In Serbia, there is a clear need for a more robust system to articulate and execute development plans in addressing its regional disparities. Serbia’s rather reactive regional development policy has plenty of room for improvement when compared to the proactive approach of the EU. In the EU, smart specialization strategies are an ex ante precondition for access to “innovation-motivated” funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Although Serbia has introduced the Smart Specialization Strategy 2020-2027 (S4), it is still not complied with the NUTS II level, leaving significant potential untapped. 13 years since the adoption of the Law on Regional Development, the country has yet to adopt essential regional development plans and strategies for its underdeveloped regions. Furthermore, financial resources allocated for regional development haven’t been as effective as desired in reducing regional disparities. As a candidate country negotiating EU membership, Serbia must channel its energies into enhancing readiness for the efficient utilization of EU funds. This entails reinforcing policies and bolstering administrative capacities and professional skills in state institutions and local self-governments.

According to the new paradigm of regional development and regional policy, regional development actors are not only the state, the economy, the academic and research sector, but also CSOs, which represents a form of “quadruple helix” (quadruple spiral) for the development and implementation of S4 in Serbia. The role of CSOs is reflected in moderating the process of entrepreneurial discovery, mapping actors, formulating advocacy strategies for actors of the quadruple spiral, and in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of S4, by pointing out shortcomings and proposing changes to achieve better efficiency. CSOs can also significantly contribute to raising awareness of the problem and knowledge of local authorities and the population in priority areas through local activism, and proposing policy reforms and measures that would best affect the improvement of citizens’ living and working standards. CSOs also play the role of mediators in constructive dialogue and cooperation with state and local authorities with citizens, businesses (especially medium, small and micro) and the academic community.

Hence, the objective of this project is promoting and strengthening the process of European integration in Serbia, through increased contribution of civil society in pertinent reform processes. Specific objectives that follow are: SO1 – Enhanced conditions for regional development in Serba based on smart specialization (S4), through contribution to the advancement of relevant policies and monitoring of the reform process, and SO2 – Enhanced conditions for the support of the Serbia’s civil sector to the regional development based on smart specialization, through increased level of information and knowledge.

Activities within the project:

  1. Research, analysis and preparation of reports on regional development policies and reform proposals through the principles of smart specialization
  2. Coordination and consultation with relevant actors for regional development, smart specialization, cohesion policy and structural funds
  3. Conducting an advocacy campaign and raising public awareness of the importance of regional development through smart specialization, organizing professional events and developing and distributing informative materials and digital content, as well as educational material about the benefits of effective regional development policies through smart specialization.

Project duration: September 1st 2023 – May 31th 2024

The work of the European Movement in Serbia is supported by Sweden within the program of the Belgrade Open School “Civil Society for the Advancement of Serbia’s Accession to the European Union – Europe ASAP”.