9.3.2013. Jelena Milić, CEAS Director, attended the panel discussion "Political background of Zoran Djindjić's assassination"

Belgrade, 9.3.2013.

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Jelena Milić, CEAS Director, attended the panel discussion "Political background of Zoran Djindjić's assassination", on Saturday, March 9, at the Kolarac Foundation.

The panel participants, LDP Vice President Nenad Milić, MP on the LDP list and former Vice President of the Djindjić Government Žarko Korać, journalists SLaviša Lekić and Miša Vasić and lawyer Rajko Danilović pointed out to the necessity of clarifying the background of Djindjić's assassination, but also expressed doubt that this is possible in the current political circumstances.

You can read more on the panel discussion here.

27.2.2013. Dušan Gamser, CEAS Adviser, attended a presentation of the publication „Analysis of Competition Policies in Serbia: Previous Experience and Recommendations for Improvement“

Belgrade, 27.2.2013.

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Dušan Gamser, CEAS Adviser, attended a presentation of the latest publication by the Research Forum of the European Movement in Serbia, titled „Analysis of Competition Policies in Serbia: Previous Experience and Recommendations for Improvement“, drafted by Bojan Ristić i Veljko Mijušković. The presentation took place on Wednesday, February 27, 2013, in Media Centre in Belgrade.

At the adjacent panel discussion, keynote speakers were the Head of the Research Forum Vladimir Pavićević, a co-author of the publication Bojan Ristić, a professor with the Faculty of European Law and Policy Studies Dijana Marković-Bajalović, a professor with the Faculty of Economics Dragan Lončar and the Secretary of the (Serbia`s) Commission for the Protection of Competition Dragan Penezić.

The publication encompassed a number of recommendations regarding the change of legislation in the field, such as more financial independence of the Commission for Protection of Competition, strengthening of its organizational structures and capacity and diminishing the number of cases to be dealt with by the Commission (through different methodology of determining whether or not an individual case of the ownership concentration should deserve a legitimate interest by the Commission). Also, several recommendations were put, which could be implemented even without a change of legislation, such as drafting a sort of „guidelines“ by the Commission so as to help the business community while engaging in mergers, or training of the judges of The Administrative Court to be able to judge not least the formal aspects but also the merit, in cases of ownership merger, or more cooperation of the Commission with other elements of the system of protection of competition.

The discussion was focused on the opportunities for improvement of the system of protection of competition in Serbia through enhanced efficacy and efficiency of both the Commission for Protection of Competition and The Administrative Court (which together use to constitute the backbone of the system of protection of competition). Special emphasis was put to the linkage between legal and economic aspects of the protection of competition. Several participants stressed the importance of both aspects, which required a multi-disciplinary approach to the field and likewise training of all those who dealt with the protection of competition.

Either because of time shortage or for whatever other reasons, the issue of the protection against monopolistic practices in the security sector and in the adjacent public procurement hasn`t been sufficiently addressed. As an independent regulatory, yet governmental organization, the Commission is focused on the prevention of monopolies or abuse of market dominance primarily in the private sector. Regarding the monopolies in the public sector, the Commission has less authority to properly engage. It obviously also lacks enough will to do so.

CEAS finds that prevention of a monopolistic abuse is of extreme importance in the security sector in particular. That is both because of a huge scale of public procurement in the sector and the adjacent economic and/or financial i.e. fiscal consequences, and because of the political and moral consequences of a non-transparent or any other illicit activity in the field.

25.2.2013. CEAS representatives attended a public debate with Vladimir Drobnjak

Belgrade, 25.2.2013.

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Dušan Gamser, CEAS Adviser and Irina Rizmal, CEAS Researcher, attended a public debate held as part of Mr. Vladimir Drobnjak, Croatian Chief Negotiator with the EU and Head of the Croatian Mission to the EU, visit, held at the Small hall of the National Assembly on Monday, February 25, 2013, and organized by the Office for European Integration.

Drobnjak began his opening statement with the paraphrase „all successful enlargements are the same, all difficult enlargements are difficult in their own way“. Expressing his view of the Croatian success formula he pointed out to the existence of the same negotiating team since the very beginning, a strong political will and a National Committee led by the opposition, consisting of all political parties, representatives of the expert and academic community, etc. Drobnjak highlighted that negotiations are negotiations of the society as a whole, that they are ongoing 24 hours and that they do not leave any aspect of social life untouched.

He then pointed out to some novelties introduced in the period since Croatia began its EU accession process up until today. Among the first is the notion of ’benchmarks’, that is, the idea that it is necessary to fulfill all the conditions in order to make it possible to open the next phase in the EU accession process. Benchmarks are factors that individualize the accession process and determine its duration. Fulfilled benchmarks are the basic evidence of candidate state credibility, and everything begins with a screening based on which the European Commission and Member States decide whether a specific Chapter can be opened or whether certain measures should be implemented first, such as plans, strategies, etc.

As the greatest and most significant benchmark he cited the annual Progress Report of the European Commission.

A second novelty can be found in Chapter 23 which, according to him, represents a summary of the comprehensive political importance of the negotiation and accession process. Based on four pillars: judiciary reform, fight against corruption, protection of minority rights and facing the problems of the 90s wars, the Chapter represents the Copenhagen plus criteria. The problem is that the issues from this Chapter are regulated through wider legislation in general, in EU Members States, whilst specific issues are regulated through an individual framework, so there is no single rule or single formula to follow.

Drobnjak especially emphasized that negotiations are not actually negotiations as such, but are more polishing the legal and political framework of the candidate state in accordance with the legal and political framework of the EU. Hence, not a single chapter is closed permanently as long as the state is not an officially an EU member, but are only temporarily closed and can be re-opened at any moment, as long as the negotiation process is open. Negotiations are, therefore, a symbiosis of politics, law, technique and logistics.

Pointing out to the didactical value of the process, he emphasized the need for the negotiating teams to include not only experts, but also individuals who should gain the needed knowledge of the EU through the process.

Those present were then addressed by Vincent Deger, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, confirming Drobnjak’s statement that nothing is actually negotiated during negotiations, but that the candidate state can ask for more time to implement certain measures. He also warned that one should not delude himself that negotiations have anything to do with lobbying, but that they represent hard work and implementation. Giving specific recommendations Deger said that measures should be implemented as soon as possible, that nothing should not be postponed; that it is necessary to include all the relevant actors from the very beginning of the process, including the civil society; and that bilateral relations should not be allowed to influence the process and outcome of negotiations, but should be solved separately.

A debate was then opened. During the debate, Vladimir Drobnjak described some new mechanisms of the EU, such as a ’fiscal semester’ (adjusting budgetary practices of the candidate state with the budgetary rules of the EU), and talked about various aspects of the fight against corruption in the EU and Croatia.

The main conclusion of the debate is that the accession strategy should be realistic, even if it sounds weak, and not too ambitious as then it cannot be fulfilled, which will have a mark on the EU negotiation and accession process itself.

22.2.2013. Irina Rizmal, CEAS Researcher, attended a conference „Ombudsman – recommendations in practice“

Belgrade, February 22, 2013

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Irina Rizmal, CEAS Researcher, attended a conference organized by the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM and the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, „Ombudsman – recommendations in practice“, held on February 22, at the Media Center in Belgrade.

The conference was also the final activity of these two organizations in the project Strengthening the role of the Ombudsman in the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the Professional Service of the Ombudsman, supported by USAID. A mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations created in due course of the project and tested on recommendations in the field of good public administration was presented. The conference included two panels. Participants of the first one were Saša Janković, Ombudsman, Benjamin Allen, USAID Advisor on government accountability, Marija Rauš from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, dr. Stefan Lilić, Professor at the Law Faculty of the Belgrade University, dr. Vesna Petrović, Executive Director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and Milan Antonijević, Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM.

Saša Janković highlighted that it seems that it is actually possible to change things with recommendations only, but that there is still a problem of about thirty per cent of individuals and institutions in Serbia who still think that they are above the law. Giving an example of the Netherlands, he pointed out that the issue of implementation, or non-implementation of Ombudsman recommendations are in the hands of the government over there, which ensures that the administrative bodies listen to its instructions and orders. In case the government evades this role for some reason, the Parliament takes stage with the same role.

Marija Rauš drew attention to the fact that that even the international system faces problems concerning human rights protection if there are no national institutions to deal with this issue. According to her, there is no official methodology for monitoring recommendations of independent bodies and their implementation. Emphasizing that by ignoring recommendations, the problem will not „spontaneously evaporate“, she pointed out to the fact that during the presentation of UN recommendations on advancing human rights in Serbia it was concluded that all of the presented points were already recommended by the Ombudsman, asking why these were not implemented instead of waiting for the same recommendations to come from international institutions.

Stevan Lilić pointed to the need for further developing the principle of good public administration and that the lack of a Law of Good Administrative Procedure leaves space for corruption.

The second panel saw Nikola Grujić, Lawyer at the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM and Nevena Nikolić, Researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, as members of a team developing the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Ombudsman’s recommendations which was promoted at the conference, explaining the research methodology and sharing some of their experiences in the field of forming the methodology as well as cooperation with the state institutions and ministries in the course of the research.

Those present were then addressed with representatives of some of the ministries which participated in the research: Jasmina Vasiljević from the Ministry of Interior, Helena Surlić from the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and Ana Kosovac from the Ministry of the Exterior, talking about her time in the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Jasmina Vasiljević pointed out to the problem of a large number of employees at the Ministry which slows down the implementation and familiarization of all employees with the Ombudsman’s recommendations, but also to the fact that, in the case of MoI of Serbia, the Internal Control Sector enables a more effective response to the Ombudsman’s recommendation than it is maybe the case with other ministries. Helena Surlić highlighted that citizens do not always know who they should approach; that differences in the application of the rule book can lead to corruption; and the problems which can rise if the complaints to the relevant ministries are not recorded properly; whilst Ana Kosovac mentioned the problem of abuse of the right to complain.

YUCOM and the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights launched a website where various announcements, media texts and scientific papers on the institution of the Ombudsman and good public administration, reviews of the responsibilities and practices of the Ombudsman in other EU countries and an evaluation of the Ombudsman’s work by the EU can be viewed:

http://ombudsman.yucom.org.rs/

19.2.2013. Dušan Gamser, CEAS Adviser, attended a thematic discussion on the fight against corruption and protection of the minors as asylum seekers

Belgrade, February 19, 2013

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Dušan Gamser, CEAS Adviser, attended a joint presentation of two NGOs from Belgrade – the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCBP) and the Group 484 held on February 19, 2013, in Belgrade, where the results of their recent research was presented. It was followed by a thematic discussion on the issues.

BCSP has published a brochure, prepared by Saša Đorđević, titled „Civil society against the corruption in police forces“. The publication tackles the issue of an insufficient participation of the civil society organizations in the research into and advocacy of the anti-corruption struggle within police forces. Even though more than 30 different CSOs in Serbia use to deal with the issue of anti-corruption struggle in general, just a couple of them use to track the issue continuously. There are plenty of reasons for that, including the insufficient expertise, low internal capacity of CSOs and inadequate cooperation with the Ministry of Interior. CSOs in the field should permanently monitor the work of the police, launch the debates on the corruption in the police, assist in protecting the whistle blowers, promote integrity and accountability of public officials and advocate the concept of „community policing“. BCSP recommended more profound studies into all the aspects of police work, internal organization of the police or the police culture, strengthening of the cooperation with the investigation journalists organizations, more cooperation with the police trade unions, more active advocacy of the concept of protection of whistle blowers in the police (in cooperation with independent regulatory bodies) and an implementation of the concept of „community policing“, particularly targeting the prevention of the corruption in the police.

Group 484 has presented the results of their research on the situation and problems of the unattended minors engaged in an irregular international transit, including when those seek asylum in Serbia. Taken that the number of asylum seekers, including minors, is in the rise, Serbia should do more to regulate the field in accordance with international rules such as Convention on the Rights of the Child. In a brochure prepared by Miroslava Jelačić, the Group 484 proposed a number of policies, including improvement of the legal framework, more and better maintenance of the statistics on the issue, change of the procedures of the bodies in charge, as well as training and financial improvements for the institutions supposed to shelter the minors who seek an asylum in Serbia.

CEAS itself deals with the issue of corruption, including the one in the security sector. CEAS welcome the activities of other CSOs in the struggle against corruption in general, while especially in the police forces. Also, CEAS welcome the advocacy, by certain CSOs, of the improvement of the treatment and better protection of the minors who seek asylum, all in accordance with the regulation and the best practices of the EU.

19.2.2013. Irina Rizmal, CEAS Researcher attended the round table „Where is Kosovo today?“

Belgrade, February 19, 2013

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Irina Rizmal, CEAS Researcher attended the round table „Where is Kosovo today?“ organized by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and the German Civil Peace Service Forum, at the Media Center on February 18, 2013, on the day of the fifth round of talks between Belgrade and Prishtina in Brussels. The panelists included Petar Miletić, Vice Predisent of the Kosovo Assembly and Secretary General of the Serbian Liberal Party (Kosovo), Adriatik Kelmendi, Editor in Chief of TV „Kohavision“, Henri-Giscard Bohnet, Director of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Ognjen Pribićević, political analyst and Zoran Ostojić, member of the Kosovo and Metohija Board and Liberal Democratic Party MP.

Petar Miletić pointed out that the Kosovo Serbs themselves have greatest benefit from negotiations as they are exactly the ones using the technical particularities agreed in Brussels. He also pointed out to the need to determine which institutions exactly are seen as parallel and whether these will be shut down, integrated or reformed. Pointing out that Serbs in the south have stronger ties to Kosovo through integration, he concluded that they actually live better than the Serbs in the north of Kosovo, that the number of incidents is smaller if existent, that the rate of unemployment is small, that according to the Kosovo Constitution the Serbian language enjoys equal status with Albanian and that the independent status of the Serbian Orthodox Church is secured. The daily incidents in the north he sees as manipulated and as a consequence of the buildup of the number of institutions which have no authority and are not in a position to establish rule of law.

Zoran Ostojić sees the dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina as a process of either accelerating or stopping the European path of both Serbia and Kosovo. He sees the main problem in the lack of a real and honest confrontation with the past and a devious approach to reforms, characterizing thus negotiations merely as a play put on for Brussels.
Adriatik Kelmendi pointed to the need for Serbs and Albanians to realize that their populations do not and cannot live in ethnically pure states but that they are scattered across the region, assessing that Albania is currently ahead of Serbia in accepting this reality. He illustrated his rendition with the example of Serbs living in north Kosovo wanting to be part of Serbia and Albanians in the Preshevo Valley wanting to be part of Kosovo.

Henri-Giscard Bohnet acknowledged that Serbia continued its path of European integration despite the change in government. He concluded that the Western community as well is showing a greater interest in the dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina, referring to the involvement of Catherine Ashton in the negotiations, as well as that Germany has great stakes in Serbia, starting from the largest contingent in KFOR, economic interests and the problem of asylum seekers. He welcomed the Resolution on Kosovo ratified by the Parliament, saying that such a gesture shows a wider consensus and opens public debate, at the same time giving a green light for continued negotiations.

Ognjen Pribićević said there is no dilemma that currently the most important condition confronting Serbia is the relation between Belgrade and Prishtina. According to him, it is also very important how Berlin will position itself, and how the problem of parallel institutions and jurisdictions in Kosovo will be settled in the following months. As a key factor he placed the reactions of Kosovo Serbs. Finally, Pribičević voiced his opinion that the European Union does not understand how important and urgently needed its active presence in the region actually is.

During the discussion that followed the significance of Germany for Serbia’s future, issues regarding institutions in Kosovo, visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens and other practical issues concerning both Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo were debated.