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The very beginnings of social insurance, precisely speaking retirement and disability insurance in Serbia date back to as long ago as the first half of the 19th century, when first regulations in that area were adopted: Order on Crafts from 1847, Mining Law from 1866, Rule Book of Support Fund from 1895, and the Orders on Civil Servants’ Pensions from 1841, 1861 and 1871. These regulations, similarly to the regulations of other European countries at that time, comprised only the workers and civil servants. The First Craftsmen Voluntary Fund, which had a large number of contributors, its own sources of financing and the rules precisely defining the rights and obligations of the Fund’s members, was established in the Kingdom of Serbia in 1898, only nine years after enacting, the first in the world, Law on Retirement Insurance of Workers in Germany.

Compulsory social insurance was, later, regulated by the Law on Insuring Workers, enacted on 14th May 1922, but its application was postponed until 1st June 1937. The Law encompassed all insurance risks (except for unemployment) and it was based on the principles of compulsoriness of insurance, uniform application in the territory of the whole country, financing of the system by the resources from contributions paid in by employees and employers (except in cases of occupational accident insurance, that was financed through contributions solely by employers), with the widest inclusion of all employed persons, including pupils, persons on practical training, volunteers, seafarers, persons employed abroad and people engaged in cottage industry (handicrafts). It was considered one of the most progressive regulations of its kind in Europe, based on the principles of the German system of social order, introduced in Germany by the end of 19th century during the Chancellor Bismarck. Provisions of this law stipulated entrusting the execution of insurance with the Central Office for Insurance of Workers (seated in Zagreb) and district offices for insurance of workers (in certain administrative centres). Despite such a centralized structure, there were still Support Funds (as insurance institutions for miners and smelters, institutes for retirement insurance of employees, support associations of traders, etc.).

What should be also noted is that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia concluded a significant number of bilateral agreements, especially on trade, which, although indirectly, also regulated the area of social insurance. Thus, during 1924 and 1935, as much as ten agreements were concluded with Austria, regulating certain issues of this sphere of insurance for certain categories of workers, especially railway employees. Besides, bilateral international agreements were also concluded, related, primarily to the area of social insurance and had the aim of providing an equal treatment of Yugoslav and domestic citizens abroad. The following should be mentioned: the Convention of Health Care provided to citizens on reciprocal basis, concluded with Poland on 9th May 1923, General Agreement on Reciprocity in the field of social insurance concluded with Italy on 25th June 1925, Convention on Reciprocal Treatment of Workers of both countries in the field of occupational injury, concluded with Argentina on 8th October 1928, the Agreement of Social Insurance with Germany concluded with Germany on 5th December 1928, the Agreement on Social Insurance with Austria, concluded on 21st July 1931, the Agreement on Labour and Social Protection concluded with France on 29th July 1932, the Convention on Social Insurance with Romania, concluded on 30th January 1933 and the Agreement on Social Insurance concluded with Czechoslovakia on 14th December 1936.

During the Second World War, occupational forces kept in force the existing legal status in terms of insurance institutions and regulations that are applied. An exception was made in annexed regions of Yugoslavia, in the territories of which the regulations of the occupying forces were applied.

Following the Second World War, the Law on Executing Social Insurance in the territory of Democratic Federative Yugoslavia, enacted on 2nd May 1945, unified all institutions of social insurance, and the Central Institute for Social Insurance, seated in Zagreb, was established as the uniform institution for the territory of the whole country, while regional institutes and their branches were founded in the seats of federal units. That, in effect, meant decentralisation of managing administrative procedure and performing administrative tasks related to the execution of, primarily, sickness insurance. In relation to annuity and retirement insurance, there was a rule that the decisions on annuities and pensions were to be made by the Central Institute for Social Insurance, while the tasks related to their payment were to be performed within regional institutes. Exercising rights stemming from the compulsory social insurance was, in that period, stipulated by the Law on Improving Courts of Social Insurance and the Supreme Court of Social Insurance adopted on 26th October 1945, and the By-Law on Regulating Procedure in the Courts of Social Insurance and the Supreme Court of Social Insurance adopted on 10th November 1945. These regulations enabled establishing courts of social insurance in the seats of regional institute branches, as well as the Supreme Court of Social Insurance seated in the Central Institute for Social Insurance as the court of second instance.

Adopting regulations enlarging the circle of persons included in compulsory insurance was of great importance to putting the policy of unifying social insurance into practice. The circle now included land workers and coast and transportation workers, and the By-law on compulsory insurance of civil servants and the By-law reorganising health care in social insurance were also adopted.

The Law on Social Insurance of Workers, Employees and Civil Servants adopted on 13th August 1946, introduced the so-called state social insurance, based on the principles of funding through contributions paid in by employers and employees, with the state being the guarantor of all rights and benefits stemming from social insurance. The parameters taken into consideration in determining the amount and scope of rights were the length of insurance coverage, how difficult the work itself was, and average contributor’s salary. The insurance institution was the State Institute for Social Insurance with the capacity of a legal entity and the characteristics of an independent service, while the state, through the Ministry of Labour of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, managed and supervised the work of the Institute. The central body of the State Institute for Social Insurance was the Directorate, as a managing body without a direct contact with the contributors, and the branches were organised on territorial basis (performing tasks of executing insurance for all categories of contributors), and professional basis as well (performing tasks of executing insurance of workers who, bearing in mind the organisation of their employment, constituted a unified organisational unit in the whole territory of the region – e.g. branches for the insurance of transportation workers, organised at the main organisational seats of transportation service). Within the framework of branches, all tasks related to contributors were performed, particularly related to implementing old-age, impotence and death insurance, as well as occupational injury insurance and the tasks related to child benefits. The tasks related to illness insurance, pregnancy and child-birth were, as a rule, transferred to sub-branches, within which the tasks related to submitting an application form for insurance and mediation in implementing annuity and retirement insurance were performed. Beside the sub-branches, there were also local offices, that were to implement the decisions made by branches and sub-branches, and were constituted as bodies of mediation in insurance activities and direct contact with contributors, but had no authorisation to make decisions on their own. The Law also stipulated the courts of social insurance.

In 1950, the Law on Social Insurance of Workers, Employees and their Families was also enacted, which marked finishing of the process of development of social insurance as the state insurance. According to that Law, only the laws and regulations adopted by the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia could stipulate rights and obligations stemming from social insurance, while, in the aim of appropriate application of regulations, instructions could be adopted by competent state administration bodies. Activities in the area of state social insurance were performed by certain state bodies in the sphere of social welfare and the bodies in the sphere of people’s health, within their regular competencies. Financial resources for the implementation of social insurance were provided by the state, from the funds of general state accumulation. Pursuant to the law, salaries of workers and employees were not to be burdened with social security contributions, and the procedure of exercising certain rights (cash allowances during sickness, pregnancy and child-birth, as well as during posting a contributor to another job due to retraining, and determining cash allowance during the training) was to be, ex officio, initiated by the competent bodies.

A new era in the development of social welfare in this region begаn with adopting new regulations on social insurance organisation and funding – the By-law on establishing the Institute for Social Insurance and on temporary management of social insurance resources from 1952, the By-law on financing social insurance from 1953, and the By-law on organising social insurance from 1955. On the basis of these by-laws, social insurance was transferred from the competence of state administration to the competence of institutes for social insurance, founded in each of the republics (from 1954 – republic institutes for social insurance). The system was organised according to individual branches of social insurance. First of all, a revision of the system of health insurance was carried out on the basis of the Law on health insurance from 26th November 1954, followed by enacting the Law on Retirement insurance on 14th December 1957 and the Law on Disability Insurance enacted on 28th December 1958. Organisationally and financially, all three branches of social insurance were connected into one entity on the basis of the Law on Organising and Financing Social Insurance and in accordance with the provisions of the By-law on Financing Social Insurance. At the same time, contributions for social insurance by general and special rates were determined, as well as the so-called additional contributions, and funds for individual branches of social insurance were established. As long ago as in 1955, the By-law on regulating child benefits was enacted, and in 1959 the Law on Health Insurance of Farmers was enacted, introducing health insurance for this category of population. Pursuant to a by-law, unemployment insurance began to be organised and implemented as a separate branch of social insurance in 1952.

Since 1950 when the General Convention on Social Insurance with France came into force, a whole range of bilateral agreements in this area have been concluded (with Luxemburg and Belgium in 1954, with Netherlands in 1965, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria in 1957, with Sweden, Poland, Great Britain in 1958 with Switzerland in 1962, Austria in 1965, with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1968, with Norway, Libya and Democratic Republic of Germany in 1974, with Panama in 1975, Romania in 1976, with Denmark in 1977 and Egypt in 1987).

Agreements on social insurance have also been concluded with the countries founded in the territory of Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia – namely, with Croatia in 1997, with Macedonia in 2000, with Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002, with Montenegro in 2006 and Slovenia in 2009.

Conventions concluded before the Second World War had the aim of providing protection to the then economic emigrants planning the return to their homeland at an old age. With increased migrations of labour force following the Second World War, concluding bilateral agreements provides a significantly higher degree of protection of emigrants and the equality in treatment of the citizens of the countries-parties to the agreement.

Following the enactment of the Constitution of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, social insurance becomes an institution of mutual insurance of all working people. During 1964 and 1965 the Black Letter Law on Retirement Insurance and the Amendments to the Law on Health Insurance and the Amendments to the Law on Disability Insurance were enacted. Following enacting Amendments to the Constitution in 1968 and 1971, the sphere of social insurance is regulated by general legislation, and for the first time the term ‘social security’ is used in the internal legal regulation of insurance, and ‘social security’ has a wider meaning than the term ‘social insurance’. Amendments also meant that a unified organisation, a unique institution of social insurance, as well as a unified system of determining rights and obligations ceased to exist.

Federal Law on basic rights stemming from retirement and disability insurance was enacted in 1972, regulating only basic rights stemming from this insurance and allowing the republics, according to their specificities and capacities, to enact laws expanding the scope of rights and more favourable conditions for their exercising.

Implementation of insurance was transferred to self-managing interest communities of retirement and disability insurance. Republic and provincial communities were united into Association of Communities of Retirement and Disability insurance. Following enacting the Constitution in 1974, the self-managing interest communities in the sphere of health insurance were, as a rule, organised on the territorial basis, while republic and provincial communities formed their own Association of Communities of Health Insurance and Health Care of Yugoslavia.

The Law on basic rights stemming from retirement and disability insurance was enacted in 1982, at the federal level, and pursuant to this Law, the Law on Retirement and Disability Insurance of Workers valid in the whole territory of Serbia stipulated that the rights stemming from this insurance were to be exercised with the Republic Self-managing Interest Community of Retirement and Disability Insurance. Following that, the Law on Retirement and Disability Insurance from 1992, established, as separate legal entities, Republic Fund for Retirement and Disability Insurance of Employees, Republic Fund for Retirement and Disability Insurance of the Self-employed and Republic Fund for Retirement and disability Insurance of Farmers.

With the Law on Retirement and Disability Bases that came into effect on 1st January 2007, all rights of contributors and beneficiaries were uniquely and almost fully regulated at the federal level, while the republic laws (in the Republic of Serbia – the Law on Retirement and Disability Insurance, also came into effect as of 1st January 1997) regulated organisation and funding of the system in a greater detail.

Following the establishment of the State Unity of Serbia and Montenegro, the overall competence in the area of social insurance, namely security, was transferred to the country members. In the Republic of Serbia, the following laws were enacted: the Law on Retirement and Disability Insurance, the Law on Health Insurance, and the Law on Health Care.

In accordance with the provisions of the Law on Amendments to the Law on Retirement and Disability Insurance, as of 1st January 2008, three Funds for Retirement and Disability Insurance ceased to exist, since a unified one was established – the Republic Fund for Retirement and Disability Insurance.

Since January 1, 2012, the Republic Fund for Pension and Disability Insurance has taken over the competences that were under the jurisdiction of the Social Security Fund of Military Personnel in the field of pension and disability insurance, while the competences related to the compulsory health insurance rights for military insured person remained under the jurisdiction of the Social Security Fund for Military personnel, which is an organizational unit within the Budget and Finance Sector of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia.

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