Serbian officials pledge to adopt CEAS open government recommendations

PASOS, 7.5.2014.

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Serbian authorities working on the country’s Action Plan for the Open Government Initiative have promised to incorporate into the document recommendations made by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) and other Serbian NGOs.

CEAS and other civil-society groups gathered in Belgrade April 24 to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration for a consultative conference on Serbia’s Action Plan for 2014-2015. CEAS is a partner in “Advocacy for Open Government,” an EU-funded PASOS project to encourage governments in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia to become more transparent.

The CEAS recommendations included calls for:

  • A law to protect those who reveal governmental wrongdoing. CEAS said this would primarily be a human-rights law, rather than an anti-corruption one. CEAS argued that it is necessary to directly provide protection for whistleblowers with respect to rights defined in labor law, that the government needs to protect whistleblowers from mob violence, and should provide guarantees that it will protect constitutional human rights. CEAS also noted that there needs to be adequate sanction mechanisms for preventing false whistleblower reports.
  • Improvement of the e-government portal. CEAS recommended that there be specific procedures for opening a public debate on draft laws and regulations, along with determining clear deadlines, and avoiding ambiguous terms such as “a reasonable amount of time,” etc.
  • Improving transparency in the work of government, specifically in relation to the law on free access to information, which has been described as incomplete and flawed.

Other CEAS recommendations echoed calls made by Albanian CSOs at a gathering in Tirana in March. These recommendations included calls to engage all stakeholders with special focus on marginalized and minority communities and CSOs from distant parts of the country; ensure that the consultative process uses various channels of communication (face-to-face meetings, public campaigns, online consultations and public debates), incorporate clear indicators of success into the Action Plan, and publish government decisions so that those who do not have access to the Internet can also receive the information.

The government is working on the draft Action Plan in connection with Serbia’s participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote open government.