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Assessment report Serbia

Emergency procedure - why is it important?

There is no doubt that most MPs would have voted for a declaration of a state of emergency in Serbia if the Assembly had gathered, thus at first glance, in the current situation the fact that the act of proclamation of a state of emergency was jointly adopted by the President of Serbia and presidents of government and national assembly, makes no difference.However, the constitutional possibility for someone else to declare a state of emergency instead of the National Assembly is limited to situations when the parliament cannot gather.If such a possibility existed and was not exercised, there would be a risk that someone who was deemed to be harmed by regulations, orders and other acts of the Government and ministers adopted during a state of emergency, would seek compensation for damages, alleging that the procedure had been violated. That is why it is necessary now to determine if procedural defects exist and to eliminate them post-factumat least to the extent possible.

There was no indication, neither before nor after the declaration of the state of emergencythat the National Assembly Speaker had tried to gather MPs in order to make a decision to declare a state of emergency, which would be in accordance with Article 200 of the Constitution of Serbia. Likewise, there was no information that she tried at least to convene the parliament within 48 hours after this act was passed. There were unofficial interpretation that the parliament was "unable" to gather because even before the state of emergency was declared, a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people indoors had come in force. However, neither that decision could have obliged legislators nor it could have prevented them from gathering outdoors.The website of the National Assembly not only did not announce the call for the gathering of deputies, but to this day information about the state of emergency has not been published on the website!Transparency Serbia warned over this omissionboth the president and secretary of the National Assembly in a memo dated March 20, 2020.

In response to a request sent by seven MPs, dated March 23, 2020, the National Assembly’s Speaker Maja Gojkovićmentioned for the first time, that on March 15 she received “a proposal to the National Assembly to declare a state of emergency” from the President of Serbia and Prime Minister, but that she suggested that that three of them officials take such a decision together, “given the current epidemiological situation and the recommendation not to convene and hold gatherings involving more than fifty people."

Regardless of whether the National AssemblySpeaker’s assessment was correct or not, it is obvious from this memo that there was not even an attempt to convene the National Assembly.