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Coalition prEUgovor Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24

Deadlines for fulfilling commitments from action plans for Chapters 23 and 24 on the rule of law are postponed and existing regulations are not implemented, critical voices in Serbia are dulled and ignored by independent supervisory institutions, while NGOs are proclaimed traitors and formed by "state" NGOs, are some of the assessments from the reports from the Coalition PrEU report.

The latest "prEUgovor Alarm: Serbia's Progress Report in Chapters 23 and 24" refers to the October 2018-March 2019 period and contains an assessment of the political criteria for the EU accession process, as well as fulfillment of criteria in selected areas of Chapters 23 and 24 (the judiciary and basic rights, ie justice, freedom and security).

The report, presented on April 16, showed that alarming tendencies were noted in the areas monitored and, in some cases, alarming tendencies.

As told by Zlatko Minic from Transparency Serbia, the commitments are fulfilled only formally and "there is no visible progress in the fight against high-level corruption". As estimated, the government continued to misuse public resources during the election period, while the executive and the ruling majority continued to deprive the Assembly of its legitimate functions. It is also worrying that the increasing number of laws are passed in urgent cases, in most cases without a public debate.

The government continued the practice of abuse of public resources during the election period, while the executive and the ruling majority continued to deprive Parliament of its legitimate functions. Another worrying fact is the increasing number of laws that are passed by urgent procedure and in most cases without any public debate. These practices have led to an alarming consequence - namely, the opposition has left the Parliament.

Besides the above, the authorities keep undermining the work of independent control institutions by systematically ignoring their recommendations. Once again, we have an atmosphere in which non-governmental organizations are declared enemies and traitors; they are left out of all the dialogues and are not welcome in the resolution of social problems. At the same time, the government is creating its own NGOs (GONGOs).

The fight against corruption is at a very low level, threatening to become a mere simulation that is activated only periodically so that the authorities can easily score some cheap political points. Furthermore, there is a real danger that the very same mechanism (Law on Investigation of Property Origin) could be used against the opposition. Also, there are enormous problems with the potential consequences of the proposed constitutional amendments related to the judiciary, as well as a series of laws that are about to enter parliamentary procedure.

Generally speaking, the commitments made in the existing Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 are fulfilled inconsistently, while the deadlines are postponed on a regular basis. Well-known problems with the non-implementation of the existing acts and laws are still present. Having in mind the fact that two crucial EU issues to be addressed are the Rule of Law and the fight against corruption, lack of concrete results in these two areas is still a major alarming obstacle in Serbia’s process of integration.

The majority of the key findings expressed in this report coincide with the lowered ratings that were given to Serbia by various international actors (Freedom House, for instance), thus confirming the alarming developments in the areas covered by Chapters 23 and 24.

Coalition prEUgovor consists of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations: ASTRA - Anti trafficking Action, Autonomus Women's Center, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Center for Applied European Studies, Center for Investigative Reporting in Serbia, Group 484 and Transparency Serbia.

The conference on which the Alarm is presented is part of the project "Public Policy Monitoring: the prEU is following the reforms in chapters 23 and 24" financed by the EU. The organization was supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, within the MATRA program.