Serbia again on GRECO list of countries whose report is "globally unsatisfactory"

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), established by the Council of Europe, again described Serbia's report as "globally unsatisfactory". The same assessment was given three years ago, due to the failure to implement the recommendations of this international organization regarding the prevention of corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors. Serbia did not respect both deadlines, first given until the end of 2016. and second until 30 November 2018.

The previous publication of GRECO assessment was an incentive to pass a law on lobbying, albeit belatedly. It remains to be seen whether this year's findings will influence the Serbian authorities to finally do something about the remaining issues, such as respecting the rules on public hearings in drafting laws, organizing public hearings in the assembly, resolving conflicts of interest among MPs and creating conditions for greater independence of judges and prosecutors from political influences.

The published list of decisions from the 86th plenary session of GRECO, which was held between 26 and 29 October 2020, reads that the level of compliance with the recommendations in Serbia was "globally unsatisfactory". This assessment was given regarding the report that the Serbian representatives in GRECO were obliged to submit by the end of 2019. When the performance was considered the previous time, in April 2019, GRECO concluded that ten recommendations were partially implemented, and three were not at all.

It is unknown at this time whether GRECO gave Serbia the worst rating due to dissatisfaction with the speed of adoption of constitutional changes in the field of justice and the Law on Prevention of Corruption (which came into force on 1 September 2020) or took the position that these provisions recommendation. On the other hand, even before the GRECO decision was published, it is obvious that in practice there was no progress when it comes to adopting a code of conduct for MPs, increasing the publicity of the legislative process and how constitutional reforms in the field of justice are planned and implemented.

GRECO asked the head of the Serbian delegation to report back on what had been done by 31 October 2021. Also, the authorities in Serbia were invited to approve the publication of a report on the consideration of GRECO recommendations. Transparency Serbia now calls on the government to approve the publication of all GRECO conclusions as soon as possible. TS also asks the government to announce what it will do to resolve not only those issues related to changes in regulations but also to their application in practice. For example, as for the legislative procedure, since February 2020 ministries have not announced any public hearings on the government portal e-uprava, and TS research shows that hearings were not held at all or were not held according to the rules in many cases during the last year. Also, the adoption of the Law on Lobbying so far has not in any way increase the publicity of information on the influences on decision-making in the executive and legislative branches.

According to the TS assessment, the very fact that at the end of 2020 there is still a conversation about fulfilling the recommendations for which the deadline expired four years ago, clearly indicates that the fight against corruption was not high on the list of priorities of the Serbian government and the assembly. This is even more visible based on a large number of measures from the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (for the period 2013 – 2018) and the Action Plan for Chapter 23 for negotiations between Serbia and the EU (2016), which have not been fulfilled even formally.