During the times in which we live, it is sometimes difficult to read whether we’ve just witnessed something that will later prove to be the embryonic start of a major change – in the fight against climate change, in the launching of economic wars, or in an attempt to establish political dialogue and set boundaries between the honourable and the dishonourable – or we routinely bowed our heads. Here’s what our interlocutors think about that
Revolution or Routine: What is your opinion on the waning 2019 and the coming 2020?
Although it essentially boils down to turning a page on a calendar, the end of one year and the beginning of the next gives us reason to reflect on what is almost behind us and what awaits us. Judging by the answers of our interlocutors, there are numerous questions we are unable to think beyond – from our own doorstep to the planet as our common home. And none of them are routine.
PhD. Chancellor of the University of Belgrade
We will remember the year behind us for the creation of very significant new international academic partnerships, for the setting of standards in cases of possible academic dishonesty and the adoption of laws that should improve the state of science in Serbia and advance the work of researchers. I expect us to also continue advancing in 2020
The year that’s coming to end certainly hasn’t been a routine one, while it remains to be seen whether it was a revolutionary one. I’d rather talk about evolution than revolution. The past year has been significant for the University of Belgrade for many reasons.
The Republic of Serbia became a programme country of the Erasmus+ programme, and the University of Belgrade, along with several other higher education institutions in Serbia, received the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education. Transitioning from the status of partner country to programme country has created opportunities to increase the number of students, teachers, researchers and associates who will participate in international exchanges with foreign universities. The Law on the Science Fund and the Law on Science and Research have been adopted, which provide an opportunity to improve the state of science in Serbia and to ensure the work of researchers under more dynamic conditions.
The University of Belgrade has been accepted, following an invitation, into the prestigious CESAER academic network, which is dedicated to excellence and collaboration in the technical and natural sciences. Of particular importance is the fact that the University of Belgrade became a member of Circle U, the European university alliance. In addition to us, its members also include the University of Oslo, Aarhus University, the University of Paris, the Catholic University of Leuven, Kings College London and Humboldt University in Berlin (https: // www.circle-u.eu/).
This alliance of research universities strives to create academic partnerships dedicated to top quality in teaching and research. This is an exceptional opportunity for the University of Belgrade to advance all aspects of its work. During this year we’ve continued negotiations with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, in order to finally resolve adequately the spatial problems of several UB faculties. I believe that during 2020 we will see the launch of the construction of new facilities. Preparations are underway for the European University Games in Belgrade, which we expect thousands of student-athletes from all European countries to participate in during July 2020. This occasion will also see the University of Belgrade host the Chancellors’ Conference on University Sport, at which we host around 150 European university chancellors. The previous period has seen the University of Belgrade devote a great deal of attention to developing procedures for cases of possible academic dishonesty. We finalised several such cases during this year, with which we demonstrated that UB can successfully address and overcome negative phenomena. In 2020 I expect UB to continue progressing and to use its activities to fulfil its role as a university of national importance.
Director of the Open Society Foundation Serbia
Three Points – Large Ones
Three important junctures that will determine our future are – the choice for us to casually accept invasions into our privacy, the ability to clearly define ourselves according to our European destiny and winning space for political dialogue
The first, global point – The Routine Revolution. I believe that could be remembered by many at the mention 2of 019. The routine revolution is seen in the field of the media, with the inseparable linking of politics and populism, new technologies, artificial intelligence and everything that’s being prepared for us in the coming years. This is also in short an answer to what lies ahead of us. The extent to which Serbia will be in the midst of this revolution can also be seen in the fact that we so easily accepting giving up part of our privacy to huge companies, such as Huawei, without much mindfulness for privacy, with thousands of cameras happily watching us around cities all over Serbia. Populism to the max.
What somehow fails to gain real significance are human rights, which must necessarily be returned to all of those mentioned, both in politics and in the media, and in the future of artificial intelligence. With the great opportunities given to us by new technologies, there must also be a strong movement that understands technology, restrains it, and returns it into the framework of human rights.
The second, European point – Institutions of the European Union. As we are still living under the cap of Europe, the previous year will be remembered, viewed from our navel, as the year in which the European Parliament was elected and, with major torment, the new European Commission was formed. The word enlargement was used in European politics either as a rude word or as an ideal to be aspired towards. In this light, 2020 must necessarily be a year in which messages are clearly sent to our region informing us about where we will be in the next decade. Will there be enough homework assignments and difficult decisions to make? One of those difficult decisions will also be to leave regional conflicts behind, conflicts with neighbours and all the other chicanery that easily get you votes in elections – perhaps not the most numerous votes, but definitely the loudest.
It will also compel us to abandon sweet habits from the ‘90s, such as the one whereby laws and institutions don’t exist, while the rule of law is somewhere far away. Which topics we will turn to – whether a green new agreement, i.e. the Green New Deal that Europe is now also offering for us in the Western Balkans, or whether we’ll return to our old quarrels and hostilities – is up to us to decide, and to send that message to a Europe that’s slowly reforming.
The third, domestic point – The Battle for dialogue. In our society that is deeply polarised, conquering space for dialogue seems like an impossible mission, but we should in no way give up. We launched a dialogue on 30th July at the Faculty of Political Science, an institution that’s expected to lead discussions of the most important processes in society. I remind you that the university is a constitutional category, hidden in Article 72. Upcoming elections in March, April or May of 2020 will certainly provide an opportunity – together with the professors of this faculty and organisations that have been monitoring elections for years – to address topics that are important to citizens, from the media, which I’ve already mentioned, to the pressure exerted on voters, and without listing what has been said openly in the National Assembly since the summer and to this day. Now, with the support of the European Parliament, MPs from the old parliament, but also new envoys for Serbia. The battle for dialogue can also be transferred to the prosecution, with which there must be the discussion of the cases that it will lead during the election campaign, but also now.
To conclude with a new notion that has entered our homes via the front, i.e. what the British would refer to as “our house”, which is the term Chatham House. Specifically, on 30th July, when we started our little campaign at the Faculty of Political Sciences, it was the exact centenary of the annual general meeting of this institution in London. Thus, any similarity to actual events is coincidental.
Theatre Director, Playwright, Writer, Drama Professor and Diplomat
Creativity Is The Greatest Enemy Of Routine
I will remember this year for the adherence to routine, and I’m afraid I will be able to easily repeat this text for the next year, rounded off with two twos and two zeros, or two twenties. What do you think?
Year as years, all are one more and simultaneously one less in a person’s life. We remember them mainly for deliberate slippages from the routine course of life, or for unexpected deviations from that which is predicted. And those who try to stick uniformly to their life routine, either reduce everything down to the essentials, when they realise that the course of their life is not straight and fixed but rather meandering, with many intersections and abrupt turnarounds. But they nevertheless continue to seek for their lives to be a quiet haven for their inherited and acquired habits. But even when the flow of life is purposefully drawn towards a proven model, programmed according to recipes for success, we mostly sustain ourselves in life and in our memory, we are left with our own willing and unwilling deviations from that planned composition. These deviations disrupt the routine, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes by the measure and effort of the individual, sometimes by the will and want of the group, or the larger community, all the way to the state. And these personal and social deviations from the routine, these turnarounds that we cause, or suffer, that we advocate for, or deny, significantly mark the years, and even this one, which is quickly counting down to its end.
However, it seems to me that there is a paradox regarding routine and human behaviour towards it. Routines and revolutions are not two complete opposites. It is true that rebellion sometimes boils over and causes some important changes, but it sometimes happens that it also moves slightly into the political routine. Not every change of government, or unionised revolt of workers, is a revolution.
Not every coup changes the legal routine from the root. Routine and creativity are much more mutually exclusive. In routine, a person seeks and finds stability and ease of choice. Routine is, by definition, strict adherence to the accustomed (or inherited) order of things, and is not afraid of stimulation. On the contrary, it endeavours to take the proven path and in that sees personal and social maturity. In contrast, creativity creates afresh, tests and rearranges. That’s why routine has a mortal fear of imagination, of play and innovations. Routine mostly lives from repetition and from a way of thinking once adopted, building, living and enjoying. Creativity brings all of this into question. And the paradox is in the fact that man knows all of this, and even though it is clear to him that routine is at the same time a self-satisfying reduction of the will for progress, he strives for it wholeheartedly. It is for him a synonym for mastery, for success in life, for order and peace, for an orderly state, for loyalty to roots. Those who nonetheless rule by routine also, as a rule, have the trust of the majority. Creativity, in contrast, is valued only by exception, and that criterion is most often usurped by politics.
It is for this adherence to a routine that I will remember this year, and I’m afraid that I will be able to easily repeat this text for the next one, rounded off by two twos and two zeros, or two twenties. I don’t know whether numerology relies on routine, or on creativity. What do you think?
And to look back again at the year that is breathing its last on our hands, because I can’t help but think of all the dear friends who we’ve said a final goodbye to this year. How cruel and unjust a fact is a death, blind to all qualities, to all feelings, to all the opportunities that have ceased for these people. They will be kept deep in memory.
President of JBAS and Director of Corporate Affairs for the Western Balkans at Japan Tobacco International
The Essence Is In Kaisen
Our Keyword For 2019-2020 Is “kaizen”, As A Form Of Constant Progress And Evolution. And The Gradual But Important Advances Made By The Serbian Government Show That The Key To Progress Is Improvement And Perseverance On A Daily Basis
I’m afraid that the question misses a third way: Kaizen. That’s the Japanese philosophy of daily advancements that happen through little, persistent steps in the long run. In many areas, 2019 was part of the gradual improvements taking place in Serbia.
The most important thing for our company is a stable business environment, as well as the fight against the grey economy. According to the FIC White Book, the pace of the adoption of reformist laws that aim to harmonise legislation with the EU and world standards accelerated by seven per cent, but we also expect this trend to accelerate further in 2020. Thanks to the decisive steps taken by the Government of Serbia, the scope of the grey economy is today at a lower level than it was five years ago – its share of GDP has been reduced, according to research conducted by Germany’s GIZ and NALED, from 21.2% to 15.4%. Contributions to reducing the grey economy have come through the improvement of the business environment and macroeconomic stability, growth of registered GDP, recovery of the labour market, as well as improvements to the work of inspections and the more efficient collection of tax revenue. So, this is one good example of Kaizen advancement.
A good example of cooperation between the economy and the state is certainly provided by the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia, JBAS, as an association of all Japanese companies operating in Serbia and our traditional partners. Its basic objective is to explore the enormous potential of economic cooperation between Japan and Serbia, but also to use its experience to assist in advancing regulations in Serbia.
Thus, our keyword for 2019-2020 is “kaizen”, as constant progress and evolution. That’s also the case with Japan Tobacco International. This year we marked 20 years of doing business at the global level, and at the local level, we’ve invested an additional three million dollars in the launching of a new production line at our Senta plant. With this investment, we enabled the production of new brands in Serbia, but also achieved a positive impact on Serbia’s trade exchange balance.
Professor Žarko Korać
PhD. Psychologist and Politician
The Battle is Within Us
Climate change and the outbreak of new economic wars, on the one hand, and the unstoppable globalisation of culture on the other, remind us as we stand on the threshold of 2020 that both images of man exist, or perhaps more precisely that they are two quite different parts of his nature. We will see which of them will prevail
The year that’s just coming to an end has been relatively calm from the standpoint of world peace, but quite dramatic from the standpoint of new problems that are emerging. The first of these is environmental. It is quite obvious that global warming hints at dramatic changes to the global climate that is caused primarily by irresponsible human behaviour. All of that’s not really new, but it has started to worsen almost exponentially. The question is how much humanity is willing to partially limit economic growth for some time due to the worst pollutants, in order to switch to environmentally acceptable forms of industry and agriculture. I, unfortunately, think that awareness about that is only just starting to change and influence political decisions. The U.S. withdrawal from the so-called Paris Agreement is a blow to that effort, as it is a clear example of how the logic of profit counteracts efforts to secure the future of humanity. And of course, this isn’t just about the U.S.
A second problem is the outbreak of more serious economic wars on the world market, the victims of which could easily be smaller countries and their economies. And that can lead to more serious political crises. This is unfortunately also happening in Europe, and the migration crisis has shaken Europe and led to a new rise in xenophobia and nationalism. Who would have said that some of the countries behind the former “Iron Curtain” would fence themselves off from migrants with razor wire. Such wire was once directed against them, while now they use it against others.
There have been no major democratic changes in our region; the people who lead us are completely incapable of addressing the challenges of the times. Not a single serious problem was solved this year, and I doubt any will be solved during the next one. Nationalist rhetoric is on the rise and that’s all. We still remain the most backward region of Europe, despite huge propaganda suggesting that we are rapidly changing for the better.
Criminals are still heroes and politicians are petty demagogues disinterested in change. The consequence is that young people are leaving and we are becoming societies of the elderly that have ever less capacity for change.
Of course, life always carries the potential for change, and for the better. Fortunately, science is one of the drivers of change, as is the internet and increasingly globalised society, where information spreads rapidly and independently of national borders.
Culture and art can no longer be hindered nationally and they truly have a global reach. Europe has been rejecting religious dogmas since the mid-17th century and became increasingly strongly based on the idea of a man who develops science and rationally considers the world. Society changed rapidly, only for the French revolution to bring the idea of complete human equality and fraternity. But at the very start of the 20th century, a great and initially isolated thinker emerged, who warned of the irrationality of man and his essentially instinctive nature. That was Sigmund Freud.
And thus on the threshold of 2020, both images of man exist, or perhaps the two starkly different parts of his nature. We’ll see what we will say picturesquely to prevail. I have the impression that next year will not differ much from this one.