Country profile (Serbia )
What distinguishes the country?
What are the factors that distinguish Republic of Serbia from many other countries?
Serbia is located in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula, on the most important route linking Europe and Asia. Occupying an area of 88 361 km2, Serbia is referred to as the cross-roads of Europe – international roads and railways pass through with its river valleys providing the shortest link between Western and Central Europe, and the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The republic comprises Central Serbia and two autonomous regions: AP Vojvodina of 21 506 km2 and AP Kosovo and Metohija of 10 887 km2. Since June 1999, AP Kosovo and Metohija have been under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
Serbia is situated in the Central-European, Balkan, Pannonian, and Danube region. It is relatively rich in agricultural land – about 58 % of the total area, forest – about 29 %, and landscape diversity, and has high levels of biodiversity.
Of Serbia’s surface water resources 92 % are transitional while the rest are internally generated. Specific runoff and runoff coefficient are both quite low and periods of high rainfall and water demand are not synchronised, resulting in very complex water management-related issues. The total capacity of the groundwater resources is about 23 m3/second and one third of this is used for industry and household supply. There are around 350 registered natural springs and wells of thermal mineral water, and about 60 spa sites with 48 registered spa centres.
The diverse landscape, climate and hydrography create very rich ecosystem diversity. Five of 12 world biomes and of six Europe's biomes are represented in Serbia. Its territory also represents a significant centre of diversity of endemic flora of the Balkan Peninsula. The total area protected is about 6.6 % of the country.
Natural and cultural patrimony under international protection are: eight Ramsar sites, one Biosphere reserve, many Important Bird Areas, Important Plant Areas and Prime Butterfly Areas (IBA, IPA and PBA), and seven UNESCO World Heritage cultural and natural sites. (Source: Serbian Environmental Protection Agency – SEPA)
The climate can be described as moderate-continental with more or less pronounced local characteristics (Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia). The spatial distribution of climate parameters results from geographic location, relief and local influences with a variety of land types, river systems, vegetation, urbanisation, etc. Geographic characteristics significant for the weather and climate of Serbia include the Alps, the Mediterranean Sea and Genoa Bay, the Pannonia plain and the valley of the Morava, the Carpathian and Rodopi mountains as well as hilly-mountainous areas with ravines and highland plains. The prevailing north-south alignment of river ravines and plains in the northern area of the country make possible the deep southward intrusion of polar air masses.
The average annual air temperature for the period 1961-1990 for areas with an altitude of up to 300 m above sea level was 10.9 oC. Areas at 300-500 m have average annual temperature of around 10 oC, and those over 1 000 m around 6 oC.
Average annual precipitation increases with altitude, from 540 to 820 mm in lower regions to 700 to 1 000 mm in areas above 1 000 m, and up to 1 500 mm on some mountain summits in the southwestern part . Most of Serbia has a continental precipitation regime except the southwestern parts where the highest precipitation is in autumn. June is the rainiest month, February and October the driest. Snow cover is from November to March, and heaviest in January.
Annual totals of solar radiation range from 1 500 to 2 200 hours.
Surface air circulation is to a large extent caused by orography. Winds from the northwest and west prevail in the warmer part of the year, and east and southeast winds, koshava, dominate during the colder part of the year. Winds from the southwest prevail in mountainous part of southwestern Serbia.
The number of inhabitants has decreased constantly and gradually since 1991. In 2008 there were 7 365 507, an average of 95 /km2 – excluding statistics from the autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija, of whom around 60 % live in urban areas. Since the 1990's there has been an ever greater difference between deaths and births, which contributes to this negative trend. Also, the Index of ageing of population has increased, from 69.0 % in 1991 to 103.2 % in 2007. (Index of ageing which value over 40 index points that population is old. It is estimated on the basis of relation of number of inhabitants aged over 60 and number of inhabitants aged from 0 to 19. Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia – SORS, Statistical Yearbook of Serbia, 2009).
Macro-economic stability was achieved between 2001 and 2008, as well as sustainable and stable economic development. There was dynamic annual growth of gross domestic product (GDP), 5.4 % on average, liberalisation of commerce, and an accelerated process of privatisation. Currently the sectors with the fastest annual growth are transport, 16 %; trade, 14 %; and finance, 5.5 %. In 2008, services generated 64.2 % of gross value added (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS).
In 2008, GDP, at market prices, was €34.3 billion and GDP per person €4 669.4. The influx of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2008 was US$ 2.72 billion, about US$ 200 million more than in 2007(Source: Serbian Economic Diagram, Republic Development Bureau - RDB, 2009).
The processes of transition and privatisation continue to influence the rise of unemployment, which, at around 23 %, was very high in 2008.
The Republic of Serbia has a three-layered administrative and self-government structure. The competencies of the different state functions are divided between national, provincial and municipal authorities.
In central government, the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning is responsible for the development and implementation of environmental policy at the national level. In 2004 the government established the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), within the ministry responsible for environmental protection. The main priority of SEPA is to collect and process data on all environmental matters, create the National Environmental Information System and disseminate reliable information to policy makers, international institutions, the EEA being first amongst them, and to the possible widest spectrum of public clients. The Fund for Environmental Protection was established in 2005. Other public organisations subordinate to the ministry are the Institute for Protection of Nature and the Agency for Spatial Planning. Environment-related issues are also covered by other ministries in line with their duties defined by law: Office of Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, Ministry of Energy and Mining, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Health, etc. There are also many state organisations that focus on various environmental topics, from environmental monitoring to statistical data collection, management and publishing – the Statistical Office, Hydrometeorological Institute, Public Health Institute, etc.
At the provincial level, the AP of Vojvodina has a provincial secretariat for environmental protection and sustainable development. The AP of Kosovo-Metohija is according to resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council (1999) under the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK), and is not covered in this chapter. At the local municipality level, there are also secretariats responsible for environmental protection.
Transformation from communist to democratic system
Serbia started the intense transformation and reform of its legislative and social democratisation in 2001. Today, Serbia is a democratic state, as defined in its Constitutional Law. The political system is based on the multi-party parliamentary democracy concept. Local governance is organised on the principle of local self-government.
In the past eight years Serbia has continued to develop into a modern European state. Reforms during this period have led to the reduction of corruption, increased capacity to manage the overall development as well as improved institutional building. A new Constitutional Law was enacted in 2006, emphasising and guaranteeing democratic freedoms and rights, ending the concept of public ownership while introducing a wide range of possibilities for the private sector and the development of a market economy (Source: Report on Development of Serbia 2008, Republic Development Bureau - RDB, 2009, and National Millennium Development Goals in Republic of Serbia, Serbian Government, 2006).
What have been the major societal developments?
What have been the major societal developments since 1980 compared with the period 1950-1980?
Serbia is participating in the EU’s Stabilisation and Association Process. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed, along with the Interim Agreement, in April 2008. In advance of a decision by the EU and following ratification of the SAA by the Serbian parliament, in January 2009, Serbia started to implement the provisions of the Interim Agreement. (Source: Commission of the European Communities, Progress report - Serbia 2009)
Serbia has made important progress in the areas of justice, freedom and security and has fulfilled most of the roadmap benchmarks. Lifting of the visa obligation for Serbian citizens was introduced in December 2009.
The EU is providing guidance to the Serbian authorities on reform priorities as part of the European Partnership (Source: Council Decision 2008/213/EC). The Serbian government has begun to implement a national programme for integration into the EU. As a potential candidate for EU membership, Serbia aligned itself with 93 Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP) declarations from a total of 128 relevant declarations adopted by the EU during the reporting period.
Progress in Environmental Management in Serbia
Progress has been made in environmental management, notably with the adoption of a large package of laws and the ratification of several international conventions in 2009 – the Aarhus Convention, Rotterdam Convention and Amendment to Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol. Serbia has taken further steps in approximating to the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) by adopting the rulebook on conditions and procedures for acquiring the right to use the eco-label. Concerning climate change, administrative structures to implement the Kyoto Protocol are being established. However, the national strategy for inclusion in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol and the greenhouse gas inventory needs to be finalised. (Source: Commission of the European Communities, Progress report - Serbia 2009)
The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency works closely with the European Environment Agency on the European environment information and observation network. However, it still lacks the capacity to ensure proper implementation of the integrated monitoring strategy. Budgetary resources for environmental protection remain low.
Transformation from centrally planned economy to market economy
Political and other events in Serbia and its environs during the last decade of the 20th century had a dramatic influence on economic activities. Serbia’s GDP fell significantly in the 1990s, and by 2000 per capita GDP was about half the 1989 level. Since 2000, GDP has increased steadily, and in 2007 it was nearly 45 % higher than in 2000. GDP growth in 2008 was 5.5 %. (Source: UNECE, 2ND Environmental Performance Review Republic of Serbia, 2007; and Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS)
Dynamic growth of Serbia's GDP in the transition period was due mainly to the significant increase in the services sector, which grew by an average of 7 % per year. The commercial and transport sectors also showed considerable growth, as did the financial sector. In 2008, the service sector generated 64 % of gross value added in Serbia. As a result of several years of restructuring and privatisation, the industrial sector grew significantly slower and its contribution to gross value added fell from 27 % to 20 %. An increased contribution from the agricultural sector and a reduced contribution from the industrial sector represent the major difference in structure of gross value added between Serbia and the rest of the countries in the region, in the transition period. (Source: SORS and RDB).
Macroeconomic instabilities and threats were obvious during this period, due to the lack of appropriate institutional structures and high public expenditure, slowing the EU integration process.
The Republic of Serbia became an independent state in 2006, after the dissolution of its federation with Montenegro. Montenegro disconnected its economy from Serbia’s in 2003, and the formal break-up of the State Union therefore probably had little real impact on either economy.
Uncontrolled urbanisation and reduction of agricultural land during the past few decades created a significant pressure on the environment, particularly in cities, while the rural population decreased. During the period 1950-1990, the percentage of urban settlements in the total number of settlements increased from 1.3 % to 3.6 %, whilst the urban population increased its share of the total population from 22 % to 57 %, showing the increased concentration of the population in a few large cities. Obviously, the greatest pressure was on suburban areas, where the largest problem was a lack of communal infrastructure. (Source: SEPA)
In the last decade of the 20th century, the very difficult economic situation, as well as population migration, led to a significant deterioration of the quality of life in urban areas. Over the past 20 years the increase in the number of urban settlements was less than the increase in the urban population itself.
The situation in suburban zones was even worse because of illegal construction and in many cases their population still lives without such elementary infrastructure as fresh water, sewerage systems and electricity. In the last couple of years many projects have focused on solving these problems.
Information from the CORINE Land Cover 2000 programme shows that urban settlement in 2000 totalled 231 722 ha, or 3 %, of the republic’s surface area, excluding the AP of Kosovo and Metohija.
In 2008, excluding the AP of Kosovo and Metohija, there were 4 719 settlements, inhabited by 7 365 507 people in Serbia. There were 181 urban settlements, 3.84 % of the total number of settlements, with around 60 % of the total population, with a gradual increasing trend (Source: Statistical Yearbook of Serbia, 2009 and Municipalities in Serbia, 2007, SORS).
Environmental protection in the areas of spatial and urban planning is integrated in the legal framework governing planning and construction: The Law on Planning and Construction (2009), and the Spatial Development Strategy for the Republic of Serbia (draft version, 2009).
Armed conflicts/war legacy
Armed conflicts started in 1991, followed by the decision of the Security Council of the United Nations in 1992 to impose a set of sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). This measure had a very negative impact on the environment, especially because of the increased risk of illegal imports of dangerous waste as well as the permanent danger of industrial accidents due to the lack of imported raw materials and spare parts for industrial facilities. Numerous sites representing natural and cultural heritage were also endangered, even those registered on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Negative effects were also caused by the suspension of international cooperation and the interruption of international financial support for projects in the field of environmental protection. All these issues had long-term negative consequences for the environment and for development in general (Source: Report on the state of the environment and development in the FR of Yugoslavia, 2002).
NATO bombardment of the FRY during 1999 also had a very negative impact on the environment, especially because it created many high environmental risk sites. In the report The Kosovo Conflict – Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements prepared by UNEP in October 1999, four hot-spots were identified: Novi Sad, Pancevo, Kragujevac and Bor, but that report covered only 10 % of the potentially polluted areas.
Many industrial and energy facilities were directly damaged during the bombing, creating numerous technological, chemical and industrial accidents. Large amounts of dangerous substances were released into water, soil and air. Many of these have carcinogenic, teratogenic and mutagenic impacts on people as well as impacts on flora and fauna. During the conflict, depleted uranium ammunition was used at seven locations in southern Serbia.
These conflicts, in the period 1991-1996 and in 1999, also led to massive immigration to Serbia, resulting in around 850 000 refugees fleeing from war zones.
What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?
What are the main drivers of environmental pressures and how do these contribute to multiple impacts on people and the natural environment?
The unfavourable economic situation in the industrial sector over the past decade, resulting from the period of economic sanctions, caused a drop of around 60 % in industrial production in the early 1990s, but since 2000 production has been rising – production in 2007 was 3.7 % more than in 2006 – but in 2008, industrial production growth was only 1.1 % as a direct result of the world-wide economic crisis. The share of industrial production in GDP is declining – for 2001-2006, the average share was 22.3 % (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS).
Industrial production is under-developed and characterised by obsolete technology, low energy and raw material efficiency, weak technological discipline and a high level of waste generation.
Neither the cleaner production concept nor the best available techniques concept (BAT) are yet applied sufficiently in industrial production. The established environmental protection management system covers 140 enterprises, and BAT has been applied by 14 (Source: Chamber of Commerce of Serbia). The recycling potential in Serbia is scarcely used, its share in industrial production is just 0.3 %.
These problems will be resolved by structural adaptation in the industrial sector with the aim of establishing an efficient and competitive industrial structure contributing to European development and preparing for adaptation of industrial production processes to environmental quality standards.
A programme of harmonisation of specific commercial activities with environmental quality standards will be designed and implemented with the aim of adapting industry to the requirements of Directive 96/61/ЕC on integrated prevention and control of pollution.
The Republic of Serbia has 5 093 192 ha of agricultural land, 65.7% of its total area (Source: Statistical yearbook of Serbia, 2009), and the average area of arable land per farm is 2.49 ha.
|Year||Arable fields and gardens||Sown area, '000 ha||Nurseries
|Fallow and uncutivated arable fields
|Total||Cereals||Industrial crops||Vegetable crops||Fooder crops|
|Arable fields and gardens,
|Fish ponds, reeds, marshland,
Livestock production focuses mainly on cattle breeding, while fields and gardens cover most of the farmland. There is an evident neglect of the potential of meadows, pastures and fields in terms of intensive and efficient livestock production.
Monitoring the status and trends observed through indicators of the impact of agriculture on the environment is at an early stage. According to available data, agriculture in Serbia has different intensity effects on different environmental media - air, water, soil, biodiversity. There has been no significant progress in identifying and managing localised hot-spots that result from the application of fertilisers and plant-protection chemicals.
Serbia is situated at the centre of the Balkans, on the crossroads of major traffic corridors, providing through its territory the shortest and most rational road and rail transit links between the countries of Central and Western Europe and those of Southern Europe and the Middle and Far East.
There has been an increase in transport volumes since 1999, mainly freight transport that has almost tripled. The largest share, about 63 %, of freight transport is by rail.
Total passenger transport has grown by more than 40 % since 1999, and by about 10 % since 2002. About 80 % of passenger transport is by road, 85 % of the total number of vehicles in road transport is by passenger cars (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS and Serbian Environmental Protection Agency - SEPA).
The energy sector is a major polluter, mainly because it uses polluting fuels and lacks necessary energents, around 40 % of which are imported. Oil, gas and high quality coal are imported, while electricity is mainly produced from local resources. Production of low-caloric coal is dominated in total primary production (54%). Since 2002 more energy has been consumed, with fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – as the main sources. In 2008, consumption was 15.58 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), or 2.12 toe per person. Households, agriculture and public and commercial activities consume 40 % of total energy; industry and transport about 30 % each. Since 2002, total energy intensity has been reduced, because the growth in the economy has exceeded growth in total energy consumption (Source: Ministry of Mining and Energy of Serbia - MME, Serbian Environmental Protection Agency - SEPA).
Serbia has the potential to produce nearly 30 % of its total energy requirements from renewable sources, but the contribution of renewable energy sources to primary energy consumption has been around 7 % since 1990. The share of renewables in electricity consumption has been around 30 % since 1990, so Serbia has exceeded the EU indicative target of a 21 % share by 2010.
Regarding environmental protection from the negative impacts of emissions of pollutants from energy generation facilities, Serbia lags behind more developed countries and EU standards.
Energy policy in future years will be focused on the use of renewable sources, implementation of an energy efficiency programme, implementation of a programme of rational energy use, and developing a strategy for and establishing a clean development mechanism, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol.
Effectively all households, 99.8 % have electricity and 95.2 % have running water, but the availability of sewerage services is not high: only 55.6 % of households are connected to a central system.
A little over half of households, 54.2 % use firewood and coal as the fuel for heating, 21.8 % receive heat from heating stations, 8.6 % use electrical heating, 7.1 % gas, and 1 % liquid fuel. 7.3 % use a combination of different types of heating (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS, and Serbian Environmental Protection Agency - SEPA).
Between 2002 and 2008, household consumption increased by around 25 %. The share for food and beverages is 44 %, and living expenses, such as water, electricity, gas and other fuel about 43 %. About 5 % of income is spent on recreation, leisure or education.
Serbia‘s beautiful nature and cultural heritage provide a favourable basis for the development of tourism. Tourist activities focus mostly on major cities, spas and mountains, and on specific interests such as cultural and natural heritage, hunting, and fishing, countryside tourism and tourism on the main rivers – especially the Danube. The most frequently visited cities are Belgrade and Novi Sad.
Over the past several years, there have been more than two million tourist arrivals a year, of which almost 30 % are foreign tourists. In 2008, the foreign exchange earnings from tourism were US$ 944.25 million, an 8.5 % increase on 2007 (Source: National Bank of Serbia).
Tourist activities are not developed to a degree that endangers the quality of the environment. However, bearing in mind that 26 % of the total tourist stays (nights) are in mountain areas, and that almost all mountain areas are under some form of protection, it is necessary to monitor the impact of tourism on the environment. (Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia - SORS)
Tourism has a special interest in maintaining and improving environmental quality, because a healthy environment is a very important prerequisite for its successful development. Serbia therefore puts great efforts into meeting the modern demands of active tourism in line with sustainable development and the preservation of protected areas through the Law on Tourism, Tourism Development Strategy, and other planning documents (Source: Ministry of Economy and Regional Development).
What are the foreseen developments?
What are the foreseen main developments in coming decades that could be expected to contribute most to future environmental pressures?
Strategies for the future
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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