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PACE monitors for Serbia welcome the launch of a constitutional revision process

The Parliament of Serbia - Belgrade

PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Serbia Ian Liddell-Grainger (United Kingdom, EC/DA) and Piero Fassino (Italy, SOC) have welcomed the decision of the Serbian parliament, at the initiative of the Serbian government, to amend the constitution with a view to de-politicising the judiciary.

“On 7 June 2021, the Serbian parliament decided to launch a constitutional revision - the first ever since the adoption of the Serbian constitution in 2006. We welcome this vote, which follows a long-standing call from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to bring the constitution into line with Council of Europe standards, following in particular the recommendations issued by the Venice Commission in 2007 on the constitution and in 2018 on the current draft constitutional amendments. The expected de-politicisation of the judiciary is, in this respect, an important step and a pre-condition for the independence of the judiciary and the consolidation of the rule of law,” the co-rapporteurs said.

“The proposed constitutional changes adopted by the parliament will need to be approved by citizens through a referendum. In this respect, we call on the Serbian authorities to update the legal framework for the organisation of the referendum, taking into account Council of Europe standards, notably the 2020 Venice Commission’s revised guidelines on the holding of referendums,” they added.

The co-rapporteurs noted that these constitutional changes are being debated while the country faces democratic challenges after the June 2020 parliamentary elections and the absence of a viable opposition in parliament. They therefore called on the Serbian authorities to embrace an inclusive approach, including with extra-parliamentary opposition parties: “A democratic country cannot dissociate the consolidation of the rule of law from the strengthening of democratic and inclusive institutions, which are indispensable to promote pluralistic democracy. In this context, we welcome the resumption of the “Inter-party dialogue on the improvement of election conditions” and encourage all stakeholders to commit to tangible measures, based on a broad consensus, that will lead to fair and competitive elections,” said the co-rapporteurs, who intend to discuss these developments during their next fact-finding visit to the country.

The Monitoring Committee will hold an exchange of views on recent developments in Serbia at its meeting of 23 June 2021 (in camera). In February 2021, the committee asked the Venice Commission to prepare an opinion on the constitutional and legal framework governing the functioning of democratic institutions in Serbia.