Regarding the world day of social justice

Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS), on the occasion of the World Day of Social Justice, finds it necessary to alert the public to the following:

According to the provisions of Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the state is based on the rule of law and social justice.

In the Republic, there is no rule of law or social justice. These two phenomena are related.

Numerous successive reports of the European Commission on the progress of Serbia testify to the absence of separation of powers into three branches. This deprives citizens of legal protection.

Citizens who do not have adequate legal protection are faced with growing poverty, and millions of them with real misery.

The state has robbed a seven-digit number of pensioners of payments they have been putting into the pension fund for decades.

Unemployment is huge. The only secure employment is in the public sector. The requirement for employment, in a large number of cases, is the membership in one of the political parties that are at the particular time in power.

This way, the unemployed people, and especially young unemployed people, are deprived of the freedom of political choice and their right to freedom of opinion and freedom of conscience is significantly undermined. Partocratic relation to employment leads to the formation of parallel social strata at every level of the social hierarchy. Employees in the public sector, in terms of safety of employment and level of income tend to have a disproportionate advantage over their counterparts from parallel social groups in the private sector.>>>

Risky minority policy of the Government of Serbia

Centre for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) warns that the Government of Serbia still hovers between integration of national minorities into Serbia’s political system and their Serbianization. Schizophrenic character of the ruling party, made up of former radical ultrachauvinist who have succumbed to the inevitability of European integration, is quite visible here.

In Subotica, the progressive Assembly President, Ilija Maravić, announced that Subotica would get a cultural centre that would bear the name of Brana Crnčević, and that they would close the Foundation of Danilo Kiš.

This was opposed by the city board of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, a coalition partner of Maravić’s Serbian Progressive Party.

Brana Crnčević was one of the leading representatives of war policy in the nineties. Danilo Kiš is a symbol of, not only multiculturalism, but also the European character of Serbia.

At the same time, in the municipality of Bečej, where the ruling coalition is comprised of SNS and SVM, for the first time among the holders of the most important functions there are no Hungarians, although Hungarians make up half the population of the municipality.>>>

Regarding the proposal on the equalization of civil and church marriage

Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) interprets the proposal on the equalization of civil and church marriage, which is embedded in the Draft Civil Code, as the continuation and strengthening of religious discrimination in Serbia.

Legal Recognition of church marriage is a human right, but only if the consequences are such that they do not compromise the equality of citizens before the law.

In given conditions in which unconstitutional and unlawful discrimination against a large number of churches and religious communities is applied, this will contribute to its further strengthening.

In Serbia, a lot of Protestant churches are discriminated. None of the non-Christian religious communities is registered. A few years ago, the Minister of religion insulted the then-Ambassador of India, mentioning in their official talks with her that Vishnu, Shiva and Buddhist communities in Serbia are close to satanic cult’s sects.

The then-Minister of Religion began the forced unification of the Protestant churches. This policy has been applied up to today.

Only privileged churches and religious communities are present in classes in state schools. Only their representatives are authorized to take seats in the National Education Council. Only they can perform religious services in the military and religious services in prisons. Binding instructions of the Radio Broadcasting Agency were given to broadcasters to make them talk about underprivileged churches mostly in the context of the threat of extremism. Police officers held public lectures in which they equated Protestant church with satanic sects.>>>

Transparency in law-making process in the light of forming of the new government in Serbia and Ukrainian crisis*

The problem of transparency in law-making process is conditioned by a number of factors that are changing quite rapidly. One must be naive to think that the crucial laws whose adoption is being prepared with insufficiently transparent public debate, as the Labor Law, or whose drafts are merely mentioned, without anyone seeing them, as the legislation in the field of education in Serbia that is allegedly still being prepared, are brought in social and political vacuum.

Like countries of the Visegrad Group and Western Balkans, Serbia is faced with a situation in which the new government with a strong parliamentary majority emerged. This is, of course, a good thing, since there will be fewer blockages in the legislative process, and as civil society will know exactly who to turn to seeking greater transparency and wider public debate about the laws that are passed and are yet to be passed in the coming period.

However, some other factors are changed as well. As the Center for Development of Civil Society has been engaged in the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities for fifteen years, it is hard not to see the intertwining influence of different factors.

When we talk about the recent political changes that have taken place, we think of the elections in countries such as Serbia or Macedonia, or the Visegrad countries, for example Hungary. But, other changes significantly affect the transparency of the legislative process as well.

Crimean crisis is a new trial and a new challenge. Any factual border changing in Europe affects not only international relations but also the managing mode of internal issues in all European countries. Crimean crisis has intensified issues related to the adoption of the Labor Law, since it implies adherence to the standards of one of the parties who are confronted regarding Ukraine. It also raised the issue of the existing legislative solutions and their possible changes with regard to such important matters as the oil rent and South Stream. In small countries, foreign policy influences the legislation. Ukrainian events increase the vulnerability of small countries and may decrease transparency not only of their foreign policy, but also the legislative process and the role of the public in them. This cannot be stressed enough. Exacerbated international situation makes demands for transparency even more necessary, and, at the same time, more difficult to achieve. There is an understandable tendency of power holders in exacerbated international situation to further remove public from decision-making process.

Any change in international relations, such as the annexation of the Crimea, affects all countries in Europe, and in different ways. It opens up the possibility of a certain dose of risk in the recomposition of different policies, not only regarding international politics, but also the internal one. Despite a very sustained and constructive behavior of the most influential country of the European Union to Ukraine’s crisis, border changes in Ukraine created a porous border in the Sudeten Mountains and the rivers Oder and Neisse. The deployment of U.S. military in Poland serves deterrence, but not necessarily only deterrence of the possible danger from the East. Some of the Visegrad Group countries are objectively in more delicate position both from the east and from the west, after the annexation of the Crimea.>>>

Press Conference The Western Balkan countries and the Visegrad Group: transparency in law-making

Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) organizes a press conference Western Balkan Countries and the Visegrad Group: transparency in law-making on Tuesday, April 29, 12:00 to 13:00, at the Media Center in Belgrade, Terazije 3.

The conference will discuss the (lack of) transparency of the legislative process in the region, the experiences of the countries of the Visegrad Group, as well as the role and contribution of civil society in the process of increasing legislative transparency. The conference proceedings Towards greater openness of the legislative process in the Western Balkans countries will be presented there.

The conference speakers are:

Zoltán Varga-Haszonits, Deputy Ambassador of Hungary

Ivana Ćirković, Director of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, Government of Republic of Serbia (confirmation expected)

Dr. Reményi Péter, Institute of Geostrategic Studies of Transnational Development, Hungary

Tamara Zrnović, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Srpska

Đorđije Brkuljan, Center for Democratic Transition, Montenegro

Snežana Ilić, Centre for Development of Civil Society, Serbia

Simultaneous translation is provided.>>>

The attack on the Protestant Church in Roma Mahala as an indicator of a number of systemic failures of Serbia and the international community

Related to the attack on the Protestant Evangelical Church in the village of Bošnjace near Lebane in the night between April 21 and 22, 2014, Center for Development of Civil Society (CDCS) wants to pay attention to a clearly unfavorable trends in the field of religious rights of discriminated (i.e. non-traditional) churches in Serbia, as well as their broader context, which, in this case, is manifested as discrimination against Roma.

In the night of April 21 and 22 of 2014, a group of vandals tried to set fire to a church in the Roma Mahala in the aforementioned village. Believers luckily quickly extinguished the fire.

This serious incident, reminiscent of the once burning Adventist Church in Stapar, or of the attempt to ignite believers and their children within the King Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bajina Bašta, indicates at least four things:

– There is a lot of talk in the media lately about the increase of the number of hours of religious education in public schools and employing religious education teachers on a permanent basis. It is obvious that the government is trying to cover up their waiver of the rights to the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija by clericalisation, in a similar way in which the government of Zoran Đinđić managed to pacify the resistance of the Serbian Orthodox Church to delivering of Slobodan Milošević to the ICTY in The Hague by unconstitutional introduction of religious education in public schools.

– The educational results of religious education in public schools are obviously unsatisfactory, if not, in every way, even harmful, because, according to the testimony of the pastor of the Protestant evangelical church, the young perpetrators of these attacks do not even distinguish the mosque from the Protestant church; it is reasonable then to ask ourselves how broad and what kind of knowledge these young people have of their own and other people’s religious beliefs, after thirteen years of teaching religion in public schools. It should be noted that these classes are taught much more under the control of the religious community than within the educational system of supervision.>>>

Established Network for Interculturalism

08.04.2014On 4 and 5 April 2014, on the Fruska Gora, a two-day initiative meeting for the creation of a Network for Interculturalism was held which, to begin with, is comprised of six organizations: the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity, Centre for Development of Civil Society, Centre for Regionalism, DamaD, Centre for Democracy, Human Rights and Regional Cooperation and AGENDA.

The two-day initiative meeting on the Fruska Gora was supported by the TACSO Serbia, Technical Assistance to the organisations of civil society.

After establishing, the Network has released their first joint statement, which reads in full:

At the initiative meeting for the establishment of the Network for Interculturalism by six non-governmental organizations from different parts of Serbia, held on 4 and 5 April 2014 at the Fruska Gora, the following was emphasised – the need for dedicated work on the fundamental social changes that contribute to: the essential civil equality; approach to human rights without exclusion of any kind; promotion of dialogue; social justice and social cohesion.

Convinced that the implementation and protection of human rights, particularly the rights to work, education, health, the recognition of identity and free expression of individual characteristics and preferences are essential for the development of our society, non-governmental organizations, brought together around the idea of a society regulated in intercultural, civic principles, believe that the future government of the Republic of Serbia needs to restore operation of the Ministry of Human Rights, the department with full political and administrative responsibility for the implementation and protection of human rights. The establishment of such a department, taking into account the cost-effectiveness and rationality of the Government, would contribute to the efficiency of public administration in relation to the realization, protection and monitoring of human rights. >>>

Proceedings presented in Mostar

05.03.2014_2The proceedings Towards greater openness of the legislative process in the Western Balkans countries was presented on 5th March at the Faculty of Law, University in Mostar. The speakers were Tamara Zrnović and Mirjana Trifković from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Srpska. The audience consisted of 23 students from the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Philosophy – Department of Journalism. The presentation included examples of good practice, the comparative experiences of the countries members of the Visegrad Group and recommendations related to the increasing openness of the legislative process in the Western Balkans.

Discussion and questions raised during the presentations were focused mainly on the actual problems concerning the decision making in Herzegovina-Neretva Canton.The Government of the Canton does not work for three years and the head of the canton has only the formal function. This is due to division of the city of Mostar in two parts, East (Bosnian) and West (Croatian), and disproportionate number of residents in these areas which affects the number of their delegates in the Government. Students have expressed that it affects their life and functioning in Canton and ultimately the state of Bosnia and >>>

Cooperation between minority redaction RTV Vojvodina and RTV Bor

03.03.2014While still working on the project Multiculturalism in Serbia is not Dead (2nd year, supported by Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade), we organized a visit of journalists of RTV Vojvodina (the minority redaction) to RTV Bor, the redaction of the program in Vlach. And so Zlatko Ramač (Ruthenian redaction) and Anna Jaškova (Slovakian redaction) spent five days in Bor, worked and socialized with local journalists, recorded a bunch of material on Eastern Serbia, and we will soon watch it!