EC: Serbia has made progress in many areas, but there are also delays

EC: Serbia has made progress in many areas, but there are also delays

Serbia has made progress in various areas, but also faces delays, and justice reforms need to be accelerated, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organized crime, media freedom and the handling of war crimes, refers to the latest unofficial report on the rule of law in Serbia, which was accessed by Tanjug.

The report states that there is a “development” in Serbia in the areas of rule of law, justice and freedom, which are covered by the basic negotiating chapters 23 and 24, but no assessment of their impact on the rule of law in Serbia.

“It takes time to assess whether the many recent initiatives since the formation of the new government have yielded tangible results,” the report said.

The European Commission notes that Serbia is working on a recommendation to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and that ongoing constitutional reform is needed.

It adds that the rules of procedure of the Supreme Judicial Council and the Council of State Prosecutors have changed and we need to see if these changes have reduced the political influence in the judiciary.

It is reported that the administrative capacity and internal organization of the Supreme Judicial Council are being strengthened, as well as the reduction of the number of pending cases compared to 2019.

In the field of the fight against corruption and crime, the European Commission states an increase in the number of charges by the prosecution, but also a decrease in the number of final decisions based on charges.

“In November 2020, GRECO (the Council of Europe ‘s anti – corruption body) concluded that their recommendation to strengthen the Agency for the Fight against Crime and Corruption had been properly implemented,” the report said.

At the same time, it is reported that Serbia has not yet adopted a new anti-corruption strategy, which is one of the Commission’s recommendations.

The media section states that in December 2020, Serbia adopted an action plan for media strategy and set up two working groups – to monitor the implementation of the strategy and the safety of journalists.

With regard to the recommendation addressed to the overall media environment, cases of threats and violence against journalists remain a matter of concern and unhindered freedom of expression should be further strengthened in practice, the report said.

The European Commission’s “non-paper” document calls for full implementation of media legislation in Serbia, strengthening the independence of the electronic media regulator (REM) and transparency in media ownership and advertising.

Speaking about what has been done in the field of fundamental rights in Serbia, the Commission notes the incomplete establishment of ombudsman offices and commissioners for information of public interest as well as relevant laws.

The anti-discrimination strategy has been delayed and the recommendations on the rights of minors have been partially implemented, the report said.

In the areas covered by Negotiating Chapter 24, the European Commission notes that Serbia has successfully managed increased migration pressures, including the impact of the coronavirus on migrants, and that a joint border management agreement has been ratified with the European borders.

It added that further harmonization of Serbia’s visa policy with the EU is needed when it comes to third countries.

In the areas of police co-operation and the fight against organized crime and corruption in Serbia, the European Commission says it is necessary to complete the Office of the Prosecutor for Organized Crime.

There has been a decrease in the number of new investigations into serious organized crime cases, an increase in the number of charges, a decrease in the number of final convicts, while the confiscation of assets has been low.

Based on the information available, EU members are considering new steps by Serbia in the accession negotiation process.

By the end of June, it was announced that Serbia would hold a new Intergovernmental Conference with the EU dedicated to implementing the new accession methodology and open several new chapters or clusters by the end of the year./ibna