The prEUgovor coalition present its latest Alarm - report on Serbia’s progress in implementation of policies in the areas covered by chapters 23 (Judiciary & Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom & Security) of the EU accession negotiations.
The prEUgovor Alarm’s findings point to the fact that Serbia is not doing enough in order to make progress in priority areas. The lack of dialogue in democratic institutions, primarily in the National Assembly, in the media and society in general challenges the meaning of reform efforts. Therefore, the key question that will be addressed at the conference is what needs to be done in order to improve the Rule of Law in Serbia, especially when considering lack of positive impact of the ongoing reforms, as reported in prEUgovor Alarms.
A number of laws, bills, action plans and strategies related to gender equality, children and the status of women have not been adopted; on the other hand, the solutions that are being announced can potentially prove to be highly problematic for the position of these vulnerable groups. The Law on Gender Equality has been taken off the agenda, and a new version of the Code Civile proposes the idea of commercial surrogate motherhood, which is a bioethically very controversial issue and could be understood as legalised sale of babies.
Vanja Macanovic, from the Autonomous Women's Center, stated on the example of the Law on Free Legal Aid, which was adopted in an undemocratic manner, in the absence of a constructive public debate in the National Assembly, that the majority of citizens are now deprived of free legal aid (giving legal advices and drafting petitions/plaints), which has been provided by human rights NGOs for over twenty years. Employed or engaged lawyers in non-governmental organizations, such as the Autonomous Women's Center, are now only allowed to provide free legal support (providing general legal advice and filling in forms), and are required to register to provide this type of support without any reimbursement from the state, to keep records and to submit to the Ministry of Justice annual reports on the services provided free of charge legal support, stating the name, surname and place of residence of the person to whom they provided support, all under the threat of a fine.
It seems that NGOs will work free of charge for both citizens and the state, while the state will report on the successful implementation of the law, on the free work of all those who provide free legal support. The state discriminates against NGOs in terms of financing, ie. only non-governmental organizations will not be funded for their work, and in relation to their area of work, since it has allowed only non-governmental organizations dealing with asylum and discrimination to provide free legal aid. The law discriminates against lawyers employed by non-governmental organizations not engaged in asylum and discrimination, but in other areas of human rights protection.
Entire Alarm report can be read here.