Serbia Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Serbia:

  1. Handling Migration

Between January and end of July 2018, Serbia registered 4,715 asylum seekers, compared to 3,538 during the same period in 2017. Pakistanis comprised the largest national group in 2018, followed by Afghans and Iranians. By the end of July, UNHCR estimated that there were approximately 6,098 asylum seekers and other migrants present in Serbia, compared to 4,700 in August 2017. Serbia adopted a new law on asylum and temporary protection last March. The aim of this law was to put Serbian legislation to international and EU standards and includes victims of gender, gender identity and gender-based violence and improved provisions for unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking children. Also, it covers detention of asylum seekers, restriction of free movement and accelerated asylum procedures. The process for asylum determination remained inadequate with low recognition rates and long delays before decisions were made. Between January and August, 151 asylum seekers lodged applications in Serbia, and authorities granted refugee status to only nine but subsidiary protection to 14. Over the past decade, Serbia has only granted refugee status to a total of 53 people and subsidiary protection to 74. As a result, there was little progress towards durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons from the Balkan wars living in Serbia. According to the Serbian Commissioner for Refugees and Migration, as of July, there were 26,702 such refugees in Serbia, compared to 27,802 during the same period in 2017, most from Croatia, and 199,584 internally displaced people.


  1. Poverty

One out of four Serbians live under the poverty line. Municipalities in the southern part of the country have a higher poverty incidence than the North. The estimated A Risk of Poverty (ARoP) rate ranges from 4.8 percent in Novi Beograd in the Belgrade Region, to 66.1 percent in Tutin in the region of Šumadija and Western Serbia. This rate ranges from 13 percent in Medijana to more than 63 percent in Bojnik. Some areas with high ARoP incidences also have many poor people, and a great number of poor people are in densely populated parts of the country. The lowest rate of poverty is seen in the ages over 65 and is 21.3%. Based on the employment status, 50.6% of the unemployed are below or below the poverty line. For employees, this figure stands at 6.8%, for freelancers at 35.5% and for pensioners at 17.5%.


  1. Unemployment

Unemployment is another big issue in Serbia. Data from the National Statistical Office of Serbia (RZS) provides that one in four people is experiencing a serious survival problem, warns RZS, pointing out that children, teenagers, the unemployed and rural residents are at greatest risk. With higher unemployment levels there are less people able to afford necessary purchases such as food. Official figures for 2017 show that 25.7% of the population is at or below the poverty line. If monthly earnings alone are taken as a measure of calculation, this figure reaches 36.7%. The poverty line is drawn at 15600 dinars (130 euros) for a family with one member, 28080 (234 euros) for a couple with one child and 32760 dinars (273 euros) for a couple with two children. With regard to age, the greatest risk is experienced by children and young persons, with the poverty rate is 30.5% and 29.7% respectively. 


  1. Health Issues

Healthcare system in Serbia is ineffective and fundamentally unsuccessful, while the healthcare services are not available to everyone equally. The total expenditure for healthcare in Serbia stands at 10.38% of the national GDP which is significantly higher than Montenegro and just slightly above the EU average. However, these figures do not include only health expenditures in state healthcare facilities, but also in private ones which stand at around 40% compared to the EU average of close to 20%. For every 100,000 people there are 308 general practitioners, which is less than 360, the EU average (this number is significantly higher in Austria and the Netherlands, i.e. above 400). Serbia is also close to the European average in terms of available equipment, scanners, mammograms and MRIs. However, Serbia also has considerably fewer assistance staff like nurses and technicians which number 628 per 100,000 people. In the EU, the average is almost twice (1,199), while in the Netherlands, which is considered to have a high quality healthcare system, this number stands at 1,441, indicating that hospital care in Serbia is far below in quality compared to other countries. In 2016, life expectancy in Serbia was 75.5 years, or 78 for women and 73 for men. The EU average is 5.5 years higher, while the population of Montenegro and Macedonia both have a longer life expectancy. Serbia seeks to improve this figure as it is aiming to integrate with the remaining EU member states by 2025.


  1. Waste Management

Serbia is suggesting a transitional period of 11 years to meet EU standards for waste management. The country unfortunately does not have complete and reliable data in this sector, where needs for investment are estimated to be around 4 billion euros. According to the text of the Waste Management Strategy 2010-2019, the current situation at local governments in Serbia is characterized by unreliable and incomplete data on quantities of generated municipal waste. Nevertheless, according to a report by the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) on waste management in the 2011-2017 period, a total of 2.15 million metric tons of waste was generated, of which 1.80 million metric tons, or 83.7%, was collected by municipal public utilities. The median daily amount of municipal waste landfilled per capita was 0.84 kg, and the annual figure was 0.30 metric tons. However, this does not include some 20% of generated municipal waste which ends up in illegal dump sites and waste figures have the potential to be larger than estimated. Serbia aims to join the EU by 2025. Its two largest cities, Belgrade and Novi Sad, dump raw sewage directly into the Danube and Sava rivers and the country has countless unregulated landfills. According to the environment minister Goran Trivan, however, the problem offers investment opportunities. Serbia says it will not meet EU environmental and climate change demands by the target date and has proposed an 11-year transition period from when it joins the EU. The EU’s medium-term goals are to recycle 50 percent of municipal waste by this year and around 65 percent by 2035, sending less than 10 percent to landfill. In comparison, Serbia recycles only around 3 percent of its municipal waste and up to 40 percent of packaging, far from the 65 percent required by the EU by 2025, according to Kristina Cvejanov, the director of Belgrade’s EkoStarPak waste management company.