Eight Facts About Education in Serbia
Education levels have been improving in the Balkan country of Serbia since the early 2000s and especially since Serbia’s partnership with Switzerland. It is evident that Serbia’s work with other European countries and its attempt to bridge the gap between the rich and poor are doing wonders for Serbia’s education system. Here are eight facts about education in Serbia that highlight the progress of its education.

8 Facts About Education in Serbia

  1. Serbia is fighting an uphill battle due to the fact that 25 percent of its population lives at the poverty line, with the Roma people making up two percent of the Balkan national population. Laws for the 2018 education system should help temper this issue, which includes the implementation of procedures regarding the handling of discriminatory behavior and insulting reputation that affects honor and dignity. These should help put an end against any form of discrimination. The second most important law for this trend is the Bylaw on additional education, health and social support for children, pupils and adults. This Bylaw made it so that the education system would include less fortunate children in lower standings of society with the right to use of resources and individual assistance.
  2. Serbia has made great progress in increasing the successful outcomes of its education system since the mid-2010s. The fact that the Harmonized Learning Outcomes (averaged over all subjects and grades) have shown a 63 point increase from a meager 458 in 2003 to 2015 reinforces this. This is due to an attempt to bridge the social gap between the poor and wealthy which has also lead to an increased interest in education after high school. This is due mostly to the laws mentioned in point one, which led to increased spending on education.
  3. Other European countries, like Switzerland, have been integral to helping Serbia reform its education since 2012. The Swiss displayed to Serbia how to provide more inclusive education for those less fortunate. Switzerland also provided agents to show the leaders of the Serbian education system how to properly analyze schooling data to better reform the system.
  4. The Red Cross has provided humanitarian aid that has targeted families in need of food, hygiene and social inclusion to allow children the basic opportunity of enjoying and learning in the schools they are in. In contrast, UNICEF has focused on school programs to allocate funds to allow students to be more involved in extracurricular activities.
  5. The Joint Programme on Roma and Marginalized Groups Inclusion is also taking steps to make sure the Roma children are able to catch up within Serbia’s school system. One of these steps is to make education more affordable for those who require a secondary education so that the system includes more of the population. This is important since the jobless rate for the Roma is over 60 percent, which is exacerbated by the fact that over half the Roma people do not get an education.
  6. Serbia can collect much of its education system’s data partly because it has become the 31st member of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. This organization of 31 member states works and collaborates to improve Europe’s education system to make it more inclusive for everyone. Through the use of technical support, this agency supports Serbia by better organizing data so that the Balkan Nation’s Education Organizer can use it. This, in turn, has allowed for better use of evidence-based information to solve critical issues in Serbia.
  7. Serbia has also addressed its plans to fix the large success gap between the wealthy and poor, with the latter only having an upper secondary education success rate of 45 percent. Although this number may seem low, it is an improvement of 22 percent since 2011. The reason for this is affordability as higher forms of education can be too expensive for most families in Serbia. The Inclusivity Act mentioned above should help change this, which works to bring the wealthy or discriminated these higher levels of education.
  8. In 2018, Serbia implemented a program that included a financial education program to help pave the way for greater minds to lead the country’s economy. This is a law that seeks to help students have a better grasp of the business world, how to better find jobs and create them, as well as how to better create teachers who can impart this knowledge on the student body. It should start sometime in the later part of 2019.

These eight facts about education in Serbia show that while Serbia has issues, the country has greatly improved its education system, and will continue to do so at the apparent rate it has set themselves. So long as Serbia is open to accepting outside help and to work to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the number of people that will benefit from its system will only grow. These eight facts about education in Serbia will hopefully serve as something Serbia can expand upon in the future.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in SerbiaFormerly a part of Yugoslavia, Serbia is a small landlocked country located in southeastern Europe between Macedonia and Hungary. Serbia has an extremely tense history with its neighboring countries as a result of the breaking up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Today, Serbia is quite different. Here are the top ten facts about living conditions in Serbia.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

  1. Pollution: Serbia is currently subject to environmental issues in the form of pollution. The capital city of Belgrade is particularly susceptible to air pollution. Water pollution is also an issue throughout Serbia as industrial waste from the cities is known to eventually flow into the Danube. Management of all kinds of waste — domestic, industrial and hazardous — has been poor.
  2. Ethnic diversity: More than 80 percent of the population of Serbia identifies as Serb, with the main minorities being Hungarian and Bosnian Muslims. The Roma people also make up a small minority, along with other people from neighboring countries. Serbians essentially speak the same language as Croats, Bosniaks and Montenegrins, but with slight variations in dialect.
  3. Economy: Serbia’s economy saw huge growth between 2001 and 2008 because of domestic consumerism. However, because of the rapidness of the growth, the economy experienced instability and both internal and external imbalances. The economy has steadily increased since, and as of 2018 is projected to continue in surplus.
  4. Power: Serbia has no nuclear power stations. Instead, they use hydroelectric power and coal as their main energy sources. The largest coal-burning stations are located in Belgrade, and much of the hydroelectric power comes from the Djerdap dam.
  5. Population: With a population of just over seven million, the most heavily populated area of Serbia is the capital city of Belgrade wherein more than one million people live. Despite the large population, the unemployment rate among Serbian youth ages 15–24 is 29.7 percent, which is quite high. As a result, many young Serbians go to other countries to find work.
  6. Trade: Serbia’s main trading partners are Italy and Germany; however, Russia, Switzerland, China and Hungary are also partnered with Serbia. Many countries are not interested in trading with Serbia because of its infrastructure decline. Additionally, Serbia faces problems with corruption that leave potential trading partners skeptical.
  7. Health Care: Healthcare is provided to pregnant women, babies and children up to 15 years of age. Also, students up to the age of 26 are allotted healthcare. All Serbian citizens are granted treatments for diseases and mental illnesses. Yet, one-fifth of the population remains without healthcare.
  8. Family culture: Serbia is a staunchly patriarchal society, as was instilled under the Ottoman rule and can still be seen today. Family loyalty is very important in Serbian culture. Nepotism is a common problem in workspaces and perpetuates the patriarchal motifs.
  9. Leisure: Belgrade and another city, Novi Sad, are the cultural hubs of Serbia, offering extensive nightlife as well as other cultural hotspots. Various cafes, sporting events and galleries are open across the cities to give those living there — especially the youth — plenty to do. The countryside also has a lot to offer with its abundance of places to go if one wanted to experience traditional Serbian life.
  10. Housing: Housing in Serbia has been a problem since the period of civil unrest and throughout the 1990s; hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Although Western nations sent aid, only part of the problem was alleviated. Currently, housing is particularly a problem for young people in urban areas.

Though Serbia is a beautiful country and its tourism rates have risen in recent years, the country still harbors a lot of tension because of its past conflicts. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Serbia showcase that while the country has made great strides and developments, there is still room for improvement.

Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Cancer in Serbia

The Serbian people are resilient. Tumultuous Serbian centuries have seen empires rise and fall. in the past three decades alone, Serbs have weathered political upheaval and civil war, all topped off by a two and a half month long airstrike. But today, they face an unprecedented problem: cancer. In the text below is the list of five key facts about cancer in Serbia.

5 Facts About Cancer in Serbia

  1. Serbia has the highest cancer mortality rate in Europe. Systematic reporting of the incidence and mortality caused by cancer in Serbia did not begin until the 1990s. The first nationwide, population-based study done from 1999 to 2009 showed that cancer mortality in Serbia was steadily increasing. However, as of 2009, the mortality rate caused by cancer in Serbia has been decreasing by approximately 0.9 percent annually. Regardless, Serbia still has the highest cancer mortality rate in Europe and the fourth highest rate in the world.
  2. Some blame uranium for this problem. The President of the Serbian Society for the Fight against Cancer, Slobodan Cikaric, claims that NATO’s airstrikes on Serbia in 1999 are responsible for the high mortality rates since 15 tons of depleted uranium were dropped on Serbia. Studies have shown that depleted uranium is a carcinogen: when ingested, it interrupts the normal cell growth process and can lead to malignant tumors. In response to this allegation, NATO referenced the UN Environment Program report. The report released in 2001 holds that health risks from uranium are negligible.
  3. Cancer risk factors are prevalent in Serbian society. When it comes to pinpointing cancer risk factors in Serbia, the lack of adequate health care is only the tip of the iceberg. There are few comprehensive cancer detection initiatives, and delayed diagnosis is often associated with a higher likelihood of mortality. An underfunded health care system means that the appropriate technology to treat certain cancers is often unavailable. There are many other variables to consider. Drinking and smoking are common, and daily physical activity is not. Nearly half of all Serbian men smoke, however, the Government of Serbia has made strides in tobacco control, from issuing television advertising bans to enforcing smoke-free zones at schools.
  4. The crisis differs by groups. Mortality from major cancers is higher in men. Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Serbian men, while breast cancer is the most common cancer in Serbian women. In fact, as of 2008, the breast cancer incidence and mortality rate in Serbian women was the highest in Europe. The incidence of cervical cancer is also alarmingly high: one and a half women die from cervical cancer every day in Serbia.
  5. Serbs are taking strides to improve health care outcomes. Marija Ratkovic, a Belgrade journalist, has been open about her fight against cervical cancer. Through a VICE documentary, she spreads awareness for the disease and shows women that they are not alone. With her platform as a popular news columnist, Ratkovic encourages women to be vaccinated and regularly screened. In 2016, the vaccine to protect from HPV, the virus that often leads to cervical cancer, became available in Serbia. In 2014, the World Bank secured $40 million for the Second Serbia Health Project, an evidence-based initiative designed to make the Serbian health care system more efficient. It reduced the cost of drugs and allowed public hospitals to purchase more equipment. In 2014 alone, it reduced the total cost of drugs throughout Serbia by €25 million.

Ultimately, to alleviate the crisis of cancer diseases in Serbia, the focus must be on addressing the multitude of risk factors and improving the productivity of the health care system. The Serbian government, with the help of focused foreign aid initiatives, has the power to save lives.

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in SerbiaThese top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia indicate both the struggles and progress of the country. Serbia officially became its own nation in 2006, following the split of the country known as Serbia and Montenegro. Being a newly independent country, it faces challenges of poverty and unemployment. Nonetheless, progress is being made, as these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia are showing:

  1. Twenty-five percent of Serbians are impoverished. This percent translates to close to 1.8 million people. Absolute poverty, a more severe condition of poverty has been slowly decreasing, from 7.6 in 2010 to 7.3 in 2016.
  2. Poverty levels vary greatly in each region of Serbia, but in general, the south has a greater rate of people at risk of poverty than the north. Rural areas, where almost half of the population lives, has the double rate of poverty comparing to urban areas.
  3. Households are 10 times more likely to be impoverished if the head of the house has not completed primary school. The risk of poverty directly correlates with the level of education of the head of the household.
  4. Serbia is vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. Earthquakes affect 60,000 people a year and result in losses of $300 million. Floods are even more frequent and also more impactful, affecting 200,000 people and causing a loss of $1 billion yearly.
  5. The primary school completion rate is 94.8 percent. High school completion rate is 90.1 percent. Enrollment rates have been rising since 2010, for males and for females as well. In fact, female higher-education enrollment rate surpasses the male enrollment rate by 17 percentage points.
  6. The overall unemployment rate is 14.8 percent. Youth unemployment rate is 44.2 percent. According to UNDP, the reason for these high rates is the disparity between workforce needs and the Serbian education system. Serbia has adopted the youth employment-focused National Employment Action Plan, among other plans, in an attempt to decrease unemployment from 23 percent when it began in 2013.
  7. The YF Innovation Serbia project, which was completed in 2016, is another way Serbia has made progress towards improving unemployment rates. One of the goals of the project was to encourage entrepreneurship in Serbia by assisting startups, funding projects and opening research institutions. It ultimately helped improve Serbia’s economic growth and create more job opportunities for its citizens.
  8. Serbia is currently working on becoming a member of the European Union. To achieve this goal the country must go through a pre-ascension phase which includes economic development, increased human rights and an improved government system. To aid with this process, the European Union has allocated 1.5 billion euros for Serbia’s development.
  9. Serbia’s GDP is projected to grow by 3 percent or 4 percent by 2020. In 2017, Serbia’s economic growth was slowed by drought and energy production issues but this was a temporary setback. Other sectors, such as industry and services, did show growth despite these problems.
  10. Serbia’s Human Development Index score was 0.745 in 2014 with an average annual increase of 0.6 percent. This score reflects the high level of human development in Serbia

While poverty still remains an issue in Serbia, the action is certainly being taken to counter it, especially through joining the EU. The standards that the EU holds for its members encourage a better economy and quality of life of its citizens. In the past, most countries have seen economic growth as a result of this same process. Evident in these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia, Serbian poverty shows promise of slowing down.

– Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo-Serbia Relations
Kosovo was once a province of Serbia, where  Serbians discriminated against and excluded Kosovars of ethnic Albanian origin all throughout the late 20th century. Excluded from education and administrative systems, Kosovars fought long and hard for their independence.

Kosovo History

After more than 800,000 Kosovars were forced to find refuge in neighboring countries from 1989 to 1999, NATO militarily intervened against the Yugoslavia and Serbia joint forces. After three months of NATO airstrikes, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo and the U.N. was authorized to facilitate a political process to determine the future of Kosovo’s status.

After suffering years of systematic discrimination, the people’s right to self-determination prevailed; in 2008, Kosovo declared independence and became Europe’s newest state.

However, ten years on the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is still relatively unstable. Recent talks between the two nations have been facilitated in the hopes of coming to a peaceful resolution. Below are five facts on Kosovo-Serbia relations today.

Facts About Kosovo-Serbia Relations

  1. Serbia, a state backed by Russia, does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, as well as Serbia, is not recognized by 5 of the 28 European member states. Recently, a deal was proposed to Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for EU membership. This is a long sought-after goal of Serbia.
  2. Kosovo’s population is made up of a majority ethnic Albanian population and a minority Serbian population. Serbians are mostly found in the north of the country. These populations have created some key issues within the country, as the Serbian majority population in the north is run by a parallel administration backed by the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
  3. The Serbian population refuses to integrate into Kosovo and wishes to keep close ties with Serbia and their administration. An example of the lack of integration between the two is Serbian and Kosovo schools in Kosovo. Both teach different versions of what occurred between 1989 and 1999 to coincide with their own versions. Schools teach different languages — Kosovars learn Albanian and Serbians learn Serbian — and neither interact with each other. This has created a cycle of hostility between the two ethnicities and countries.
  4. An association of Serbian municipalities was created as part of a deal brokered between the two countries in 2015. This was done to give more autonomy to the Serbian communities in Kosovo. The deal allowed the five percent of ethnic Serbs to have their own courts of appeal, budgets and police officers. However, this autonomy has caused some tension between the two groups. This year, amendments were requested as the agreement was deemed incompatible with Kosovo’s constitution and sovereignty.
  5. In the past few years, talks have been facilitated between the Serbian and Kosovo governments to put an end to their turbulent relationship. These discussions also strove for peace and agreement to come to fruition. In 2017, the Justice Agreement was reached, integrating all judicial personnel and allowing justice to be delivered across Kosovo, including the Serbian municipalities. This was a milestone for Kosovo-Serbia relations.

Future Relations

Since the end of the war, Kosovo-Serbia relations have been fraught with disagreements and tensions. However, things are looking up and future relations between Kosovo and Serbia seem to be more cooperative and peaceful.

Hopefully, there will be a full recognition of Kosovo’s independence followed by both its and Serbia’s admission to the European Union in the near future. The relationship between these two countries should be a fruitful and peaceful one, but acceptance and cooperation must come from both sides to ensure their peaceful coexistence.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to SerbiaSerbia is working to strengthen human rights protections and to promote economic growth within the country while facing external pressure from Russia. Russia has been expanding its influence and amplifying ethnic tensions in several countries that may join the European Union. In particular consideration of the close relations between Serbia and Russia, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia because this aid works to prevent a new Cold War in the Balkans.

Social Benefits of Foreign Aid to Serbia

From 2001 to 2017, the U.S. gave about $800 million in aid to Serbia to help the country stimulate economic growth, promote good governance and strengthen its justice system. One example of a major issue Serbia is dealing with is human trafficking.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, Serbia remains listed as a Tier Two country because it has yet to fully comply with the minimum standard for eliminating the issue. However, Serbia has shown significant efforts to address human trafficking by establishing a permanent human smuggling and trafficking law enforcement task force, identifying more victims as well as providing guidelines to judges and prosecutors.

Other U.S. aid to Serbia in the past has gone toward strengthening its export and border controls. This includes efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. More recently, U.S. military aid has helped Serbia take part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programs as well as prepare for international peacekeeping missions.

Economic Benefits of Aid to Serbia

From an economic standpoint, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia through U.S. investors in the country. These investors include KKR, Philip Morris, Ball Packaging, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Cooper Tire and Van Drunen Farms. In 2013, Fiat began shipping cars manufactured in Serbia to the U.S., increasing imports from the Balkan countries.

In addition, U.S. technology companies in Serbia are becoming more interested in opportunities in areas such as e-government, cloud computing, digitization, IT security and systems integration. In 2013, Microsoft even signed a $34 million contract to provide software to government offices in Serbia.

Political Benefits of Aid to Serbia

U.S. aid to Serbia is currently focused on helping the country integrate into the European Union, which will decrease Serbia’s vulnerability to Russian aggression as well as strengthen its democratic institutions. Out of the $5.39 million the U.S. plans to allot in foreign aid to Serbia in 2019, 46 percent will be allocated to strengthening the country’s rule of law and protection of human rights, 34 percent will be put toward increasing the capacity of civil society organizations and 20 percent will be for good governance.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Serbia from a diplomatic perspective as well in the case of international terrorism. The Ministry of Interior Directorate of Police, the Security Information Agency and Serbia’s law enforcement and security agencies have continued to work with the U.S. to prevent this major security threat, which affects both nations as well as the rest of the world.

In the past, Serbia has hosted a regional counterterrorism conference on foreign terrorist fighting. The country has also sent representatives to conferences in Albania, Italy and Slovenia to discuss how to counter violent extremism.

There are many economic and political reasons the U.S. and Serbia would benefit from the U.S. providing aid to Serbia. Together, the two countries have great potential to make technological advancements as well as work for a more peaceful world.

– Connie Loo
Photo: Flickr

Challenges Facing Refugees in SerbiaIn 2016, 65.6 million people were forced to leave their homes, and these people are known as refugees. Refugees are usually forced to leave their countries for one of three reasons: victimization, violence or war. Refugees everywhere face immense hardships, and the challenges facing refugees in Serbia are widespread.

Serbia is mainly viewed as a stop along the way for refugees hoping to reach countries in central Europe. In 2015 and the first part of 2016, over 920,000 refugees traveled to Serbia. According to the European Commission, the shutting down of the Western Balkans migration route left 4,146 refugees stranded in Serbia.

Kimmie Whicher, a student at George Mason University, traveled to Serbia on scholarship from Boren. There, she worked with a small non-governmental organization (NGO) to provide food and clothes for hundreds of refugees in a camp in Belgrade, Serbia. In the nine months that Whicher was there, her NGO grew from feeding about 300 to upwards of 800 men.

Approximately 2.6 million refugees live in camps; many of these refugees are living in extremely harsh conditions. In Whicher’s experience, here are some of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia.

1. Poor Living Conditions

One of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is poor living conditions. According to Caritas, eight out of 10 refugees in Serbia stay in government shelters, the rest must sleep outside in public parks. Among the hardships that come with living outside is the extremely cold weather. Whicher recalled the winter weather in Serbia: “The cold is absolutely ruthless. Our organization that cooked for these men would take hot kettles of boiling water and when we tried to clean up after cooking we would pour it on the table and it would freeze the second it would hit the table.”

Winter temperatures in Serbia are often below freezing. Many refugees are left no choice but to sleep in public parks where they risk getting frostbite, among other conditions due to prolonged exposure to the cold weather. According to The Independent, many children don’t even have gloves or shoes to keep them protected from the snow.

2. No Protection by the Government

A common hardship for many refugees is the lack of safety and protection provided by the government. According to Whicher, “It was a very miserable place. A harsh reality for many of these boys was that this is the border of Europe, so when you’re living here and you’re trying to get through, if you go to a camp you’re probably going to get deported or the police are going to break your phone or take your clothes.”

3. Hunger

Another one of the challenges facing refugees in Serbia is hunger. Refugees have to scrape by on whatever they can get to eat in a day. Small NGOs such as Whicher’s can provide some meals for the refugees, but the majority of those escaping their home countries are still underfed. According to Whicher, “One hot meal a day was our motto.” In this way, organizations can begin to help refugees by providing food and clothes, but they do not have the means necessary to help every refugee.

4. Worsening Physical and Mental Conditions

Due to these hardships, refugees struggle with new or worsening sickness. Due to the freezing temperatures in the winter, refugees in Serbia suffer from frostbite. According to The Independent, in order to escape the freezing temperatures, refugees light fires in their makeshift shelters, which further leads to respiratory problems from the smoke. However, physical sickness is not the only sickness refugees endure. Whicher recalled her experience: “You would literally watch them lose their minds… We saw this one man deteriorate to the point where if he were to go back to school, he would have to be in a special education classroom.”

Despite the harsh reality for many refugees in Serbia, organizations are making great strides to improve refugee conditions. Just by supplying food and clothes to these refugees, these organizations such as the one for which Whicher volunteered, are saving the lives of many.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Bosnian War Facts

The Bosnian War was incredibly brutal and impacted millions of lives. Below are 10 important Bosnian War facts: how it began, what happened and how it ended.

Top 10 Bosnian War Facts

  1. The state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina began declining when politics became chaotic with the rapid decline of the Yugoslavian economy. Also playing a role was the collapse of communism and a structured government and various ethnic groups vying for control of the area. The Serbs, Muslims and Croats living in Bosnia each desired to appropriate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory for their own countries and take control of the government and political field.
  2. Bosnian Croats and Muslims feared that Milošević, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, would take their land, so they called for the independence of Herzeg-Bosnia. The Serbs, however, had the same idea. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence was declared on March 3, 1992, and was recognized by the U.S. and the European Community on April 6, 1992.
  3. On April 6, 1992, the Serbs began the Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted until Feb. 29, 1996. The Serbian paramilitary forces began the siege by holding positions inside the city and in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. By the first week of May, the Serbs had surrounded the whole city, which cut Sarajevo off from food, medicine, water, electricity, fuel and other supplies. The Serbs began firing on Sarajevo with advanced artillery but faced heavy defense from those mobilized with weapons within the city. Because the Serbs were facing opposition, they began to terrorize the city with intense gunfire and snipers. The Siege of Sarajevo lasted for 47 months and remains the longest siege in modern history.
  4. With Sarajevo, as well as several other cities isolated by force, the supply of food, utilities and communication became extremely limited and spread thin throughout the territory. This caused many cases of malnutrition and many citizens lost an average of up to 33 pounds while some others lost their lives due to lack of access to supplies.
  5. Bosnian Serbs began ethnic cleansing of large areas occupied by non-Serbs. The genocide destroyed entire villages and thousands of Bosnians were forced out of their homes and taken to detention camps where they were raped, tortured, deported or killed. The Serbians used rape in the Bosnian War as a tactic to destroy relationships, families and communities.
  6. One of the most lethal Bosnian War facts came when Gen. Ratko Mladic led Serbian troops in capturing Srebrenica, previously declared by the U.N. as a safe area, and killed almost 8,000 Muslim men. The U.N. later indicted Radovan Karadžić, orchestrator of the attack on Sarajevo, and General Mladic for genocidal war crimes.
  7. The Bosnian government was prohibited from providing updated and necessary weaponry that the Serbian and Croatian armies maintained due to an international arms embargo imposed throughout the Bosnian War.
  8. Although the U.N. Protection Force sent troops to supervise humanitarian aid and protect declared safe areas, the U.N. overall refused to intercede in the Bosnian War.
  9. After NATO’s negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, a final ceasefire was imposed and declared to bring an end to the Bosnian War. NATO enforced this through air strikes until the leaders agreed to the ceasefire and signed the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris on Dec. 14, 1995. The agreement allowed for a NATO peacekeeping enforcement group to maintain a permanent presence and oversight in the country.
  10. Throughout the Bosnian War, more than 250,000 people lost their lives and many more were displaced from their homes.

Even today, as a result of these Bosnian War facts, the territory remains highly divided between two sections: Muslim-Croat and the Serbian Republic. Both sections face a continuous fight against poverty, unemployment and ethnic discord.

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in SerbiaThe Balkan nation of Serbia suffers from many of the same problems with credit access as its neighbors. And as with its neighbors, these problems pose a significant obstacle to small-scale, grassroots economic development. That being said, there are several initiatives underway to help to improve credit access in Serbia until the Serbian financial industry is able to offer expanded opportunities to secure credit.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Serbian banks have set very rigid requirements in order to secure a line of credit. Interest rates tend to be prohibitively high for small business owners, and there are many regulations in place that discourage lending to small businesses and startups because they are perceived to be too risky. The government has introduced subsidies and risk-sharing programs to try to mitigate this problem at great cost to the state, but this has not been sufficient to really improve credit access in Serbia. It is estimated that small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia are collectively in need of €267 million worth of financing that Serbian banks are not willing to lend.

This is not to say that the Serbian financial industry is underdeveloped or ill-equipped. The World Bank is quite satisfied with the state of credit access in Serbia at a broad level. However, it does acknowledge that small and medium-sized enterprises experience more difficulty than they should when trying to access credit.

There have been several positive developments over the past several years that bode well for the future of credit access in Serbia. Recently, banks have begun to change the risk assessment procedures that they use when dealing with small and medium-sized enterprises. Where previously these entities were assessed in the same manner as a large corporation would be, many banks now use a procedure that takes into account the comparatively small size of these enterprises and does not allow size or inexperience to negatively impact the applicant.

Additionally, many international entities have stepped in to extend additional microfinancing money to be used to improve credit access in Serbia. The European Investment Bank recently provided €30 million to ProCredit Holdings in Serbia. This is intended to promote long-term, stable credit access in Serbia that will encourage economic growth and development for years to come.

While credit access in Serbia remains less than ideal, these recent developments represent major improvements over the previous situation. If similar improvements continue to follow, it can be expected that improved credit access will precipitate much greater economic development in Serbia in the coming years.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in SerbiaA Serbian institution called BioSense is at the forefront of innovative agricultural solutions research to practice more sustainable agriculture in Serbia. Global food security is one of the main issues of concern in European Union policymaking. Research has concluded that global food production must increase by 50 percent in the next 20 years. That increase will have to come from the intensification of current agricultural practices, so farmers must adapt to make their farms more productive.

The BioSense Centre at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia has partnered with the Foundation for Agricultural Research (DLO) at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, the leading research institute for applied research in agriculture and food security in Europe. BioSense, the regional leader in sustainable agriculture and advanced IT solutions research, is working with the DLO to increase food security in Serbia through the integration of advanced IT solutions into agricultural practices.

BioSense has pioneered a new trend in sustainable agriculture in Serbia called precision agriculture, which utilizes Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) and Remote Sensing to acquire detailed crop data for analysis. The WSN is made up of tens or hundreds of sensors distributed appropriately throughout crop fields. The sensors communicate through wireless signals and acquire data on a variety of factors, including:

  • Humidity
  • Soil temperature
  • Illumination
  • Plant diameter
  • Growth rate

WSN make crop monitoring much more efficient and accurate. This advanced technological solution to precision agriculture can help farmers pinpoint and address problems or weaknesses within their fields. This will enable farmers to produce more food with fewer resources and inputs.

The integration of agriculture and advanced IT solutions is an important potential source of economic growth. Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Serbia, making up almost 10 percent of its total GDP. Serbia has ideal conditions for agricultural production, with fertile soil, good climatic conditions, experienced farmers, good infrastructure and a rich farming tradition.

Serbia’s current farm structure is dominated by small farms. The country’s potential accession to the European Union may threaten the livelihood of small farmers and “farming heritage” as larger foreign competitors move into the market. Farmers must be willing and able to utilize the kind of advanced IT agricultural solutions developed by institutions like BioSense in order to increase their productivity to keep up with new competitors.

Sustainable agriculture in Serbia will be driven by research-based innovations in advanced IT solutions. BioSense’s strategies like precision agriculture and WSN would not only benefit Serbian farmers striving to drive up productivity in a more competitive agricultural market, but would contribute to the global struggle for food security.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Wikimedia Commons