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Digitalisation Has Transformed Serbia Overnight

Great results have been achieved over the past year on the introduction of eGovernment, primarily in the development of services for citizens, but also in terms of preparations for the digitalisation of services for registered businesses

The concept of digitalisation has quickly begun yielding visible results. The entire government has approached its implementation in a unified manner and the effective adoption of laws and by-laws defining and regulating this area has been ensured. On the other hand, in parallel with the development of eGovernment infrastructure, new e-services have been offered to citizens and businesses. Furthermore, the continuous growth of the ICT sector has continued.

All this has led to the fact that, in a period of just a year and a half, Serbia has been recognised at the regional and world level as a country that has been transformed “overnight” by digitalisation, says Serbian Government Office for IT and eGovernment Director Mihailo Jovanović.

What are the most important introductions that have eased the operations of businesspeople?

– Changes in ways of thinking, at least when it comes to registered businesses, is reflected in the enforcement of amendments to the Law on Companies, with which the obligation for companies to use stamps and seals has been abolished. The law revoked the provisions of as many as 10 laws and 107 by-laws in which stamps are mentioned. No institution, bank or organisation has the right any longer to demand a stamp/seal from businesses or entrepreneurs, which eases daily operations and clears the way for complete digitalisation.

With the aim of ensuring the most effective possible application of these legal amendments, the Office for IT and eGovernment has also established a contact centre intended for businesses, where all registered companies can report institutions that have demanded a stamp/seal from them. All reports are analysed by experts in this field, which form the basis for instructions to be sent to institutions regarding how to adjust to the abolishing of stamps/seals. Dozens of reports were initially received on a daily basis, but after six months they almost disappeared, which tells us that institutions have started fully respecting the abolition of stamps/seals, but also proves that this type of communication between the economy and the state is very effective.

Now that a business stamp/seal is no longer obligatory, we are addressing improvements in the efficiency and simplification of administrative procedures for registered companies in Serbia, so the ‘ePapir’ project has been launched that will initially enable the optimising and digitalising of the hundred most common administrative procedures, with communication between companies and the state conducted via an “online counter”. The digitalising of services for businesspeople will simplify procedures significantly, shortening the time required to fulfil them by reducing the number of steps and costs, as well as reducing the space for potential corruption.

Introducing the Unified Information System for Local Tax Administrations created significant benefits for businesses, citizens and the state. You’ve also announced plans for integration with the eCadastre, as well as additional improvements and new functionality to the system. What is this all about?

– Local self-government units have, for more than a decade, taking care of property taxes and other sources of public revenues, within the framework of local tax administrations. This kind of decentralisation, which was carried out hastily, under the pretext of the autonomy of local self-government, was actually a very bad move from the aspect of electronic evidence, the quality of data and the possibility for citizens, businesses and the state to have complete information from the entire territory of Serbia. Although the error was spotted quickly, numerous subsequent attempts to reunify the data ended unsuccessfully.

Mihailo Jovanović, Director of the Serbian Government Office for IT and eGovernment

However, at the initiative of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, one of the most important digitalisation projects was successfully completed in 2018 – with the formation of the Unified Information System for Local Tax Administrations, the establishing of which was worked on intensively by experts from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, the Office for IT and eGovernment and experts from all local tax administrations.

We’ve enabled citizens and businesses to access information regarding their property taxes and other sources of public revenue, as well as enabling them to apply for the determining of property taxes for private individuals and legal entities via the Portal of the Unified Information System for Local Tax Administrations, The convenience of submitting applications for the determining of property tax electronically is particularly significant for businesses, as they must repeat this procedure each year. As of this year, they will have to submit an application for determining property tax by 31st March each year by electronic means exclusively. The portal also enables the electronic payments of property taxes using any credit card, including the Serbian Dina card, integrated eBanking and eMoney.

The state also benefits greatly from this system – when all information is contained in one place, it is possible to make any kind of query in real time. With one click you receive the tax effectiveness of each Local Tax Authority: taxpayer statistics, level of annual indebtedness, payment percentages, transferred debts from the previous year. Quite simply, statistics on the percentage of success in recovering payments completed in 2018 is now available for each LTA, but also the level of success of payment when taking into account transferred commitments.

No institution, bank or organisation has the right any longer to demand a stamp/ seal from businesses or entrepreneurs

We are also working on the integration of the eCadastre with the Unified Information System of Local Tax Administrations, which will enable data on tax returns to be generated and digitalised even with a public notary during the verifying of contracts on the sale and purchase of real estate. That data is then forwarded to the real estate cadastre, and from there is sent to the appropriate electronic applications for the local tax administration, i.e. the Republic Tax Administration.

As of this spring, all tax solutions that the Unified LTA Information System starts generating will have a QR code, the scanning of which starts a simple process of instant payments. Finally, will also provide insight into tax solutions in electronic form via the portal.

When will citizens and businesses be able to use eGovernment services via their mobile devices?

– The Office is working on the implementation of an electronic identification system aligned with the new Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trusted Services in Electronic Business. The key is that – in addition to existing methods of electronic identification (at the basic level with an account and password, at the high level with a qualified electronic certificate) – a medium level will also be enabled, in the form of a dual-factor identification method (with an account and password, but also an additional channel of confirmation via a mobile device).

In accordance with the Law on eGovernment, the Office is also obliged to establish the identity of a federation of state portals, which means that it will be sufficient for users to identify themselves on this new eGovernment portal and from there they will be able to use all the services of other state portals. Finally, we will also offer other providers of electronic identities the identity of a federation – telecoms operators or commercial banks, for the mutual recognition of identities to allow us to enable their users to use eGovernment services.

More than 150,000 children have so far been registered through the system “Baby, Welcome to the World”, while the implementation of the second phase of the project enables applications for parental allowance. How much does this possibly mean to parents?

– All eGovernment information systems made operational in the past year and a half have been monitored by detailed analysis of the results achieved. We have information confirming great savings, not only in terms of time but also in terms of money spent while moving from counter to counter.

The system “Baby, Welcome to the World” allows parents – while still in the maternity ward – to register their children with the birth register, register their place of residence, apply for a health card and for parental allowance

The information system “Baby, Welcome to the World” allows parents – while still in the maternity ward – to register their children with the birth register, register their place of residence, apply for a health card and, as of last year, apply for parental allowance, and to do all of that in just 10 minutes, in communication with a healthcare worker. Everything is completed without a need to visit any counter – and parents previously had to visit as many as seven.

To what extent have inspection services in Serbia been using the eInspector platform so far and how are their experiences? When are all inspection services expected to switch to this way of working?

Mihailo Jovanović, Director of the Serbian Government Office for IT and eGovernment– With the introduction of the eInspector information system, we’ve ensured better coordination between inspections, automation and more effective supervision, the standardisation of work, data accessibility for all inspectorates and, with all of that, a reduction in costs for businesses.

Trial work has been launched for the first four pilot inspections – Sanitary Inspection, Market Inspection, the Inspectorate for Labour and the Administrative Inspectorate, which employ around 800 inspectors, and by summer the Office will include another 32 inspection services in the eInspector system. Now we can see with a single click what inspectors are doing in the scope of their regular or extraordinary supervision activities, how many companies they’ve visited, while those subjected to inspections can access all results of inspection supervision electronically, via the eGovernment Portal.

Serbia received a unique record of citizens in electronic form for the first time at the end of last year. How demanding was the work required to establish this?

– Statistics on citizens of Serbia have been managed in different ways and within the scope of different competencies over the past 70 years. This project represented one of the most demanding tasks within the framework of the public administration digitalisation project, or the establishing of electronic records with citizen data within the framework of the e-government system in Serbia.

This means that citizens no longer have to carry certificates of citizenship from one counter to another, rather this electronic record is available to all state administration and local self-government officials, within the scope of the Central System of Records of the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government. Within the framework of this system, data from three registries is maintained – birth, marriage and death – while a unique electronic record of citizenship has established as a fourth – registry of citizens.

With this project, all electronic records of registries in Serbia have been completed for the first time. Following the establishment of records, we were confronted by very poor data quality, with many entries lacking a JMBG [unique citizen identification number], so we are faced by the significant job of improving the quality, which is being worked on by both the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.