17 December 2019 – CEP, in cooperation with the EU Delegation to Serbia, organised a panel discussion titled Steps towards the EU = steps towards an administration at citizens’ service on Tuesday, 17 December, at the EU Info Centre in Belgrade. Topics of discussion included progress in the public administration reform process in Serbia, obstacles and problems faced during this process, good practice from other countries, as well as potential contributions from the European integration process to an improved public administration.
The introductory word was given by Sem Fabrizi, Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia. He said that public administration in Serbia can get better by improving its staff and planning process, focusing on the needs of citizens, having better budgetary oversight and other related activities. The Ambassador noted that “the EU has long supported Serbia in these reforms and will continue to do so.”
After this opening statement, Dražen Maravić, Director of the National Academy of Public Administration, Ljiljana Uzelac, Head of the Department for Strategic Planning at the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, Gregor Virant, Head of the SIGMA Programme and former Minister of State Administration of Slovenia and Stefan Hudolin, Head of Second Sector Operations at the EU Delegation to Serbia, discussed these topics. The panel was moderated by Milena Lazarević, Programme Director of CEP.
All panellists agreed that Serbia has made progress in the previous years and that its public administration, especially in the area of public service delivery, had been improved, highlighting examples such as eBeba and eZUP. “The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government is currently drafting a Strategy for public administration reform for the period 2021-2030,” Uzelac said, emphasizing that all procedures would be formulated as services in order to achieve full citizen orientation.
Maravić emphasized that there is still a long way to go until we achieve public administration in which citizens are really in the spotlight. While this is written in strategy, the practice is still far from that.
“Citizens do not trust the administration because the progress in the exchange of information between institutions, which has certainly been made, is important to us, but not to the citizens. What is important to them is how long they have waited, whether they were served properly, how easy it was to get to a certain service. And the system is still too rigid, especially locally, “said Maravić.
Gregor Virant pointed out that measurements conducted by SIGMA, a joint program of the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, show that solid progress has been made in the area of public services. He emphasized the importance of a centralized registry system in order to prevent the misuse of data and added that that practice that should be followed by everyone, including in public agencies and bodies within ministries. Stefan Hudolin added that continuity is the most important aspect of public administration reform and that public administration in Serbia should change and improve based on information provided by citizens about their (dis)satisfaction, which is a standard practice in many European countries.