The region is rapidly solving challenges in the field of property rights over real estate

Until 2016, Serbia had completely disordered relations in the procedure of issuing construction permits, with tremendous waiting times, as long as 7 to 8 years in some municipalities. The procedure was extremely imprecise and unregulated, with a lot of discretionary decisions by those issuing permits, with an essential problem of property rights on construction land.

Citizens were not disputed and they could acquire the right of ownership of the land, but one legal entities had to pay a fee for that. The new, unified procedures for issuing permits turned everything around, and the Government of Serbia is currently very close to a decision to change the law or completely abolish it and to enable legal entities to acquire ownership of construction land without any compensation. We would release large complexes in attractive locations and enable building on them – said the state secretary, Aleksandra Damnjanović, from the Serbian Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure on the panel on the importance of solving property issues on real estate for improving competitiveness and investment conditions in the countries of the Western Balkans.

She estimated that the introduction of a unified procedure was the greatest achievement in terms of creating a favorable business environment. All submissions and issuance of all administrative and non-administrative acts are now in electronic form, which activated a significant branch. “Until then, the construction industry was on its knees, even though it had proven results.” Unemployment in that sector was high, and wages were low.

All that has changed and many areas have been activated because construction is the base for another 21 economic branches. On the latest Doing Business list, Serbia was 9th out of 189 countries in this category. A little before that, in 2014, Serbia was 186th, and behind us were countries where civil war was raging,” said Damnjanović.

According to her, the greatest resistance to reforms was in people’s mindsets and that is why good preparation is crucial. The law was in the making for two years based on a large analysis that prevented bad solutions and highlighted good practices. “When you tell someone to switch to working electronically, someone who may not even have access to the Internet and uses a ballpoint pen to work, it creates resistance. People need to be introduced to the new system. Although the state had many smart and professional people, NALED did a large part of the work in the whole process with colleagues from the cadastre and other authorities. Everything was discussed and talked about and we came to a satisfactory solution,” Damnjanović concluded.

Director of the Republic Geodetic Institute, Borko Drašković, while talking about the reform of the institute, he pointed out that the services in the cadastre were poorly organized, but the actions of other bodies and institutions were also lower quality.

– We had an uneven practice of courts and local self-governments, and when we act according to their orders, it was confusing. The cadastre is not to blame though, but those who issued non-standard determinations of the right of ownership, the biggest problem that exists right now.

Thanks to NALED, the Ministry of Construction, and other partners, we have also changed the law and other procedures, we entered digitalization and brought a new process scheme. The biggest challenge was to solve problems that were already in the drawers. People have acquired the right, but they no longer have the necessary documents for registration in the cadastre. These cases are increasingly difficult to solve over time, and these locations consequently get blocked for investment, but with the new process, the first level of procedures gets finished in five days, and in two months at the second level- said Drašković.

He assessed that the new cadastre procedure is a global phenomenon, which is being studied by the UN and others. “We have 28 services that we have developed since 2015. We visited many successful cadastres in Europe, such as the Macedonian cadastre which was very helpful. We have connected with more than 300 local governments and other authorities creating a global digital platform with the largest set of data in the world, and we managed to do so without resistance from officials,” Drašković concluded.

The Director of the Union of Local Self-Governments of North Macedonia, Dušica Perišić, emphasized that the country has long been an example for the region and that it has implemented numerous reforms with its own resources, which she considers the best way for development.

– Our administration was the same as in the entire Balkans, and going through the procedures was a long time with many missed deadlines. It took long thinking and analysis to find a good solution. Today, we have electronic systems in many areas, such as the system for electronic issuance of building permits, which Albania has taken over in addition to Serbia, the system for the sale of construction land, and others – said Perišić.

According to her, for successful reforms, it is important to have the support of the central government. “Determination of people to make a change brings positive results.” Both the central and local authorities should cooperate in this work,” Perišić said.

Adelina Farici, executive director of the Association of Local Self-Governments of Albania, said that the country has made a lot of progress in introducing electronic services and that they are constantly adding new ones, with great results, since 93% of citizens are satisfied with the quality of reforms. Like North Macedonia and Serbia, they completed the introduction of electronic construction permits and eliminated the submission of a whole series of written documents.

– We no longer have physical contact with citizens and the economy. We are not only able to treat all citizens equally, but we also avoid abuses and corruption. Now, citizens don’t have to spend too much time going from one counter to another, they are only asked to submit the most important documents. The number of users increased and we also had to train employees and coordinate central and local authorities, but we ended up with great results, quickly. Building permits are issued by the authorities closest to the citizens. Now we are able to resolve requests in a short period of time – said Farici.


She added that there are still challenges that other countries have, namely the lack of planning documents, especially general and detailed urban plans, because there are municipalities whose territories are not included in the plans. An ever-present problem is the lack of quality people, as well as funding for everything that is planned.