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Culture not a political priority
People working in culture believe that besides internal skirmishes and the shortage of funds, the other reason for the sluggish adoption of relevant legislation is that, as far as politicians are concerned, culture comes last.
Comparative anlysis of the various party programmes does indeed show that most parties either have no developed cultural programmes or, if they do, they are poorly presented. An exception, to a degree, are certain opposition parties trying to attract voters with these programmes.
In the case of the opposition parties with a nationalist programme, cultural obsessions tend to revolve around preservation of Serbia’s cultural heritage in Kosovo and on cooperation with Russia.
But even when party platforms include more elaborated views, it is no guarantee that their views are acceptable to people working in culture. Besides, in practice, once parties gain power, their platforms on culture become mere words on paper.
In its platform, as well as in the Draft Serbian Development Strategy by the year 2020, the Democratic Party, the main pivot of Serbia's ruling coalition, failed to dedicate a separate chapter to culture and mentioned the word culture only a few times, advocating “the abolition of administrative control of culture, science and economy”.
Although all culture ministers in the past four years came from the ranks of the United Regions of Serbia and G17 Plus, their joint platform mentions in only a few sentences the possibility that “regions can be founders of cultural institutions and be responsible for the development of culture and protection of cultural treasures”. They propose that culture become a compulsory department of each regional government.
The Socialist Party of Serbia has a more comprehensive cultural platform. It recognises the need for stable sources of funding for cultural programmes, advocates state cooperation with associations and non-governmental organisations and the international promotion of national culture and the preservation of Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo.
Serbia's Liberals devoted to culture a whole section in their platform, “A Different Serbia”. They envisage thorough reform in the field of culture, paving the way for a cultural activities market, transparent and targeted state assistance and protection of copyright. Liberals advocate adoption of a cultural strategy and investment in the development of new, modern creative work.
The Serbian Renewal Movement sees Serbia’s accession to the EU as “a chance for the affirmation of Serbia’s culture,” while also mentioning the need for cultural and scientific cooperation with Russia.
The biggest opposition party, the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, goes into more detail on culture than any other party. It advocates “changes to the law on culture and the drafting of a new law”, adoption of a law on donations and benefaction, fighting corruption in culture, reviewing the funding for local film production and reorganisation and reform of public institutions in the field of culture.
The Democratic Party of Serbia, another opposition nationalist party, meanwhile, advocates the systemic preservation, research and promotion of the Serbian people’s cultural and spiritual heritage “especially in Kosovo and Metohija”, cultural cooperation with the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, as well as protection of Serb cultural and historical monuments throughout former Yugoslavia.
Regardless of the differences in their platforms, cultural policy experts do not believe that the coming general elections in 2012 will bring any changes to overall attitudes towards culture.
Dimitrije Vujadinovic says that although a new Law on Culture was adopted in 2009, the old and inherited practices live on in which the culture minister has broad powers, in which funding and decision-making are centralised and in which the independent sector does not have equal status with state institutions.
„There is no political will to adopt by-laws, because, when politicians are concerned, culture comes last,” he maintains. „Politicians don't see culture as an economic potential but as an expenditure,” he adds.
„The result of this are overstaffed national institutions and the shortage of fiscal, economic and customs benefits that could breathe life into cultural production.