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What will working group of the Government monitor, and what should it do

News about adoption of the decision about establishing of working group for cooperation with OSCE by the Government on its „last sitting“, „whose task is to follow implementation of recommendations of this organization for improving of electoral procedure“, was neither published in the report from the sitting of the Government from 29 August 2019, nor among news. The only source of knowledge about it, is the paper „Večernje novosti“, that found out that appointed president of the working group is Minister of Internal Affairs Nebojša Stefanović, that his deputy is the Director of the Republic Secretariat for Legislation and former president of REC -Dejan Đurđević. „Novosti“ also wrote about the fact that they won’t receive any financial compensation for this work, that working group will „cooperate with all authorized organs and international institutions that participate in promotion of electoral procedure“ and that „every six months will submit report to authorized parliamentary committee and executive authority“.

Decision on establishing of working group, for starters, is late. Namely, Serbia received recommendations of OSCE expert organization - ODIHR even after the elections in 2016 and 2017. Since then, certain activities related to recommendations were undertaken (related to list of voters), but nothing has been done to resolve problems related to financing of election campaign, presentation of activities of public officials during the campaign or transparency of work of election administration. In reality, status even regressed since the time ODIHR made recommendations, especially in regards to intensity of officials’ campaigns, (non)implementing the control of financing of the campaign and abuse of public resources during the campaign for local elections.

Transparency Serbia, during the dialogue on election conditions pointed out to potential beneficial consequences of establishing of working group on the level of Government, that would make sense only if it would encourage the work of all others on improvement of regulations based on ODIHR recommendations, so that all the reforms could make an effect before the beginning of the campaign for next elections.

However, not only that the work on changes of regulations stillhasn’t started, but there are no signals at all that there is preparedness to do so in near future. News according to which work group would report semiannually about its work also indicates that no serious reforms would be undertaken by the end of this year, and that the problems will not be resolved by next parliamentary and local elections.

TS indicated to what should be done: 

- Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Ministry of Finances: Establishing of working group for changes and amendments of the Law on Financing of Political Activities, that would take into consideration draft of changes and amendments prepared by the permanent working group from 2014, opinion of TAIEX experts, recommendations of ODIHR, but also all other noticed weaknesses and lack of legal solutions from independent monitoring. Representatives of political parties should be involved in the work of working group (e. g. expanded working group),as well as Anticorruption Agency, and then present it to public debate.

- Ministry of Justice: establishing of working group for changes of the Law on Anticorruption Agency in the part that refers to separating of public and political function (article 29), of the Law on Preventing Corruption (article 50), to complement and precise this provision, having in mind recommendations of ODIHR and findings of independent monitoring. Political parties, Anticorruption Agency should declare on this text and it should also be placed to the public debate.

- Ministry of Justice: establishing of working group for changes of other related regulations, related to criminal prosecution of criminal acts that are related to illegal financing of the campaign. These changes should also undergo public debate.

- Ministry of Culture and Informing and Ministry of Trade: establishing of working group that would deal with resolving of most urgent matters of changes of media legislation and regulations on state and political advertising, and above all comprehensive reforms that will be placed on the agenda after adoption of the Media Strategy.

- National Assembly: organization of public hearing on the occasion of the report of the Anticorruption Agency on implementation of National Anticorruption Strategy and on the occasion of recent reports of financing of the campaign and control of campaign financing.

- National Assembly: election of missing members in the Council of RAEM and Committee of the Agency.

- Regulatory Body for Electronic Media: refinement of regulations for proceedings of the PMU related to the campaign, as well as internal rules on proceedings of RAEM related to monitoring of the campaign, in existing legal deadline and after its change, and publishing of these rules.

- Anticorruption Agency: refinement of rules on proceedings during the control of election campaign financing, parallel to changes of legal framework and publishing of these rules.

- Public prosecution, Anticorruption Agency, RAEM and other authorized organs: public call to all those that have the knowledge on violation of the rules to report about them confidentially and timely publishing of findings and information about undertaken measures. These organs should publish findings of examination and information about undertaken measures and related to irregularities from previously held elections, as well as by matters that came up in the period in-between elections.