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Deterioration of the unfulfilled anti-corruption plan

Transparency Serbia – points out that the draft of the revised Action plan for chapter 23 of negotiations Serbia and EU, which currently is on the public debate, does not bring answers not even for one problem because of which the realization of this plan was unsuccessful until now.

Action plan for Chapter 23, wrote 4 years ago, and adopted in April 2016, represents the main plan document of Serbia for improvement of the judicial system, human rights and fight against corruption. Transparency Serbia criticized this document at the time of writing and made the suggestions for improvement. We warned that the purpose of the activity (that is, what needs to be achieved with the law changes or conducting the training) is not sufficiently precise, that some important dilemmas-questions are not covered by the plan and there is no system of responsibilities for fulfilling the obligations. The special problem is that the performance indicators are positioned in precisely (for example “improving the application of the law”, without the measurable parameters), which leaves room for manipulations in interpretation if Serbia has met the standards for joining the EU.

Regarding those lacks, we hesitated if the plan will formaly be adopted, and that it will not lead to crucial improvements in fight against corruption. The outcome is, for now, even worse, because not even the current norms are fixed, nor their implementation. So that, today in Serbia the Law on Anti-corruption agency, financing the praties, public procurements, free access of information, public-private partnertships, are not improved, even though the deadilenes are met years ago.

Instead of carrying out a thorough revision of the Action Plan and designing activities that could improve the real state of affairs during EU integration of Serbia, the Ministry of Justice presented a public hearing to the text that reduces certain unfulfilled obligations of state authorities.

It is an inappropriately short deadline for making the comments, on the request of civil society, it is extended for two weeks (until February the 22nd 2019). However, for a public debate on plans for the future could be argued, the Government should publish reports on the implementation of the current Action Plan, which is not done even in the second half of 2018, and to announce the reasons for failure to fulfill its obligations. More importantly, is that the Ministry of Justice announce the numerous analysis on which it refers to when advocates the problematic solutions because it is impossible to have a debate about the fulfillment of attitude from unpublished documents.

Among other things, the revised Action plan, brings worse solutions from the existing text regarding to following: 1) The composition of the Anti-corruption Council changes, involving the representatives of the ministries of the Government of Republic of Serbia, which for the effect should have reduction of actual independence, rather than resolving the actual problem – and the problem is that the Government is not considering the reports of advisors constantly; 2) Changes of the Law on public procurements are now being planned only for the purpose of harmonization with EU standards, not for the better supervision; 3) Changes of the Law on Anti-corruption Agency are planned only for the fulfillment of the GRECO recommendation, not for the elimination of all observed deficiencies; 4) The final decision about introducing criminal offense “illegal enrichment” is moving for an unspecified future; on the other hand, Action Plan does not refer to the announcements of adoption of the Law on Property Testing. As good improvements in the Action plan, the intention of introducing new anti-corruption strategies and sector strategies for individual areas (healthcare, education, customs service) can be highlighted.

On many places, on the occasion of defining the tasks, the terms ”Serbia should initiate own records” is often used (requests for access to information, prosecution of corruption, suppression of irregularities in public procurements, financing of the parties, conflict of interests etc.). We consider that is a wrong translation of Brisel request for Serbia to achieve the results in those fields (“track record”). In general, even besides some positive steps, the draft of the revised Action plan should suffer some serious changes so it could serve as a frame for a successful fight against corruption until accession to the EU.