EWB: EC warns of Serbia’s slow progress in fighting organised crime&corruption

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Serbia has made limited progress in fighting corruption, and organised crime, a new strategy for the fight against corruption has not been adopted yet, and the number of indictments and first instance verdicts in cases of high corruption has further decreased compared to previous years, according to the European Commission (EC) new report on Serbia expected later on Tuesday and which the European Western Balkans website has access to.

The EC’s annual report covering the period from October 2020 to October 2021 also said that the Council of Europe (CoE) Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) had found its recommendations to Serbia’s Anti-Corruption Agency had been implemented satisfactorily.


The report added there had also been limited progress in the fight against organised crime. Serbia had yet to establish a convincing result of effective investigations, prosecutions and final verdicts in organised crime severe cases.


The draft also said that despite a European Parliament (EP) facilitating inter-party dialogue on election conditions, „the political climate had remained polarised during the reporting period.“


The report added that the Commission called on all political players „to engage in the process constructively and reasonably and implement all critical reforms of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights well before the next elections.“


On the functioning of the Parliament, the draft said that despite the reduction of the use of emergency procedures and the adoption of a new Code of Conduct for MPs, „inflammatory language against political opponents and representatives of other institutions who present different political views continued to be used during parliamentary debates.“


It added the need for more efforts in establishing systematic cooperation between the Government and civil society.


The EC also recorded limited progress in implementing measures related to the Media Strategy Action Plan. However, it added, verbal attacks on journalists by senior Government officials continued, and cases of threats and violence remained intimidating.


It added the attacks on the media in the Parliament also continued even after the adoption of the new Code of Conduct in December 2020.


The draft report said there had been limited progress in justice, recalling the process of amending the Constitution was expected by the end of 2021.


The report has suggested that the system of appointing judges and evaluating the work of judges and prosecutors needs to be thoroughly revised after constitutional reforms.


It also said Serbia progressed in commercial law, freedom of movement for workers and freedom to provide services.


The report acknowledged the country’s results in the economy, saying there was only a slight decline in GDP in 2020 due to pre-crisis solid momentum, significant and timely fiscal and monetary measures aimed at supporting the economy and its sectoral structure. The labour market has seen a further decline in unemployment in 2020, while structural reforms of public administration and state-owned enterprises continued to progress slowly.


Among other conclusions, the EC report said Serbia remained committed to good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, although tensions with Montenegro continued during the reporting period.


Serbia must continue to implement all previous agreements in dialogue with Kosovo and contribute to reaching a comprehensive legally binding agreement on the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, it has added.


The draft report also said Serbia has done „important work in many areas, including taxation and energy“ in harmonising with the acquis.


According to the EC, Serbia has reached the criteria for opening chapters on social policy and employment and energy.


On the other hand, there has been no progress in the chapters on freedom of movement of capital, financial services, consumer protection and health protection.


The report added the compliance with EU foreign policy was 56 percent in 2020 and increased to 61 percent by August 2021.


Nevertheless, „a large number of Serbia’s activities conflicted with the EU’s foreign policy,“ the EC draft report warned.


The EC publishes an annual report on Serbia and other candidate countries, assessing the situation related to the membership criteria.


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