Investments in the environment in Serbia remain insufficient for the effective implementation of the acquis related to Chapter 27. Budget allocations for this area are not only limited, but are also not clear enough. For example, the Green Fund budget line was abolished in the Budget of the Republic of Serbia for 2021 (NARS, 2021) without prior explanation. Up to its abolition, the Fund had remained inoperative, because bylaws needed to operationalize the use of the funds were not adopted.
The previous reporting period was marked by the strong influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens’ rights to take part in decision making processes related to the environment. In many cases, citizens’ right to attend public debates on various projects and plans was limited or completely denied (in some cases, police prevented the public form attending public debates). Moreover, the competent authorities’ work was additionally slowed and made more difficult due to public servants working remotely. As part of the shift to working online that the pandemic has required, some processes were organised online, however regulation on public participation haven’t been fully applied in these cases.
Legislative activity, as in the previous period, was at a minimum, and slowed down further due to the pandemic. The necessary Amendments to the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and the Law on Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment have yet to be adopted. A draft of the IV Aarhus Implementation Report was prepared but was not adopted in 2020.
In 2020, the Government failed to adopt any significant documents related to air quality. The Air Protection Strategy, as a framework document, has still not been adopted, and the implementation of the NERP, as well as obligations to the Energy Community, are delayed or not fully implemented. Additionally, many local self-governments have fallen behind schedule in developing local air protection policies, or have no plans to develop such policies at all. Reports by the Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), as well as reports by other institutions responsible for air quality monitoring in local networks, lead to the conclusion that the official air quality assessment for most urban environments in Serbia is “excessively polluted”.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Serbia’s authorities focused on measures to protect public health and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Large amounts of waste face masks and gloves were generated, as well as packaging for various kinds of disinfectants. The Government has not adopted any legal act to regulate the appropriate disposal of these kinds of waste.
The total amount of waste generated in 2019 was slightly less than twelve million tonnes. This is a slight increase compared to 2018 and is due to the slightly increased amount of waste generated by construction and demolition at facilities for waste and communal waste treatment.
Hazardous waste accounted for 0.6% to 1.3% of total waste in the period 2011-2019. In 2019, hazardous waste accounted for 0.7% of total waste. The amount of stored communal waste grew by about sixty thousand tonnes in 2019 compared to 2018. A large amount of waste is still stored in unsanitary landfills.
The previous year did not bring any significant progress in the strategic and legislative framework of the water sector. The Water Management Plan, as one of the key documents for further progress in this area and harmonization with EU practices, has still not been published. The Plan was developed through an EU twinning project. The publication of the draft was announced for the end of 2020; however, this has still not taken place. One positive step was the drafting of an action plan for the implementation of the Water Management Strategy, but this has also not yet been adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia.
The year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic has not brought progress in the field of nature protection, while problems caused by human activities that put pressure on nature have intensified. In 2020, the necessary progress in the strategic and legislative framework has failed to materialize. The Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Nature Protection has not been adopted. There have also been no amendments to domestic regulations in order to harmonize them with those of the European Union, which should provide better species protection.
Strategic documents in this area have not been adopted. At the same time, the process of drafting the Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia from 2021to 2035 will begin, and will introduce a new planning approach to resolving the conflict between nature protection and other sectors, especially tourism.
The legislative framework created by the adoption of the Law on Chemicals, the Law on Biocidal Products, and the relevant bylaws, has established a system of
chemicals management in Serbia in accordance with EU principles.
Regarding updating of regulations, only the Rulebook on the List of Classified Substances was updated during the reporting period. The new Law on Biocidal Products has yet to be adopted two years after it was drafted, while the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern, the List of Substances of Concern (Authorization List), the Rulebook on Restrictions/Bans on Production, Placing on the Market and Use of Chemicals, have not been updated.
The action plans for the National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention have yet to be adopted –and as of this year have become obsolete –as they are projected until 2020. No decision has yet been made on the ratification of the Minamata Convention.
There were no significant changes in the period covered by this report. The new Law on Environmental Noise Protection has not yet been adopted. There has been some progress in enforcing regulations. The City of Belgrade has begun the project Acoustic Zoning of the City, and Studies on the conditions that must be met by the hospitality sector in order to protect against noise on the territory of Belgrade. The City of Novi Sad has made plans to develop a Strategic Noise Map for the entire territory of the city, but the precise start and end dates have not been defined.
During the reporting period, legislative activity was at a minimum. The Law on Climate Change was adopted after the reporting period (March 2021). The Law, in the form in which it was adopted, cannot be implemented without the adoption of a large number of bylaws. The Low-carbon Development Strategy has not been adopted, the drafting of the National Energy and Climate Plan has not started, and the Nationally Determined Contributions have not been adopted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work on the UNFCCC report was halted during 2020.
The rate of implementation of the Acquis in the field of climate change has been low. The application of regulations is of limited scope, as there is no clear legal and strategic framework. However, the implementation of other sectoral policies (such as energy and spatial and urban planning) indicates that climate change is far from being sufficiently integrated into other sectors. There has been a noticeable increase in funding for projects in the field of climate change, although a stable system of financing environmental protection and climate change is still not in place.
The previous period did not bring significant progress in the field of forestry. In 2020, there were no significant activities on preparing and adopting strategic and
legal documents in this area. The Forestry Development Program, as the basic strategic document provided for under the Law on Forests, has still not been adopted, nor is there available information on when its development and adoption will take place.
Serbia’s readiness to implement two EU regulations relevant to forestry, the FLEGT regulation (EC, 2005) regulating the import of wood products into the EuropeanUnionand the EUTRregulation(EU, 2010) regulating trade in wood and wood products, are still assessed as low, and an adequate legal and administrative framework for implementation is lacking.
Serbia has a relatively low forest area, about 30%, and in this respect lags behind the countries of the region and Europe. Despite ambitious goals for increasing forest coverage, no significant progress in afforestation is evident. On the contrary, in the last few years, there has been a decrease in the area afforested annually.
Industrial Pollution and Risk Management
Untreated industrial wastewater is one of the key sources of surface and groundwater pollution in the Republic of Serbia. The biggest polluters are the Smederevo Ironworks, the Nikola Tesla Thermal Power Plants A and B, Zorka Sabac, the Kostolac Thermal Power Plant, the Bor and Sjenica mines and the Kolubara open pit mine. There are very few industrial pollutants that treat their wastewater.
Serbia must also solve the problem of “historical” pollution: hazardous and industrial waste left in companies that have gone bankrupt or are in bankruptcy, and which do not have the means to solve this problem. In the past period, the legislative framework has not changed, and there have been no consultations with the civil sector regarding the change of regulations.