Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020

The Coalition prEUgovor, which consists of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, publishes a semi-annual independent report on the progress of Serbia in chapters 23 and 24. Today, they presented the Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020.

PrEUgovor’s monitoring of reforms in chapters 23 and 24 and certain political criteria of EU accession process indicates that, in most fields, the tendency of deterioration has continued during the period from October 2019 to April 2020. This was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two months, especially after the state of emergency was declared on March 15.

In this prEUgovor Alarm report, special attention was given to the impact of the state of emergency – which President Vučić defined as “war against an invisible enemy” – on democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law, and security and justice in Serbia. Controversy was raised by the very declaration of the emergency state by circumventing the Parliament, without offering proper reasoning as to why it could not convene. Preparations for the elections were suspended, but public officials continued their promotional campaign in favour of the ruling party. Public procurement rules were marginalised due to the pressuring need to “save citizens’ lives”. There was serious concern about the constitutionality of the imposed restrictive measures; however, the Constitutional Court remained silent on these issues.

Free access to information of public importance and media freedoms were de facto suspended at one point, while personal data protection was put to the test. Restricted movement and slowed-down work of institutions affected especially vulnerable groups such as women and children, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, migrants and others.

Even political commitment to European integration suffered, from the very beginning of the public health crisis, due to statements of top officials criticising alleged lack of EU solidarity while praising and pleading help from “brotherly” China. The state of emergency ended on 6 May by the decision of the National Assembly.

To read full report, follow this link>>>.

Recent developments can hardly be assessed as positive

Coalition prEUgovor published a new edition of their Alarm Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24. This report contains the prEUgovor coalition’s assessment of the political criteria for the EU accession process and the fulfilment of criteria for selected policy areas from Chapters 23 and 24 for the period October 2018 – March 2019. The presentation was held on 16 April at the Media Centre in Belgrade.

The report states that the government continued the practice of abuse of public resources during the election periods, while the executive and the ruling majority continuously deprived the Parliament of its legitimate functions. Another worrying fact is the increasing number of laws that are being passed by urgent procedure and in most cases without any public debate. These practices have led to an alarming consequence – namely, the opposition has left the Parliament.

Besides the above, the authorities keep undermining the work of independent control institutions by systematically ignoring their recommendations. Once again, we have an atmosphere in which non-governmental organisations are declared enemies and traitors; they are left out of all the dialogues and are not welcome in the solving of social problems. At the same time, the government is creating its own NGOs (GONGOs).

The fight against corruption is at a very low level, threatening to become a mere simulation that is activated only periodically so that the authorities can easily score some cheap political points. Furthermore, there is a real danger that the very same mechanism (Law on Investigation of Property Origin) could be used against the opposition. Also, there are enormous problems with the potential consequences of the proposed constitutional amendments related to the judiciary, as well as a series of laws that are about to enter parliamentary procedure.

Generally speaking, the commitments made in the existing Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 are fulfilled inconsistently, while the deadlines are postponed on a regular basis. Well-known problems with the non-implementation of the existing acts and laws are still present. Having in mind the fact that two crucial EU issues to be addressed are the Rule of Law and the fight against corruption, lack of concrete results in these two areas is still a major alarming obstacle in Serbia’s process of integration.

The majority of the key findings expressed in this report coincide with the lowered ratings that were given to Serbia by various international actors (Freedom House, for instance), thus confirming the alarming developments in the areas covered by Chapters 23 and 24.

To download full report follow this link>>>

Coalition prEUgovor is a network of civil society organisations formed in order to monitor the implementation of policies relating to the accession negotiations between Serbia and the EU, with an emphasis on Chapters 23 and 24 of the Acquis. In doing so, the coalition aims to use the EU integration process to help accomplish substantial progress in the further democratisation of the Serbian society.

Members of the prEUgovor are: ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action, Autonomous Women’s Center (AWC), Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS), Center for Applied European Studies (CPES), Group 484 and Transparency Serbia (TS).

The situation that calls for – an alarm

A coalition of seven NGOs entitled prEUgovor, which monitors Serbia’s EU accession process, presented a new report that contains the coalition’s assessment of the political criteria for the EU accession process, as well as the fulfilment of criteria for chapters 23 and 24 which include the judiciary, fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security for the period April – September 2018.

The central finding of the report is that key reforms stagnate or even marks a downturn and that much of stagnation happens under the justification of accession process. During that period, the Serbian authorities adopted a series of laws “that are worse than the current ones”, said the NGO coalition made of ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action, the Autonomous Women’s Centre, the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, the Centre for Applied European Studies, the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Group 484 and Transparency Serbia. The report said that the democratic civil control over defence and security institutions is weak in practice.

Commenting at the presentation, DPNSEE Executive Director remarked that the report has no reference to the segment on drugs which is integral part of the Chapter 24 and presented some warning facts about the issue. DPNSEE and the coalition have working relations which both sides hope to be improved in the future.

The report is available following this link>>>>

(photo: prEUgovor)