Germany strongly supports the opening of Chapters 23 and 24 in the negotiations of the European Union (EU) and Serbia and will continue to support you in this process – assessed today the Ambassador of Germany in Serbia Axel Dittmann and pointed out that it is now important to work on the implementation of the Action Plan from Chapter 23.
At the conference of the Committee of Lawyers for Human rights „Implementation of the Activities Envisaged by the Action Plan for Chapter 23 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights“ Dittmann indicated that this Chapter is crucial because it deals with fundamental rights, the rule of law, freedom of expression, democracy and fight against corruption.
These themes in Chapter 23 are key for Serbia’s path toward EU, they are crucial for Serbia itself because promotion of the rule of law is essential for improvement of investment climate and thus for sustainable economic development, believes Dittmann.
Improvement of the rule of law is essential for strengthening the rights of each citizen, added Dittmann.
Serbia has begun a series of radical reforms and the Action Plan envisages a series of legislative changes and necessary amendments to the Constitution of Serbia by the end of 2017, said Dittmann.
Germany supports this reform process and significant funds have been allocated from Serbian-German cooperation to improve good governance and to create stable, reliable, institutional framework, pointed out Dittmann.
Dittmann stressed that the judiciary is the centerpiece of the Chapter 23, namely the establishment of a strong, independent, impartial judiciary and prosecution system.
According to him, it is necessary that the appointment of judges and prosecutors’ office is devoid of all political influence and that the Serbian government changes the method of election of independent bodies of the High Judicial Council and State Prosecutorial Council. It is necessary to boost the efficiency of the judiciary in which there is currently a backlog of five million cases, pointed out Dittmann.
Chapter before us is open but now we need to work on implementing the Action Plan. I believe that this is an important reform process that concerns the whole of society, said Dittmann.
Strong civil society is a major player in this dialogue and it is good that the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights brought together the representatives from various areas of the judicial system and civil society to discuss how far Serbia has come and what needs to be accomplishd in the time to come, concluded Dittmann.
The Assistant Minister of Justice and the Head of the working group for Chapter 23 Čedomir Backović said that the Ministry of Justice recognizes the role of civil society in the process of opening the Chapter 23 and implementation of the Action Plan. Backović said that 54 institutions are involved in the activities regarding implementation of Action Plan, which is why help of the civil sector is expected.
We expect you to be the controllor of whether given deadlines are met, and to observe the quality of documents and laws that are passed, said Backović.
Head of the Team for negotiations on the membership in EU Tanja Miščević reminded that Serbia opened three important Chapters 23, 24 and 25, and that she hopes that three more Chapters are opened by the end of the year, which is decided by 28 member states of the European Union.
Following the opening of negotiations for Chapter 23 ahead of us is a period of reporting every sixth months and first deadline is at the end of January, she said and added that Serbia has its own deadline of reporting every three months which acts as an early warning system for any delays.
Miščević announced that on the 9th of November the European Commission will publish a report on Serbia which, under the new rules, will not be published again until 2018.
In the meantime we will have a document, a so called „non-paper“, of what has been done so that reporting to the European Commission is frequent and things do not remain unnoticed, pointed out Miščević
The challenges that lie ahead, she said, is to follow the deadlines, the quality of which is made the monitoring of implementation.
The challenges that lie ahead of us, she said, are to monitor the deadlines, what has been accomplished and to monitor the implementation.
There are 50 transitional measures in Chapter 23 and whether we accomplished something within a given deadline is as important as the quality of what has been accomplished and is assigned an „accounting“ value, said Miščević.
Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Oscar Benedict reiterated that the judiciary, fight against corruption and amendments to the Constitution are the impotant topics of Chapter 23. Opening of the Chapters 23 and 24 are a good sign for the negotiations of the EU with Serbia believes Benedict who pointed out that the most difficult reforms are within these two Chapters.
The rule of law over the rule of those in power is a value shared by our member states, he said and added that the progress in the Chapters is not only to meet EU requirements but to make people feel these results.
Benedict said that the EU Delegation is prepared to support Serbia in every way, not just politically but also by sending experts and providing financial funds for projects.
Milan Antonijević from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights welcomed the cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and also the availability of all documents as well as the standard of responding in writing to demands of the civil sectors.