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?

As a partial answer to such complex questions the Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) offers a summarized presentation of interaction between political parties, i.e. state administration authorities on the one hand, and the civil society organizations on the other hand in the first six months of the current year. The CDCS used desk analysis, e-mail correspondence and conversations with activists of civil society organizations, engaged individuals and journalists as its information sources. A more thorough and comprehensive analysis is going to be successively given during the next few days.

A few topics regarding interaction between the administration authorities and the civil society have marked the public of Serbia during the past six months:

Is the Assembly a joint-stock company?

-signed blank resignations of deputies-

It is interesting that this question was initiated not by the civil society, but by the opposition parties in the Assembly of Serbia or more precisely the Serbian Progressive Party.

Sound and fury

-election of Equality Protection Commissioner-

The topic which gathered the greatest number of engaged individuals on both sides. In one moment the candidacy of Goran Miletić was supported by 212 CSOs and 8 independent media (from the south part of Serbia, which is particularly interesting). This was undoubtedly the biggest mass action of CSOs which is obvious because the commissioner is the main instance in full implementation of general anti-discrimination law adopted a year ago. Opposite to such firmly expressed will of the civil society there was the equally firm resolution of the leaders of the DS, the Assembly of Serbia and the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights not to adopt this proposal.

Easily promised tolerance

-GLBT organizations and political parties-

Gay-straight alliance organized separate conversations with representatives of all parliamentary political parties, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Culture and the President of the Assembly of Serbia. On the other hand, the prosecution rejected the criminal charge of GSA for threats addressed to GLBT population on Facebook while the latest report of Amnesty International talks about a bad position of GLBT persons. (link)

Avoiding the inevitable

-what kind and how deep decentralization of Serbia-

The situation seems stabilized after the National Assembly of Serbia gave consent to the Statute of Vojvodina and after adoption of the Law on Jurisdiction of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. On the other hand, there are permanent tensions focused on the so-called “ Vojvodina question”

The CDCS would like to seize the opportunity and thank numerous organizations which cooperate with it and invite other civil associations to join the action aimed at restriction of the party leaderships’ power and division of powers and the rule of law in Serbia.