The Republic of Serbia has signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and submitted a request for accession to the EU. Consequently, the issues of social inclusion and poverty reduction shall become a mandatory component of EU integrations policy in the period to come. The Government of the Republic of Serbia is committed to fulfilling the requirements of the EU as defined in the new EU development document: Еurope 2020.
In the European Commission document endorsed in mid-June 2010, the new strategy has been denoted as an “heir” and a continuation of the Lisbon Strategy. This document emphasizes that the exit from the economic crisis is perceived as entry into new sustainable social and market economy, where prosperity would be a consequence of innovation and better use of resources with knowledge as a key input. These drivers would create new sources of sustainable growth and jobs that would reduce the unemployment levels. The document defines the following priorities of European societies by 2020:
- Smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation.
- Sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy.
- Inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion.
The Republic of Serbia has identified active participation in the European Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Process as one of the important tasks in the process of EU accession. This task includes development and advancement of policies, institutional framework and methodology for monitoring social inclusion of individuals and social groups in Serbia. At the invitation of the EU, the Republic of Serbia will develop a Joint Inclusion Memorandum – JIM as soon as it acquires the status of EU membership candidate country. This document is intended to update all the existing policies that only partly deal with the social inclusion issues, and to develop a strategic framework to take into account an entire spectrum of exclusion.
The initial step in establishing an institutional framework for development and implementation of social inclusion policies was taken by the Government of Serbia with the establishment of Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit in the Cabinet of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration in July 2009. The Unit is mandated with strengthening capacities of the Government to develop and implement social inclusion policies based on European good practices. Also, the Unit provides support to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government for European Integration in coordinating, monitoring and reporting on the efforts of the Government of Serbia in the area of social inclusion.
The Government also founded a Working Group for Social Inclusion in early 2010. This Working Group involves the representatives of Government institutions with key responsibilities in defining, implementing and monitoring social inclusion policies. In addition, the Working Group for Social Inclusion cooperates and consults with the organisations and individuals dealing with social inclusion issues outside the Government and thus represents an important forum for advancement of dialogue between the governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. The Working Group is to develop proposals for active participation of Serbia in the Social Inclusion Process within the framework of EU integration, propose measures towards development and implementation of social inclusion policies and prepare the body of the annual report on social inclusion in the Republic of Serbia until the development of Joint Inclusion Memorandum as well as the body of the Joint Inclusion Memorandum, once Serbia is granted the status of an EU candidate country.
In April 2010, the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit and the Republic Statistical Office prepared a report Monitoring Social Exclusion in Serbia being a contribution to establishment of a system for monitoring indicators and the process of social inclusion and poverty reduction in the Republic of Serbia. The report identifies the current potential for monitoring the social inclusion indicators agreed at the EU level, maps shortcomings in sources of data for measuring social inclusion and poverty indicators in Serbia, and provides a framework for the analysis of the current situation of social inclusion and poverty in Serbia. The methodology of social inclusion monitoring should ensure comparability of the key social inclusion indicators of the EU Member States as well as the countries in the EU accession process, but also provide insight into the specific challenges of social inclusion resulting from the characteristics of the economic transition in Serbia. The report Monitoring Social Exclusion in Serbia represents a solid basis for monitoring and development of better social inclusion and poverty reduction policies with a view to continuous improvement of the quality of life of all the citizens in Serbia.
The Government of Serbia and the Republic Statistical Office invest efforts to launch the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC) that will allow for improvement of the quality of data, alignment of monitoring of social inclusion indicators with the EU countries and provide a basis for development of the Joint Inclusion Memorandum.
By end 2010, the Government of Serbia will prepare the First National Report on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction. The report will present trends, and provide an overview of the current situation and the key guidelines for resolution of challenges related to social inclusion and poverty reduction in the country. The report should also outline the key interventions and policies aimed at approximation to the joint EU objectives that the Republic of Serbia should take. It should prepare the country for development of the Joint Inclusion Memorandum (JIM).
It is expected that the Republic of Serbia will put the system of social inclusion monitoring in place, develop the Joint Inclusion Memorandum, strengthen and build state administration capacities for implementation and reporting on the Social Inclusion Process and establish a sustainable unit to coordinate implementation of the measures and report on the progress of social inclusion by end 2012. Social inclusion policies should become an integral part of regular activities of the relevant institutions at all levels. The processes to be developed shall be based on knowledge and good practices of European countries as well as on the experience of the Republic of Serbia in development and implementation of national policies.
The aim of the JIM is to help candidate countries in combating poverty and social exclusion, modernizing their social policy systems. The JIM is to help them in preparations for full participation in EU policies. The EU candidate countries are invited to develop their JIM in cooperation with the European Commission.