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The EC report pointed to important problems for the fight against corruption

TS expresses its satisfaction with the fact that the European Commission, in its latest Report on Serbia, points out, among the most important recommendations and problems, many of the issues that our organization points out, especially regarding political promotion, big procurement, political influence in public administration and prosecution of corruption. Nevertheless, in some aspects, the Report is not sufficiently critical in the assessments.

We consider it particularly significant, as already in the impact section in the summary of the Report, European Commission is asking Serbia to fully and in the highest priority "meet all the recommendations of international observers." This is a request to increase the transparency of party financing and electoral campaigns, to divide the party and state activities of public officials and to ensure equal representation of the participants in the elections in the media. Contrary to its own plans, Serbia did not improve the Law on Financing Political Activities for five years. The ODIHR recommendations from 2016 and 2017 were completely ignored by the Government and the Assembly, and the latest opportunity to better organize the "functionary campaign" was missed this month by not accepting the TS proposal to improve Law on Preventing Corruption.

European Commission highlighted the problem of duty holderswhich is used as a means of political influence in the tops of public administration. On the other hand, the Brussels administration missed the opportunity to point to the identical mechanism of illegal political influence exercised through appointed duty-holders in large public enterprises.

Concerning the prevention of corruption, European Commission justifiably claims that reforms did not produce a "measurable impact." Regarding repression, as in all previous years, credible indicators of the independent acting of the Prosecution and a final verdict for high-level corruption, as well as confiscation of property, are demanded from Serbia. Equally accurate is the European Commission's assessment that "the private sector is underdeveloped and blocked by weakeness in the rule of law and ensuring fair competition."

According toTS, it is very important that European Commission clearly indicates that the National Assembly damaged the exercise of its supervisory and legislative role by the practice of the parliamentary majority acting. The first reactions of Serbian authorities in these objections are not encouraging at all.

On the other hand, European Commission's assessments of public debates in drafting legislation are insufficiently strong having in mind the scale of the problem, as it is not just about the objections of representatives of civil society organizations, but about the unequivocal violation of the law.

Unlike the government's self-esteem about a large number of corruption convictions, which were not followed by comparison with the previous period, the EC's report shows that the number of corruption convictions in 2018 decreased by about 9% in comparison with the previous year. EC is still cautious in assessing the effectiveness of special anti-corruption and economic crime departments, although it has been 14 months since the beginning of their work.

EC points to public procurement, infrastructure projects, health, education, urbanism and state-owned enterprises as areas that are particularly vulnerable due to corruption and points to the lack of visible progress in increasing transparency in these areas. They also recall that the Government is still not considering the systemic recommendations of its Council for the Fight against Corruption.

Regarding the recently adopted Law on Prevention Corruption, EC points out that it must be in line with international standards and GRECO recommendations, from which it can be concluded that the legal text did not receive a previous positive assessment. However, the problem is that European standards in this area are underdeveloped, and GRECO recommendations regarding the work of the Agency are not comprehensive. Therefore, it may happen that this law, whose preparation lasted five years and did not solve many of the problems identified in practice, may occasionally receive an unjustified transitional assessment.

It is highlited the need to amend the Law on Free Access to Information of public importance ensure full application, but without reference to problematic provisions in the last published draft. The EC report speaks of unjustified denial of information of public importance, but misses to point to the key fact - that the Government never secured the execution of final decision of the Commissioner. It is good that EC reminds Serbian parliamentarians of the neglected obligation - to elect the Commissioner - but more importantly, to make that election "in a transparent way, taking into account the relevant professional experience".

EC reminds us of the findings of the Anti-Corruption Agency, according to which the measures from the Anti-Corruption Strategy for the period 2013-2018 were fulfilled in only 26% of cases, and they are not even in 61% of the situations. On these devastating results, the National Assembly, to which the report was submitted, did not yet discuss.

No progress has been made in the area of ​​public procurement. Serbia is required to adapt the law to new European public procurement rules, public-private partnerships and concessions. More importantly, EC urges Serbia to ensure that intergovernmental agreements and their application cease to restrict competition and to be based on the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination. We remind that in recent years Serbia has implemented almost all infrastructure projects through direct agreements, disregarding not only European rules, but also its own Law on Public Procurement.

Transparency Serbia considers particularly important that the European Commissionexplicitly requested from the Government of Serbia to measure the impact in the implementation of its anti-corruption policies, in order to prepare a new ambitious strategy and action plan. The previous steps in this direction were not good enough, as there was no consideration of the reasons why the previous strategic acts did not produce results. Therefore, we consider it necessary that the Government and the Parliament of Serbia, regardless of the dynamics of their relations with the European Union, change the approach in solving the problems of corruption, and that the EC report is considered as a useful impetus for achieving this goal.