Under the General EU Position for the accession negotiations with Serbia (the “Negotiation Framework”), the Commission is requested to keep the Council duly informed on the state of advancement of negotiations under the chapters “Judiciary and fundamental rights” (Chapter 23) and “Justice, freedom and security” (Chapter 24), and to report to the Council twice a year. Since the opening of accession negotiations in July 2016, and following the presentation of the annual report for Serbia in November 2016, this report is the second semi-annual stock taking moment. It presents Serbia’s progress in the implementation of the action plans for chapters 23 and 24. It is based on Serbia’s reports on the implementation of these action plans, on information provided in the context of the JLS Sub-Committee (8 and 9 February 2017) as well as on a range of other sources, including peer review missions and reports from international organisations and civil society.
The action plans encapsulate Serbia’s commitments, accompanied by ambitious timelines, to advance in the negotiations under chapters 23 and 24. Twelve months have passed since their adoption in April 2016. In that time, Serbia adopted or prepared a number of amendments to its legislative and institutional framework. It also adopted or prepared a number of strategies and action plans, as well as procedures and operational guidelines, and carried out a number of assessments, accompanied by recommendations. In many instances, implementation is at an early or very early stage.
As Serbia moves forward, the focus will gradually shift to the effectiveness in practice of the legislative reform process, as well as to the capacity of the rule of law institutions and the environment within which they operate. In this respect, and in order to ensure a continuously informative reporting and demonstration of progress through initial and then substantive track records, Serbia needs to increase its focus and efforts in providing adequate and reliable statistical information in all areas.
In the coming period Serbia needs to focus in particular on increasing efforts on the reform of the judiciary. In the fight against corruption, Serbia still needs to enhance institutional cooperation and broad ownership, underpinned by a stronger political will, in order to achieve tangible results. As regards fundamental rights, Serbia also needs to substantially advance with legislative reforms in data protection, gender equality, free legal aid, and protection of minorities. Serbia needs to enhance its efforts in the areas of fight against trafficking in human beings, financial investigations and cybercrime.
The inclusivity, transparency and quality of law-making and effective oversight of the executive need to be further enhanced, and the use of urgent procedures in the national assembly limited. In general, Serbia needs to ensure that consultation of civil society is done in a systematic and meaningful way, ensuring that the potential benefits of civil society expertise are fully recognised and exploited.