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Serbia : PACE rapporteurs welcome steps to strengthen the judiciary

PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Serbia, Maria Guzenina (Finland, SOC) and Samad Seyidov (Azerbaijan, EC), welcomed the steps taken by the authorities to strengthen the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, in line with PACE Resolution 1858 (2012). “The adoption of new judicial laws, and the preparation of constitutional amendments addressing the judicial system should lead to restriction of undue political interference in the judiciary and reinforce the separation of powers. We strongly support all efforts made by the authorities to carry out this constitutional reform process. We encourage them to make use of the expertise of the Venice Commission to align the Serbian Constitution with Council of Europe norms”, they said.

In Belgrade, the co-rapporteurs discussed the situation of media freedom with the authorities and media associations. “Serbia has made good progress in upgrading the legal framework on media; there is however still room for improvement to ensure proper implementation of the recently adopted media laws, so as to secure a pluralistic and sustainable media environment in line with Council of Europe standards, and create conditions for journalists to feel free and safe to provide pluralistic information based on professional and ethical standards, thus contributing to nurturing public debate, which is essential in a vivid democracy.”

The co-rapporteurs also expect the Serbian authorities to take the necessary steps to further fight corruption. “Eradicating corruption and establishing sound rules of governance will contribute to increasing legal certainty and people’s trust in the State institutions, which is fundamental for economic reform and stability in the country. In this respect, we believe that the opening of chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations - pertaining to the judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security - will give fresh impetus to the reform process.

Noting that Serbia remains committed to the European Union integration process, the co-rapporteurs also acknowledged the continuing turbulence in the region. “Serbia has opted for a twin-track foreign policy, between East and West; it thus remains a key player for ensuring stability in the region. We hope that Serbia will find the means to cope with the many challenges the country has to face, in particular management of the migrant crisis, which requires a European response based on solidarity” said the co-rapporteurs.

During their three-day visit, Ms Guzenina and Mr Seyidov had meetings with the Speaker of the National Assembly Ms Gojkovic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Mr Stefanovic, the Minister of Culture and Information Mr Vukosavljevic, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice, the Presidents of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation as well as representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Serbian delegation to the PACE and members of Parliament. They also met the Deputy Ombudsmen, the Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency, representatives of the media and civil society and members of the diplomatic community.