In September 2018, WFD launched the three-year Western Balkans Democracy Initiative to strengthen political parties, parliamentary practice and democratic institutions in the region. In Serbia, this means working to increase the number of young people engaged with politics.
Between 2015-2018, WFD supported increased oversight of public money through the establishment of the first ever Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in the National Assembly of Republic of Serbia.
Serbia became a candidate for EU accession in 2012. Despite good progress aligning laws with EU standards, numerous challenges remain. While the reversal of democratic values is more evident, the EU’s 2018 progress report nevertheless praised Serbia for remaining ‘constructively committed’ to good relations with its neighbours, engaging the EU over the refugee and migration crisis, and maintaining dialogue with Kosovo.
As well as EU accession, a major challenge facing the country is the number of young people leaving to work abroad. Data from 2015 shows that in that year alone 58,000 young people have left the country.
From January 2019, WFD is working with local youth organisations, political parties, state institutions, the business community, and the media to address the number of young people leaving Serbia to find work and improved living conditions abroad. The ‘alliance for change’ will produce recommendations on how to tackle this issue.
An assessment showing the impact youth emigration has on the economy, society, and development will be used to raise awareness within Serbia, as well as in addressing structural factors, informal rules and to encourage recent diaspora to stay connected with Serbian society.
Engaging young people in politics has not been a priority for Serbian political parties in the past. This disconnect with young voters has led to low levels of interaction and trust between young people and political parties. WFD is supporting political parties to develop policies that are relevant for young people and made with their input.
WFD support will focus on communication tools that help political parties target young voters. By focusing on policy areas that are important to young people, we hope to see increased engagement between political parties and new voters.
WFD established the first Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in the Western Balkans with the agreement of the National Assembly of Republic of Serbia in September 2015.
The Budget Office, the focus of our work to 2018, provided financial information to parliamentarians and supported increased oversight of public money.
PBO staff were selected, trained and inducted through the WFD PBO Academy and worked within the National Assembly of Republic of Serbia. In 2017, the PBO introduced Serbia’s first Citizens budget. It was developed to present the most important data from the State Budget to citizens, with clear and understandable language. Communicating budget information to Serbian citizens was just one pillar of the PBO mandate.