14 October 2020 – The session of the Intersectoral Working Group of the National Convention on the EU (hereinafter: Convention) for the Economic Reform Programme – ERP was held online today. The session was held to discuss the preliminary list of ERP structural reforms, with which the Ministry of Finance came out last week.
One of the conclusions of the session was that more structural reforms were expected that directly target policies for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which was also the recommendation of the European Commission and EKOFIN in June. In accordance with these recommendations, there had to be more of these measures, both in the economy and the labour market, as well as in the health system.
The session was opened by the coordinator of this Intersectoral Working Group, Marko Malović. Malović said that it is necessary to increase capital investments that have a direct impact on economic growth, through road infrastructure or some other specific projects.
“It is necessary to additionally support the development of the market of financial derivatives and general elements of insurance against financial risks, so that the economy, as well as the population, remain liquid, having in mind the economic consequences of COVID-19,” said Malović. A number of new measures mention digitalisation, including the digitization of the health system, which is commendable, but the problem is if the processes that need to be digitized, which may not be good, are not reformed,” said
Srđan Nikolić from REPATs, a member of this Convention Working Group.
One of the conclusions of the session is that it is not good that there is no more structural reform that dealt with the issue of the green fund, because that was the only reform on the topic of the environment. Serbia is not doing well when it comes to environmental protection and major reforms are needed to reach the level of the European Union, it was said at the session.
Miloš Janjić, a researcher at the European Policy Centre, commented on the lack of progress in the area of a single point of contact. Although it was pointed out last year that it should be included as an independent reform, this did not happen. The problem of the delay in the introduction of the European health card in Serbia was discussed at the meeting, as well as the fact that, although the measure of digitalization of health cards, which is envisaged by the proposed reforms, is good, privacy should be taken into account.
When it comes to the transformation of the tax administration, Jelena Rančić, Policy Advisor in NALED says that this is a reform that has been there since the first ERP, but that it should be more detailed – this is a remark from the previous year. “The transformation of the Tax Administration should continue, as well as tax policies, which include excises. One of the necessary conditions for the opening of Chapter 16 (Taxation) is the harmonization of excise duties on strong alcoholic beverages, which NALED recently wrote about,” said Rančić.
The session also discussed structural reform related to employment, which was reduced to only one structural reform (for circular and economic migrations), which does not sufficiently respect the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and thus did not adopt the recommendations of the European Commission. One of the possibilities is to introduce a guarantee for young people, following the example of the Economic Reform Program of North Macedonia, to focus on increasing formal employment, on vulnerable categories and on the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the meeting, a report will be made and sent to the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Serbia, within the public debate that lasts until October 18, 2020.
The Convention regularly participates in a dialogue with state representatives during the drafting of this document on an annual basis, through its Cross-Sectoral Working Group on ERP. In 2017, the Platform for monitoring the implementation of ERP through the Convention was signed. The signatories of the Platform were CEP, NALED, the European Movement in Serbia and the Center for Democracy Foundation and MFIN, which started more organized participation of civil society in this process.
Here you can download our info sheet on the topic of the Economic Reform Programme.