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Unusual post on the Agency’s website

acas i avWe spotted an unusual post on the website of Agency for fight against corruption, on February the 21st. The declamation was already in the title “The president of the Republic of Serbia did not break the Law on Anticorruption Agency”. From one point of view, we can praise the fact that Agency reacted quickly on the claims that are made or doubts that the high official broke the rules about which the Agency is or should be competent. However, that act was very unusual. Declamations and doubts about breaking the Law on Anticorruption Agency by the high officials in media and public are made on an everyday basis, but about those the Agency does not comment publically.

At the first glance, the explanation could be, that the Agency’s comment was “regarding report”, which was made. However, even if that is correct, the post is still unusual, because there is no practice that the Agency in other cases makes this kind of a statement on their website, when the possible violations are reported by officials or political parties. For example – Transparency Serbia has pointed to possible violations of the article 29 of the Law on Anticorruption Agency several times, inter alia in correlation with acts by the officials of the Belgrade and members of the Government, about which we got answers and opinion of the Agency, but they are not published on the Agency’s website.

The reader of the post, which was published by a lot of media, has no information about who submitted the report about the possible violation of law by the president, nor, more importantly, on which violations that report point out. Thanks to exhaustive press clipping, we managed to find that was the report made by the group of organizations under the common name „Civil front“, and the news about the filled report was submitted by several media.

They asked the Agency to determine if article 29 of the Law, is violated and which quotes “an official may perform a function in a political party, or political entity and to participate in its activities if that does not violate the preformation of the public function and if that is not by the law forbidden”. With that article, it is foreseen that the official cannot use the public resources and gatherings on which he participates, and meetings that he goes to as an official, for the promotion of political parties, or that official may be excluded from this provision only if it uses public resources to protect personal safety.” The fact is that information about the campaign is broadcasted on the internet portal, on which there are contents about party activities of President of Serbia, which by our conviction represents the violation of the article 29, paragraph 2 of Law on Anticorruption Agency”, was the declamation of organization Civil Front in the request addressed to the Agency. They added that they are convinced that President Vučić has violated the Law when he went to media with comments about leaders of political parties and movements, at the beginning of the campaign.

In the end, they suggested the Agency for fight against the corruption to initiate the procedure in accordance with its authority, and in accordance with the law. The request was signed by: Bureau for Social Research, Initiative “Ne davimo Beograd”, the association of free tenants movement from Niš, as well as citizens’ association “Naš grad naša stvar” from Zrenjanin, “Lokalni front Va” from Valjevo, “Lokalnaalternativa” from Vrbas, “Lokalnaalternativa”, from Bečej and “Samojako” from Mladenovac.

What did the Agency announce on that occasion? First of all, “that in the concrete situation the President is performing the Constitutional authorization, and that there is no word about activities regarding promotion of political parties by using the public resources”. Representation of the Republic of Serbia in the country and abroad is one of the constitutional authorities of President of Serbia. Neither the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, nor Law of the President of the Republic specifies in details what the representation of country includes. On this basis, the Agency is stating that in the campaign “BudućnostSrbije” Law of Agency for fight against corruption is not violated.

Furthermore, that “internet portal, on which the submitter of request points out, is not the public resource, therefore publishing information about the campaign “BudućnostSrbije” does not represent the violation of Law of Agency.

And third, in correlation with the statement from the request that the President of the Republic “commented leaders of political parties and movements”, the Agency points out that the official, elected directly by the citizens, is excluded from the obligation to provide unambiguously to interlocutors and the public if they are representing the attitude of the body in which they perform public function or the attitude of political party, or political subject.

From all of the above, it could be concluded that the Agency received the request on possible violation the Law, after which the Agency conducted the procedure, and in the procedure established the facts and on that basis concluded that there was no violation of regulations from the agency’s jurisdiction. However, it is not visible, on which facts the Agency stated its conclusion. So, according to first point, from constitution regulation, that the President represents the country in the country and abroad, Agency practically concludes that Aleksandar Vučić within the campaign “BudućnostSrbije”, performed as the President that he is and in that occasion in front of the citizens of Vranje, Pančevo, Šabac and many other cities “represented the Republic of Serbia”. That is after all possible, but it would probably be necessary, in order to establish the facts, that the Agency came into possession of information through about the purpose of the campaign.

Regarding the second point, that the internet portal www.vucic.rsis undoubtedly not the public resource, it should be determined whose resource is it then. Even though it is not a public resource, it matters from the application of the law point of view, is it a personal website of Aleksandar Vučić, the portal in the possession of his political party or the third party property.

Namely, as publishing the party’s content on state website would be controversial from one reason, so would be publishing the content related to the performance the state function on party’s or personal website could be controversial on another basis.

Finally, the Agency is completely right in the part that Aleksandar Vučić is not in obligation to undoubtedly presents the interlocutors and the public whether it is the position of the state body or the position of its party because it is a citizen-elected official. That is one of the most serious lacks of article 29 of Law on Anti-corruption Agency. That provision is suitable for deputies, and local deputies, who have been elected on the function from party lists and who continue to perform their function representing the interests of their political parties, but not for the president of the Republic or for President of National Assembly, who after election to these functions represent unity of the country, that is, the institution they lead.

Regarding that, we remind that Transparency Serbia in many occasions suggested how to preformulate this regulation, last time this summer, during the discussion about the new law which will regulate this field.

When comparing the news about possible violations of the Law and the Agency’s publication, it can be noticed that there are some questions which are not directly answered, or examined. That is the question of using the public resource and using the gatherings on which the official participates, and meetings he has as the president for promotion of political parties. In other words, judging the publicated request, the Agency was supposed to examine and establish other facts other than those mentioned in the announcement.

Primarily, is the gathering on which the president of the Republic A. Vučić participated in that manner (which is, obviously for the Agency undoubtedly), at the same time used for parties purposes. So, the exception from the article 29, paragraph 5 of the Law on Anticorruption Agency, which relates to officials elected by the citizens do not have to undoubtedly point out to interlocutors in what capacity they speak (and in that way to remove the dilemma), that does not mean that they can use meetings where they participate as state officials (when there is no dilemma with the listener) for party purposes.