SERBIA IN EU WHAT DOES IT MEEN FOR ME, WHAT DOES IT MEEN FOR KOSJERIĆ
NGO organization K-town group from Kosjerić together with 43 other Serbian non-governmental organizations in the period between 3rd of April and 9th of May 2008 realized the project entitled: “Serbia in EU – What does it mean for me, what does it mean for Kosjerić“. The project was supported by the Institute for Sustainable Communities
Fund for an Open Society
and it consisted of six panel discussions and additional activities. The main aim of the project was to expand Kosjerić citizens’ knowledge of European Union and inform them about all benefits that the society as whole and ordinary citizens in particular would have if Serbia joins EU.
The first panel – on tourism, was held on 11th of April in Kosjerić’s House of Culture Main Hall. The panellists were: Rafael Popovac from the Serbian Ministry of Economy, Department for Tourism, Darko Đurović from Zlatibor Tourist Centre Organization and Marija Luković-Sredić from eco-village Gostoljublje near Kosjerić.
Darko Đurović presented the short overview of the importance of tourism in modern economy giving examples from the world greatest tourist destinations and stressing the importance of Western Balkan as potential tourist destination. Mr Đurović also presented tourist attractions of Zlatibor Mountain emphasising its importance for Serbian tourist industry.
Rafael Popovac presented the efforts of the Serbian Ministry of Economy, Department for Tourism to regulate tourist sector in a systematic manner. Mr Popovac also presented government agenda for the devolvement of tourism in Serbia until 2015.
Marija Luković-Sredić presented the project “Eco-village Gostoljublje”. Ms Luković-Sredić showed photographs and other video materials about the village and explained the concept of village tourism. Village tourism is usually considered to be the best tourist devolvement possibility for Kosjerić region and Ms Luković-Sredić presented some of the innovations recently brought to the village tourism in the region.
All the panellists agreed that the main obstacle for the further development of tourism in the region of Kosjerić is lack of the supporting infrastructure, which one of the main conditions for the arrival of the larger number of tourists. Kosjerić lacks good road connections as well as adequate accommodation facilities for modern tourism.
Panellists also analysed some positive example of tourist development in EU. In the first place a mergence of different tourist attractions centres in one association that encompasses the whole region (of Western Serbia in this case) offering an integral tourist arrangements for the visitors.
The panel was attended by twenty five visitors. The most interesting questions from the audience were:
- What are the concrete forms of help from the local government to the people engaged in tourism?
- How can we develop tourism in Kosjerić if Cement Factory Titan do not finish ecological program it started in order to become “ecology-friendly factory”?
- What are the chances for the development of tourism if Serbia does not join EU?
- Does the state government have a strategy for the development of village tourism and if so what are the main goals of that strategy?
- How EU can help development of local tourism?
The second panel – on public health was held on 12th of April. The panel was characterised with the very lively discussion and great interaction between the panellists and the audience. The panellists were Dr Dubravka Šaranović-Racić from the Serbian Ministry of Health, Dr Janko Janković from the Faculty of Medicine at Belgrade University and Dr Ljiljana Kosorić, a director of Kosjerić Health Centre.
Dr Šaranović presented the plans that Serbian Ministry of Health has for further reform of the state health system. Ms Šaranović stressed that reform is performed in accordance with the positive examples from the EU and that new state regulations will be done in accordance with the EU laws and health regulations.
Dr Janković offered an analysis of EU achievements in health care, primarily regarding the relationship between doctors and patients, amount of time necessary for a medical check-ups and accessibility of information about health care through a special social body that represents patients. Dr Janković also explains the Law of Free Access to Information as far as it concerned medical care.
Dr Kosorić presented the achievements and problems that Kosjerić Health Centre workers face on the daily basis, as Kosjerić has only one medical centre.
After the presentations, citizens had an opportunity to ask questions, which fostered very good and well-informed debate that showed all the difficulties that citizens face in using the health care system. Audience especially stressed some problems they face in Kosjerić in particular, as the municipality has only one health centre that is too far away for many people living in the surrounding villages, while the centre itself lacks adequate equipment and has a shortage of staff. In addition, people stressed lack of information about preventive health care as well as lack of habit of going to the regular medical check-ups.
There were around forty people in the audience. Some of the questions asked in the panel were:
- How is it possible for medical workers to find time for regular medical check-ups when the law prescribes 35 patients per day per doctor?
How can medical staff provide answers about the health care regulations when they are themselves uninformed? Where should they direct the patient?
- What are the measures that the Kosjerić Health Centre plans to undertake in order to improve their services in accordance with EU standards?
- Are we going to get some service for patients with serious health problems (like cancer, for example) that should help them in their struggle?
- What are concrete measures that local government cane undertake in order to foster the birth rate in the municipality? Is it possible to provide finical help for parents by the local government or Kosjerić Health Centre?
Third panel on agriculture was held on Saturday, 19th of April, in the Main Hall of Kosjerić House of Culture. The panellists were Zaharije Trnavčević, a journalist of TV B92, Professor Goran Delibašić from the Faculty of Agriculture at Belgrade University and Dragan Milaković from the Kosjerić City Council.
In the very inserting introductory presentations, panellists presented advantages of EU joining giving concrete examples from their working experience. Dragan Milaković presented the measures that Kosjerić City Council undertakes on the daily basis in order to improve agricultural production and material conditions of agricultural workers in the municipality. Mr Milaković stressed that the state government did not do much for the agricultural producers and introduce the whole set of contradictory measures that are impossible to implement and which make it very difficult for agricultural producers to claim their revenues from the state.
Professor Delibašić in his presentation gave concrete positive examples from EU practice that would become part of Serbian agricultural production if Serbia joins EU, which would improve conditions of agricultural production, sale and remuneration for agricultural producers.
Zaharije Trnavčević based his talk on his 58 years long practice in agriculture stressing two major premises that he considers to be a key for the improvement of agricultural production – knowledge and producers association. Mr Trnavčević stressed that Serbia does not have enough number of highly educated people specialising in agriculture and that our agriculture is completely dominated by small landowners that do not have enough land for finically viable agriculture.
In the very interesting discussion that followed the presentation, panellists could hear about numerous problems that agricultural producers face on the daily basis. In the panel there were stock-breeders and dairy farmers, vegetable and fruit growers which gave a good overview of current state of Serbian agriculture. All the panellists were pleasantly surprised by the audience knowledge of the problems in agriculture, while citizens had a chance to get some answers to their questions. Everybody agreed that solutions for the raising problems in agriculture have to be found quickly in order for Serbian agriculture to become economically viable and survive in the years that come.
There were forty people present in the audience. Some of the questions raised in the panel were:
How to explain difference in the milk price in Serbia and other countries in the region, if we know that Serbia produces far the biggest amount of milk?
What measures can be taken to protect primary producers of raspberries from the owners of the cooler-storage systems who determine the prices, which negatively affect primary producers?
How to keep agricultural producers informed about issues concerning them when many villages do not have roads, phone connection and not to mention internet?
For several years now Kosjerić does not have a central body responsible for cattle registration, which makes it difficult for producers to claim their revenues. What are the possible solutions for this problem?
Why there is daily increase in the expenses of agricultural production that disables not only viability of production, but the very existence of agricultural producers and why they are never consulted over these increases?
With the forth panel that had a topic “Youth and EU” and accompanying DJ party K-town group continued realization of the project “Serbia in EU…” aimed to the promotion of EU and European values.
The panel was held on 25th of April in the Main Hall of Kosjerić House of Culture in front of forty five people. The panelists were Tanja Azanjac from Youth Coalition, Tijana Morača from Belgrade Civil Imitative and Vladimir Đokić, student from Kosjerić. Vladimir Đokić, student of Novi Sad’s Faculty of Philosophy and a holder of the Republic award for biology, stressed Kosjerić City Council negligence of the best students and lack of municipality scholarships. Kosjerić does not have enough number of highly educated people and the municipality should do more to encourage young graduates to come back to their home-town.
Tanja Azanjac spoke about their long term struggle for systematic solution of the problems of young people in Serbia that resulted in the formation of the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Ms Azanjac stressed that the Ministry made special “Strategy for Youth”, a very important document that defines problems of young people in Serbia and propose certain solutions. She also stressed that in the production of the document participated people from non-governmental organizations, local governments and informal citizens groups. Unfortunately the document failed to be ratified by the state government for purely political reasons, which proves that youth becomes a topic of public debate only in the election time, so the ratification will have to wait for the new government and new parliament.
Tijana Morača talked about different ways of support to young people from the local governments, Serbia state and foreign aid agencies. Ms Morača stressed the advantages that “offices for young people” can offer, explain the procedure for their establishment and the way they work giving the example of the office in Belgrade’s municipality of Palilula. She recommended use of the EVS programme as it is a completely free service that enables our citizens to travel abroad and learn about other cultures and improve their language skills.
In the discussion that followed, some serious problems of the young people in Kosjerić were brought up. Those included a neglecting attitude of the local government, non-existence of the youth creative centre, general apathy and lack of ideas accompanied with the belief that nothing can be change in the near future. The same attitudes among young people are detected in the research conducted by K-town group last year that were presented by Vladimir Radojičić, panel coordinator.
In their answers, panelists tried to give positive examples from their practice and suggest possible solutions for the problems raised. The panelists stressed the necessity of making associations and need of the systematic approach to the problems by the government that should include all sides concerned about young people and their status in society.
Some of the questions raised were:
What are the concrete measures that can be taken in order to put pressure to the local government to start working on the improvement of the conditions for young people?
How to get creative centre for young people?
Is it possible to open an amateur theatre and what are conditions for that?
Is the graduation from university enough to get a job and what are additional requirements that employees’ seek?
Can young people themselves make an impact on the level of unemployment through their activism and other actions?
After the panel, there was a party in café-bar Breza with Belgrade DJ Starch. In a specially decorated bar with techno/house music playing to 150 guests, K-town Group tried to promote European values common to all young people in Europe that are usually expressed thorough art and modern music in particular.
On Monday, 28th of April in the Main Street, K-town Group organized a competition for the best-decorated Easter egg with EU motives. The jury had a hard time deciding the winner, but finally the first prize was won by Tamara Dimitrijević who received a DVD player – a present from the local businessman Dragan Matić. Second prize winner received 5.1 loudspeaker system and the third place winner received wireless joystick – all were donations of the Kosjerić businessmen. The youngest participant – Sara Kijačić received a cake in EU flag colours, while the forth and fifth place contestants received free internet hours. In the creative spirit of the event, some of the Kosjerić’s youngest citizens had an opportunity to learn basic facts about EU and shared values of the European culture that also includes cultural diversity (epitomized in this case in the Easter egg colouring).
On 2nd of May in the Kosjerić’s café Ole, K-town Group organized rock concert of Belgrade band E-play with the support bands Straight Mickey and The Boyz from the neighboured town of Požega. The cafe was fully packed with two hundred visitors, which only confirms that young people of Kosjerić really need more of these kinds of events.
Fifth panel named “Social Policy – Inclusion” was held on 3rd of May in the Kosjerić’s House of Culture Main Hall. The panellists were Milena Jerotijević from the Belgrade group MOST, Jelena Kotević from Serbian Ministry of Work and Social Policy and Milena Đokić from Kosjerić Association of Blind and Visually Impaired People.
Milena Đokić explained the current social conditions that disable people face in Kosjerić in their every-day lives. Ms Đokić informed the audience about the unexpectedly high number of disable people in the town and lack of support that they receive from the local government. There is no local body that care about disable people, while the local Centre for Social Work is placed on the third floor of the Municipality Building which prevents most disabled people to reach it in the first place, as there are no facilities which will enable disable people to enter the building, or to get up to the third floor.
Jelena Kotević presented the results of the state Ministry of Work and Social Policy efforts to improve the social conditions of disable people, as well those of low social income and explained the plans that the Ministry has in order to increase the benefits for the most endangered social strata.
Milena Jerotijević based her speech on the modalities of inclusions of the endangered social strata in the state education system. Ms Jerotijević presented some benefits that ordinary citizens will gain if Serbia joins EU giving some positive examples from Sweden, Finland and Greece regarding benefits for those who are most excluded from the society.
Although there were only around twenty people present in the panel, which was the consequence of the storm that happened just before its beginning, the discussion that followed panellists’ presentations was very interesting. Discussion was so inspiring, that the debate continued in the nearby café Evergreen even after the time for the panel was over.
Some of the most interesting questions were:
- What are the possible sources of finance for the transport of disabled people to the medical centres and who is responsible to cover those expanses (City Council or the Centre for Social Care)?
- Are there any funds for the associations of disabled people?
- What are the benefits that people who live in villages will have from Serbia’s joining of EU?
- Is it possible for disabled people to find jobs in EU?
- Is it possible to employ more medical specialists in the provincial medical centres that will care for the needs of disabled people (like optometrist or clinical philologists), as Kosjerić currently does not have any medical specialists employed?
Project “Serbia in EU – What does it mean for me, what does it mean for Kosjerić“ was completed by the panel on education held on the Europe Day and accompanied with special CD about European Union made by K-town Group and distributed to the Kosjerić’s citizens after the panel.
The last panel took place in the Main Hall of Kosjerić House of Culture with the audience of forty people. The panellists were Lena Nikolić, teacher in Kosjerić’s Primary School Mito Igumanović, Martina Vukasović from the Centre of Educational Policy and Srećko Šekeljić from Belgrade organization “There is no alternative for Europe”.
Lena Nikolić presented an overview of the statistical data for Kosjerić’s primary schools including the number of pupils and teachers, available teaching space and equipment as well as the results of Kosjerić’s pupils in the regional and state competitions. Ms Nikolić stressed that there is constant decline in the number of students, which she considers to be the biggest problem of education in Kosjerić. Using her thirty years long experience, Ms Nikolić analyzed current projects ongoing in her school and gave some suggestions for the improvement of the working conditions in schools more generally and for the further development of the primary school system.
Martina Vukasović explained to the audience concrete funding opportunities provided by EU for Serbian citizens regarding education from primary school to post-graduate studies. Ms Vukasović stressed that those funds are constantly rising explaining that all range of different social bodies can apply for this sources including NGO organizations, state institutions, schools and universities.
Srećko Šekeljić gave a chronological overview of a struggle to achieve institutional solutions for the problems of young people through the Ministry of Youth and Sport and recent document of National strategy for Youth. Mr Šekeljić stressed that this strategy is the first state document that detects problem of young people in Serbia in a systematic and all-encompassing way and offers possible solutions.
In the discussion that followed, the panellists answered numerous questions about the emigration of young and highly educated people from Kosjerić, procedures for applying for the educational funds offered by EU, possibilities for education in our municipality, small number of pupils in rural areas, difficulties in access to schools by many children in rural areas (schools are too far away and there is no public transport) and autonomy of local government regarding educational issues.
Some of the questions raised in the panel:
- Why Kosjerić’s schools do not have a school policeman?
- How to prevent exodus of highly educated people from the provincial towns?
- Are there any EU funds available for pre-school children?
- Why are the seminars for teachers so expensive and why the Ministry of Education did not control these prices?
- Is there a national strategy to increase international competitiveness of Serbian educational institutions and who is responsible to accredit those institutions?
On this occasion – Europe Day, K-town Group published a CD with some basic information about EU including some short films about EU and the member-states, as well as documents that regulate Serbian position in this organization. CD was distributed for free to the panel’s audience and people in the Kosjerić’s streets.
Part of the project was a public letter that K-town Group sent to all political parties in Kosjerić asking them to officially sing the letter confirming that they will be pleading for European values and Serbian join to EU. We received positive answer from Demokratska Stranka, Srpski Pokret Obnove, G17+ and Liberalno Demokratska Partija.
In the addition to the above activities, K-town group lunched a web site: eu.ktowngroup.org.rs
, with information about EU and Serbian progress in the joining it. The web site was representative for the project as whole and included information about the activities of all 43 organizations that took part in the project’s realization. The site was visited by 200 visitors on the daily basis, which added three virtual panels to our project every single day during the campaign