Final Conference - Adoption of Law on Security Vetting - Towards greater consistency with the Constitution? held



Center for Euro-Atlantic studies (CEAS) from Belgrade held a Final Conference – Adoption of Law on Security Vetting - Towards greater consistency with the Constitution?, within the project supported by the OSCE Mission in Serbia.

The speakers at the conference were: Jelena Milić, CEAS Director, Saša Gajin PhD, expert consultant on the project, associate professor at the University Uninon, Milorad Todorović, Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Goran Matić PhD, Office director of the Council for National Security and protection of classified information, Dragiša Jovanović, Security Consultant and President of the Commission for Public Private Partnership in the field of Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Tijana Vojinović, CEAS Researcher.

The conference was attended by representatives of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, The Ombudsman Office, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection Office, Agency for the fight against corruption, The trade union organization of the Gendarmerie, the EU Delegation in Serbia, diplomatic community like the US and the German Embassy and non-governmental sector.

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In the opening statement, Jelena Milić, CEAS director, pointed out that the matter of security checks must be in accordance with the constitutional principle, in such manner that the processing of personal data must be made solely on the basis of law, not rules or by-laws,that it must be better organized, given that our legal system does not regulate this area sufficiently precise and clear. She also noted the changes of the Constitution and the National Security Strategy, and highlighted that the reform of the security system must be comprehensively implemented, while addressing security issues "in a package" - in order to avoid any contradictions that are in practice, and routinely causing problems when the implementation of legislation is in question.

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Tijana Vojinović, CEAS researcher, briefly presented the study: Security Vetting in Serbia, which CEAS developed under this project, methodology development, the guidelines of which are managed in the analysis, as well as their own conclusions, and recommendations for improving the normative regulation of security checks in Serbia. She pointed out that the Constitution mandated that the processing of personal data should be regulated exclusively by the law,and the security principle - the basic motifs of CEAS is to advocate for better regulation in regards to security vetting. Among other things, she set two specific questions to the representative of the Ministry of Interior - whether, after the new Law on Police enters into practice there is going to be revision of security vetting for police officers, and whether applicants for Serbian citizenship will be subjected to background checks and if so, by what procedures.

Dr Saša Gajin, expert consultant on the project, agreed that the matter of security vetting in Serbia are inadequately legally covered and that it should be urgently edited. He believes that the best way to improve the legal framework is through the improvement of existing thematic regulations modeled on The Law on Classified Information, which is prescribeing the matter of security vetting most consistently. As he pointed out - the adoption of the framework law would perhaps be the best solution since it would then be able to come into a situation that in any law, material and formal requirements do not communicate with each other legally. Commenting on the vision of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, which is in the study as a dissenting opinion presented by Deputy Commissioner Aleksandar Resanović - the adoption of the framework law on security checks is the best method for bridging a conflict with the constitutional principle of treatment of personal data exclusively by law, and concluded that maybe just the Law on protection of personal data could be the umbrella law that would be "leaning against" all other thematic laws concerning security checks.

Milorad Todorović, Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, first of all pointed out that the review of security vetting of members of the security structures is still working by "default", and that it will not be implemented under the new Police Act when it comes into force, and concurred with the observation that CEAS conducting security vetting for applicants to acquire Serbian citizenship should be better regulated. He further recalled that the Police Act was amended in 2005 - both in terms of security checks, but that after the constitutional changes of 2006 and the Law on protection of personal data, it again became necessary to harmonize regulations, and that because of this began the work of drafting a new Law on the police, which will, as stated in the parliamentary procedure found in September. Todorovic said that he believed that cooperation between independent state authorities, professional associations and non-governmental organizations with the Ministry of Internal Affairs improve the otherwise slow administration - and helped make better decisions, particularly in the areas relating to the protection of human rights, but also agreed that there remains much to be done, and that not all solutions are fully satisfactory, as well as that the Ministry, in terms of their competence is fully open to cooperation.

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Dr Goran Matić, Director of the National Security Council expressed the view that the security checks for legal entities are unjustly marginalized issue in relation to individuals and that this should be changed. He briefly explained what the categories of security checks in terms of The Law on Classified Information are, as well as the procedures to implement them, and that the problems that occur in all countries are about the verification of third parties, or verification of persons that may affect the subject of security checks - he saw the problem in approval.
Matić has made a personal statement, as an associate of the Institute of Comparative Law, that the best method for better regulation of security vetting could be to develop risk assessment methodologies and establish standards that prescribe the mechanisms of protection against abuse, and those funds to correct the existing legal framework governing material security checks.

Speaking of information security and the need for it to be regulated with the law, Dr Matić informed that the Office of the National Security Council initiated the formation of a working group for drafting the law, but that, after a disagreement with representatives of the field of information technology around the legal benefits of technical procedures, the Office withdrew from this working group because it believes that the drafting of the Act does not go in a satisfactory direction in setting priorities.

Dragiša Jovanović, President of the Commission for Public Private Partnership in the field of safety and security consultant expressed the view that the foreseeable enforcement of existing regulations in the field of security situation significantly improved and that they should use the resources we already have, such as safety standards for example. That way, as he pointed out, does not deny that the matter of security checks should be precisely regulated. He said that the Association of Private Security told the authorities that security checks for private security executives should be rigorous, given that private security is in the National Security Strategy recognized as the third pillar of the security system and that it should be experienced more seriously.
In the discussion which was led after the introductory presentations, in addition to basic themes, there was a discussion about the National Security Strategy and the need to modify it, so on this topic Dr Matić remarked that the National Security Strategy is adopted by the Ministry of Defence, and that it should be adopted by Interministerial Working Group made of representatives from the public and state security, and that it should differ materially from the defense strategy - as is the case in all modern systems.

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Jelena Milić pointed out in the discussion that in addition to the need to revise the National Security Strategy, there is a need to define foreign policy, and highlighted that the two strategies are very much linked, and therefore surprised by the fact that the Foreign Minister is not a member of the National Security Council.
In her final words she informed the conference participants that CEAS, in order to inform the public about the real situation in Ukraine and in fighting Russian sponsored misinformation in Serbia - with the permission of the Swedish Ministry of Defense did the official translation of publication - Tools of destabilization- Russian "soft power" and non-military influence in the Baltic States - made by the research center of the Ministry of Defence of Sweden - which is available on our web site. She also noted that CEAS is in the next period going to intensively promote Atlantic Council report - Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine and Boris Nemtsov's Putin, and invited the participants to visit our site and learn about the publications that are published by the CEAS as part of projects of advocating of comprehensive reform of the security system - such as the analysis: The Law on Classified Information, Protection of Whistleblowers in Serbia, The Missing link in step with the private security sector and many others.