Law on People’s Initiative – public discussion (with an on-going study supported by the Visegrad fund)

A round table about people’s initiative was organized on 9 June 2010 in Novi Sad in the Assembly of AP Vojvodina. This round table is a part of a wider public discussion initiated regarding the Model of the law on people’s initiative by the following organizations: People’s Parliament from Leskovac, Center for Advancement of Legal Studies (CUPS), Sretenje and Resource Center Negotin. Assistant to the project Political parties and engaged public Snežana Ilić joined the work of the round table.

The introductory part was given by legal experts, authors of the Model of the law on people’s initiative, Professors Dr Vladimir Vodinelić and Dr Saša Gajin as well as the vice-president of the Assembly of AP Vojvodina Branimir Mitrović and Ivan Grujić from People’s Parliament. In the introductory part it was said that in the past ten years (2000 – 2010) there were nine draft laws in the National Assembly of Serbia whose proposers were citizens in a form of a people’s (civil) initiative. The National Assembly discussed only one draft law although there is a legal and constitutional obligation to discuss all draft law proposed in a form of people’s initiative.

The current Law on referendum and people’s initiative (1994) defines a deadline of only seven days to collect the necessary 30 thousand signatures for people’s initiative which is to be handed in the Assembly and does not give any firm guarantees for the initiative to be discussed in the Parliament.

The proposed Model of the law on people’s initiative defines the right of the citizens of the Republic of Serbia registered in the voters list to propose adoption, change or amendments to the laws and other general acts which are in the jurisdiction of the National Assembly or the Assembly of the Autonomous Province or the Assembly of a city or municipality. This model defines the following number of citizens needed to start initiative: at least 30.000 citizens submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the National Assembly; 15.000 citizens submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the Assembly of the Autonomous Province; maximum of 5 percent of the citizens having their habitual residence in the territory of a city submit a proposal of a general act which is to be adopted in the city municipality assembly. Authors of the law give a deadline of 120 days (instead of 70 days in the current law) to collect the signatures.>>>

Regarding the repeated anti-croatian incident shortly before the meeting between Tadić and Josipović

The Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) warns about the anti-Croatian incidents which took place for the second time in a short period in the north of Backa, once again shortly before the meeting between the President of the Republic, Mr. Tadić and the President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Josipović.

The northern Bačka is the part of our country where the most ethnic Croats in Serbia live. The first incident happened before the meeting in Bački Monoštor on 16 April 2010 when chauvinist graffiti were found written on the building where the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) had its main office. Last night this sad story continued with the broken windows on the building of the Cultural Office of Vojvodina Croats in Subotica. It happened ten days before the meeting between Tadić and Josipović who confirmed they would attend the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of DSHV on 18 July 2010 in Subotica. >>>

Regarding the mass anti-Roma incidents in the village of Jabuka

The Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) has received the news about mass anti-Roma riots in the village of Jabuka near Pancevo with great concern, as well as the information about recent attacks on Methodist Church in this village in connection with the riots and the initial passive reaction to the attacks which the police demonstrated.

Considering the seriousness of the situation the CDCS draws the attention of the public to many-day-long racist incidents in the village of Jabuka near Pancevo. After the crime committed on 10 June which involved an underage Roma boy who is reasonably believed to have stabbed and disfigured his peer-ethnic Serb, the atmosphere of lynch arose against the Roma in this village. The villagers of Jabuka organized a crusade in the atmosphere of lynch and revenge through the Roma part of the village. They used the stones and bricks to break the windows of houses and the Methodist Church whose worshippers are mainly the Roma. According to the witnesses one house was set on fire. Everything happened in the presence of the local police which did not react. The promise given by the Mayor of Pancevo that she would organize food to be delivered to the Roma because they were afraid to leave their houses, only increased the fear. The latest and more adequate statement of the Head of the Police Headquarters Pancevo and the Mayor of Pancevo may only ease the fear and not release it. After four days of abuse against the Roma the Mayor of Pancevo said that “it is beyond any civilized and human behavior to use a tragic event as a reason to call on lynch”. The question is why she underestimated the fact that the Roma citizens could not leave their houses for days and why she did not ask help from the gendarmerie which is formed for such situations?>>>

Engaged public in Serbia as a corrective of partocracy (with an on-going study supported by the Visegrad fund)

The main structural problem of Serbia in the EU integration process is the presence of disproportionately great influence of political parties (i.e. executive power) in comparison with legislative and judicial power.

The European Commission’s 2008 Progress Report on Serbia saw the question of party control over deputies’ mandates and the role of the Assembly of Serbia in election of judges as the biggest problem in fulfilling political requirements for admission to the EU. The widespread practice of adoption of laws using an urgent procedure without a prior public discussion was also pinpointed. (SEC (2008) 2698 final, 5.11.2008)

How does the civil society in Serbia respond to these challenges? Are the CSOs, engaged individuals, independent media, professional associations equal to that tough everyday struggle against the rule of partocracy at all levels of power? How often do the members of civil society organizations reconsider important personal, institutional and legislative solutions imposed by party leaderships as unquestionable? How often does the engaged public bring up some new questions important for the European future of Serbia? Which topics of general importance are put aside and why are they not discussed?>>>

Regarding the addoption of the Law on Double Citizenship for Hungarians

Center for Development of Civic Society (CDCS) invites public to pay attention to promising possibilities that today’s adoption of The Law on Double Citizenship for Hungarians from Surrounding Countries in Hungarian Parliament provides for Serbia on her way towards European integration.

CDCS respects each single sovereign state right to adopt its own stand on measures related to its citizens. Bearing that it mind, CDCS fully respects negative attitude expressed by Republic of Slovakia regarding the mentioned law.>>>

Regarding the news on the abolishing the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and the Ministry of Religions

The Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) has received with serious concern the news that Serbian government discusses on the abolishing Ministry for human and minority rights and Ministry of Religion such as separate ministries.

The intention to put the affairs regarding human and minority rights under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice is damaging in many aspects.

The CDCS warns that the situation regarding protection of minority rights is not such that managing a possible crisis in relations of potentially opposed groups could be conferred to the ministry which is rather inefficient by the nature of the area it comprises, such as the Ministry of Justice. CDCS reminds that the experience from the period of frequent ethnic incidents in 2003-2005 showed that it is necessary for the Ministry for Human and Minority rights to exist out of these reasons.>>>

Regarding the reaction of the Provincial Ombudsman to the application of the Centre for Development of Civil Society concerning religious discrimination executed by the administration ograns in Vojvodina

The Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) acclaims the Recommendation of the Provincial ombudsman addressed to the Provincial Secretariat for Regulations, Administration and National Minorities to distribute the funds from the state budget not only to traditional, but to other registered churches and religious communities as well.

This Recommendation is a response to the application submitted on 1 August 2009 by the CDCS in which the ombudsman of the AP of Vojvodina was asked to initiate a procedure of annulment of the open competition due to religious discrimination; the competition was for distribution of the funds to churches and religious communities active in the territory of AP of Vojvodina and was published by the Provincial Secretariat for National Minorities on 20 July 2009. On this occasion the CDCS asked the competition rules to be changed so that “non-traditional” churches and religious communities could enter the competition as well. The application stated that the competition rules violated the provisions of article 6 paragraph 1 of the Law on Churches and Religious Communities which guarantee equality before the law and independency from the state for all churches and religious communities. The competition rules also violate article 6 of the Law against Discrimination which says that direct discrimination exists if due to their personal characteristics (…) a person or a group of persons is put or could be put in an unfavorable position by any act, action or failure to act.>>>

Comments of the Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) to the Second periodical report on application of the International covenant on civil and political rights

Regarding exercising the rights from article 18 ICCPR

Regarding the content of paragraphs 355-363 of the Second periodical report on application of the International covenant on civil and political rights concerning the freedom of religious beliefs with regard to exercising the rights from article 18 of the International covenant on civil and political rights, the following objections should be made:

1. Regarding the data „about the number of believers“ established in the most recent census (in 2002 and stated in paragraph 363, it should be said that the census did not include beliefs (or faith), but the confessional affiliation. It should be added that the question of religious beliefs was optional and was answered only after the census takers’ warning that it was not obligatory to answer this question. It should be borne in mind that the hate speech which could be heard in the media as well as among agnostics and of atheist, had a certain influence on answers that many believers of minority churches gave to this question.

2. Regarding the paragraph 1 of article 18 it should be said that the right to change the faith was prevented by discriminatory practice of the Ministry of Religion which refuses to register religious communities because of their missionary activities. In three and a half years of application of the Law on Churches and Religious Communities (adopted in 2006), only 12 out of about 170 religious communities existing in Serbia were registered.>>>

Study-tour in Brussels

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100
VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

Snežana Ilić, program coordinator, was invited by the European Commission to take part at the seminar Increasing the impact of CSOs action in Brussels from 22-26 November 2009. The organizer of this four-day seminar was the Bureau for Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument – TAIEX, a special department within DG Enlargement. The seminar was attended by 48 representatives of CSOs from 7 Western Balkans countries and Turkey. The lecturers were the EU institutions experts (European Commission, DG Enlargement, EIDHR) and big European “umbrella” civil society organizations (European Disability Forum, European Women Lobby). The workshops were focused on advocacy skills, leading campaigns to increase awareness, communication strategies… On the first day the participants represented the work of their organizations.