CHAPTER 23 – JUDICIARY AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
Accession negotiations are the final stage of the integration process of candidate country to the European Union. It negotiates about the terms under what conditions candidate country accesses the EU, which are basically related to the harmonization of domestic legislation with the EU acquis. The new the European Commission’s approach to negotiations with the future Member States requires that negotiations about Chapters 23 and 24 need to be open first, which cover the area of judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security.
Chapter Judiciary and Fundamental Rights is new, it was introduced after the sixth wave of the EU enlargement. Policies of the judiciary and fundamental rights aim at preserving and enhancing the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. Meeting the requirements of this chapter, Serbia needs to implement a number of reforms and activities that have a direct impact on the daily life of citizens. In terms of content, Chapter 23 is divided into four thematic areas, which include: judicial reform, anti-corruption policy, fundamental rights and the rights of EU citizens. Independent judiciary, with necessary capacities to maintain and protect the rule of law is the cornerstone of these policies. In the European Union, perceiving the importance of the existence of independent and efficient judiciary, it is defined a series of recommendations for achieving the impartiality, integrity and high standards of the judiciary. It requires a serious commitment to eliminating external influences on the judiciary, allocation of adequate financial resources and training. In addition, Member States are required to effectively fight corruption, because it represents a threat to the stability of democratic institutions and the rule of law. Subject that is discussed in this chapter refers to the fulfillment of the political criteria that are an essential precondition for further integration. There are few regulations at EU level governing this area and most part of them are left to the Member States to regulate these issues on the best way and to comply with standards that are the foundation of the European Union. Considering that the aim of the negotiations that a candidate country joins the EU, it is necessary to establish mutual trust and to ensure the functionality of the system, respecting the values of the European Union itself.
National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) in Serbia was founded by 17 eminent civil society organizations which are on the initiative and invitation of the European Movement in Serbia took over the coordination of the twenty-one Working group to follow the theme of all 35 negotiating chapters. Two years after the establishment of NCEU, more than 700 organizations (NGOs, coalitions, 19 faculties, 12 institutes, 24 professional associations, 11 trade unions, 3 business associations) actively participate in its work.
It was announced today during the meeting between civil sector and governmental Negotiating Group for Action plan for Chapter 24, which was established in the middle of last year, that in January Serbia will deliver to European Commission the first half-yearly report concerning realization of the Action Plan for Chapter 24, which encompasses justice, freedom and safety.
The president of Negotiating Group for Chapter 24 from Ministry of Internal Affairs Zoran Lazarov has said that last year was exceptionally successful for Chapter 24 – it has been opened, Action Plan and negotiating position have been accepted, we received the transition criteria as we expected.
Milan Antonijević, director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, opened the conference by expressing his satisfaction with the composition of discussion participants divided into two panels, both on very significant topics, that include national minorities and fundamental rights, as well as documents developed during the negotiation process with the EU within the scope of Chapter 23.
Mr. Antonijević reminded everyone that the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) forwarded the invitation by the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government to all members and organizations that deal with national minorities and expressed his hope that the discussion on the Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Implementing Chapter 23 will be fruitful.
The head of the negotiating team Tanja Miščević said that Serbia is interested in opening three more chapters by the end of the year concerning European Union membership negotiations. She has also stated that main challenge in realization of obligations provided by Chapter 23 rests in the rule of law.
At the conference “Implementation of the activities envisaged by the Action Plan for Chapter 23,” Miščević said that at this point EU Council contains three chapters, Chapter 5 regarding public procurement, Chapter 25 and 26 concerning teachings, research, education and culture.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia on 11th of 2015. established the Council for the implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23 as the working body for the provision of professional support to the negotiating group for Chapter 23.
A conference on the implementation of activities proscribed by the Action plan for chapter 23 was held in the Small plenary chamber in the Republic of Serbia’s National Assembly building on November 1st 2016.
The conference was organized in four segments: Opening and keynote address; Questions pertaining to the judiciary within the context of the implementation of activities within Chapter 23 and the necessary changes to the constitution;
Axel Dittmann the Ambassador of Germany in Serbia stated today that Serbia made a significant step by opening the Chapter 23 because it concerns issues and principles that are vital for Serbia’s path toward the European Union.
„Essential for Serbia itself is the improvement of the rule of law since it is key for improving the investment climate and thus for sustainable economic development of Serbia. Also, the improvement of the rule of law is important for strengthening the rights of each citizen,“ pointed out Dittmann at the conference organized by the Human Rights Committee.
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.
In addition to the negotiating Chapter 5 which deals with public procurement, the Council of the European Union currently holds the negotiation Chapter 25 (Science and Research) and Chapter 26 (Education and Culture).
We do not hide that we are very interested in opening these Chapters by the end of the year, said today Tanja Miščević, the Head of Serbia’s negotiating team.
It was noted on the 1st of November at the conference “Implementation of the activities envisaged by the Action Plan for Chapter 23″ that implementation of high quality measures and overseeing of those activities represent the main challenge for Serbia as provided by Chapter 23 and it’s opening in July. Provided by Chapter 23 Serbia has 50 transition criteria that will be completed with activities provided by Action plan for that chapter, said Head of the Serbian negotiating team in negotiations on EU membership Tanja Miščević.