizing decisions and proposals of institutions of government, faking public debates as well as misuse of state funds for all associations established and operating in areas of public interest. Recognizing the GONGOs in a relevant EU documents and reports (PAR, Progress reports, EU Guidelines for civil society etc.) and sending clear messages to the highest political representatives in Serbia.
Establishing GONGOs and PONGOs is one of the main trends in Serbia during 2019 in the public space and the media. Their role is visible in decision-making processes, distribution of state money, and the initiation and campaigning of critically oriented actors. CSOs and activists are committed to defending attacks that interfere their daily work while a parallel civil society is being created that makes a false image in society. In the decision-making processes GONGOS and PONGOs uncritically support all proposals of the authorities. They also use state funds contrary to the principle of public interest set out in the Law on Associations
Prevent legal interventions that would ban organizations from establishing social enterprises or impose new administrative and financial obligations on them. Introducing adequate incentives, financial and non-financial is also needed as well as recognizing social entrepreneurship as social value in the different sectorial policies
Potential of social entrepreneurship has not been recognized and it is still rare among CSOs. Current legal framework is liberal and allows it, although there are no adequate incentives by the state. There is an intention on the part of the state to regulate the legal framework in this area, but not in a direction favorable to CSOs. As the state of financial diversification of sector is not at the satisfied level, this is a good way to secure funds that are not dependent on the state or donors. Additionally, social entrepreneurship is a solid basis for the strengthening constituency relations of those CSOs and could contribute to the better public image of CSOS.
Providing stronger political label for the philanthropy with stronger incentives for corporative giving, introducing incentives for individual giving, and harmonization of public interest between different laws as well as establishing system for collecting data.
Different domestic and international reports assess non-favorable framework for individual and corporate giving. There are no proper tax benefits underlying the further growth of giving. Implementation of existing incentives is not unique and different practices of the competent authorities in this regard are present. The definition of public interest is inconsistent in Law on Associations law and tax laws. There is no system for collecting data on donations from citizens and businesses. Diversification of the financial sources is weak and needs to be strengthened with funds raised through individual and corporate giving. Poor tax incentives directly reflect the number of those who wish to donate. Analyses of existing donations are not available and do not allow organizations to be adequately informed about those who donate, which also affects their approaches to individual and corporative donors.
Developing additional qualitative criteria for participating in distribution of state funds on a basis of expertise and public interest contribution as well as establishing a system for effective regular collecting data on all types of state finding. Providing a political label for the EUG is also needed as it could be used as a regular mechanism for monitoring and pressure on the state (such as PAR). Stronger focus on qualitative indicators in EUG in relevant area. Providing full implementation of recommendations based on EUG criteria by the Government as well.
Although there is a general framework for transparent state funding, it still contains certain gaps, which allow for the prescribed procedures, and in particular the political influence on the final decisions. The state funding for CSOs in Serbia is one of the initial reasons for increasing GONGO activities and a number of such cases have been reported. Existing practices threatens access to the funds of those organizations that have expertise and act in the line with public interest, but criticizes certain actions of the authorities. Even those organizations that are not critical, give up, because it is known in advance who will receive the funding, especially at the local level.
Adoption a new Volunteering Act to treat volunteering as an activity of public interest, not as unpaid work as well as by-laws that will make it possible monitoring the effects of its application.
The legal framework still does not stimulate volunteering, no acknowledges the value of volunteer engagement and does not enables the collection and analysis of data on volunteers and volunteer hours. The law is overnormed treating volunteering as free labor, rather than social value. For this reason, most organizations organize volunteering without law enforcement, while official statistics do not include the actual number of volunteers and volunteer organizers.
Adoption of the National Strategy for Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in the Republic of Serbia.
Although, there were some GOCCS activities aimed to establishing of the Council of Cooperation with Civil Society, in order to respond a strong message from the Progress Report in May 2019, the most of liberal/pro EU CSOs thought that forming such body at the moment would only be a check of boxes and another mechanism for maintaining parallel reality due to strong GONGO activities. It is necessary to adapt the existing draft Strategy to the current state of affairs, to define adequate and effective measures and to assess whether certain mechanisms for cooperation are necessary and appropriate.
Developing additional qualitative criteria for participating in decision making processes on a basis of expertise and public interest contribution as well establishing a system for effective regular collecting data. Providing a political label for the EUG is also needed as it could be used as a regular mechanism for monitoring and pressure on the state (such as PAR). Stronger focus on qualitative indicators in EUG in relevant area. Providing full implementation of recommendations based on EUG criteria by the Government as well.
Although certain changes in the legal framework have been observed, they are not qualitative and do not address the problem of limited influence in the decision-making process. Due to the focus of the EU on quantitative criteria, a trend of faking public participation and debates was observed, with strong GONGOs activities. The absence of a feedback mechanism, a lack of political will for qualitative contribution of CSOs to the decision-making process are leading to a self-excluding by an increasing number of CSOs, especially those that are critically positioned. Their place is filled by GONGOs that create a parallel reality this way, as well as discredit organizations with strong expertise and that act in the line of the public interest.
Ensure the status of social service providers to civil society organizations in all relevant fields including equalizing their status with other actors in the field. Improvement of the legal is also needed in the parts related to the criteria for awarding the service contracts and clear monitoring and evaluation procedures.
Currently the most regulated area is the provision of social protection services and consumer rights. CSOs are generally recognized and equated with other providers, but the same needs to be done in other areas (free legal aid, health care, education, culture). In all areas, there is lack of clear procedures to ensure the quality of customer service, so the quality of services in different areas is different according to the beneficiaries. It is not always clear how much money and from which budget lines are allocated in practice for service delivery.