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EC report – benevolent conclusion on progress and numerous unresolved problems

The European Commission's assessment[1] of Serbia's "limited progress" in the fight against corruption is too benevolent. On the other hand, the EC report is significant, as it points to some of the most important unresolved issues, including direct contracting of procurement for infrastructure projects, illegal acting state in public administration and public enterprises, not improved legal framework for campaign financing, the lack of cooperation between the Government and The Anti-Corruption Council as well as the fact that there is no data on the confiscation of property acquired by criminal act after the verdicts for corruption.

In ​​the area of the fight against corruption, three factors influenced the positive rating. The first is that some things have been done regarding the five unfulfilled GRECO recommendations from the Fourth Round of Evaluation, set to be fulfilled in 2016. Indeed, some activities have been undertaken regarding evaluating prosecutors' work and selecting chief prosecutors. On the other hand, no attempt was made to amend the parliamentary Rules of Procedure to prevent manipulations related to the urgent procedure of considering the law, and the minister of justice is still the High Council of Prosecutorsć member, contrary to the GRECO recommendation. Furthermore, the Report notes an increase in the number of final convictions in cases handled by the Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime (from 19 in 2021 to 21 in 2022) but also a decrease in the number of convictions in cases under the jurisdiction of Higher Public Prosecutor's offices (212 compared to 255). The EU notes that a proposal for an anti-corruption strategy has been drawn up, but its quality is still unsatisfactory. The Prime Minister announced the adoption of this document in the next "two to three months"[2], while it is uncertain whether a new Government will be formed within that period.

The assessment of "some progress" in public procurement is related to repealing the special Law on Line Infrastructure, which was one of the key recommendations. Although it is noted that a special law was passed for EXPO 2027 – which will similarly exclude the procurement of precious public works from the public procurement system – the Report does not diminish the assessment, nor does the Report mention the repeal of this law as one of the recommendations. Among the most significant problems that still stand out, the EU highlights the contracting of procurements based on Serbia's interstate agreements with third countries – contrary to EU rules – and the fact that the displayed value of such exempted procurements is low compared to the number of projects implemented based on such exceptions.

The EC Report warns of the unfulfilled obligations from the Media Strategy, including the unresolved issue of public sector advertising in the media.  

The overall assessment is that corruption " is prevalent in many areas and remains an issue of concern." The EC also points out that "strong political will is needed to effectively address corruption problems, as well as "a robust criminal justice response to high-level corruption.