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    • Public debate "Security sector reform as a precondition to EU membership – role and possible contribution of civil society" held at the Centre

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    • Date: 15 July 2008
      (from left) Hadzic, Jeftic, Miscevic and Stojanovic
      (from left) Hadzic, Jeftic, Miscevic and Stojanovic

      Public debate “Security sector reform as a precondition to EU membership - role and possible contribution of civil society“ was held at the Centre for Civil-Military Relations on Tuesday, July 15. Tanja Miščević, Director of the Government of Serbia’s European Integration Office (SEIO), Zoran Jeftić, State Secretary of Defence, representatives of international organisations and civil society organisations which are interested in the matters of security policy was all present at the debate. It served its purpose as an opportunity to bring forward comments and suggestions to the draft version of the National programme of Serbia’s integration to the EU.

      Miroslav Hadžić, president of the Centre’s Managerial Board saw this debate as a way for civil society to improve the quality of this strategic document by adding suggestions and critical comments. In his opinion, civilian and democratic control is mostly being implemented over the military, while other actors in the security sector, such as police or private security companies are out of sight.

      SEIO Director has pointed out that democratic and civilian control today marks one of the political preconditions for association, which is gaining importance in the eyes of the EU observers. EU has no model of its own for security sector reform, but does follow a strict policy on judging whether candidate country has made any progress in this field or not. She believes that any reform being conducted, must be seen through because of citizens themselves and not because this is a membership condition.

      From his side, Zoran Jeftić, State Secretary for Defence pointed at the problem of how the outdated system of civil defence would respond to any emergency situation. As he emphasized, the system was split for a long time between the authorities on the federal level and those in the republics. Upon reaching independence, Govt. of Serbia failed to regulate this important aspect of its security sector. Jeftić feels that there is enough potential in Serbia to meet the challenges in this field, but that a law must come first, to define the preferred model and authority of any civil emergency service. In this way, it would be finally decided whether the military, the police, a separate agency or ministry will take on a new role.

      Sonja Stojanović, Director of the Centre said how the greatest achievements in the police reform are that the Agreement on Readmission and Visa Facilitation has been signed in 2007 and that the Road Map (containing guidelines) for visa liberalisation has been laid out for 2008. Yet, a number of important legal documents (such as „Law on personal data protection“ or „Law regarding the classification of information“) are still in the process of, or not even being considered for adoption. Therefore, main challenges awaiting the new government are building the consensus on: Serbia’s foreign policy and security sector reform; as well as defining key priorities in meeting its international (vis-à-vis EU especially) obligations. Regarding the reform of the police, it is up to civil society to advocate publicly for adoptions of those laws that are of key importance, to assist the citizens in protecting their rights and to continue emphasizing the value of democratic governance, not just improved efficiency.

      One of the main interests of the participants was will the Irish „no“ affect further EU enlargement and what exactly can Serbia expect. Tanja Miščević replied how this definitely marks the beginning of another EU crisis, but one that can be overcome in the following months. Since Serbia is still not a candidate country, Irish „no vote“ does not affect Serbia too much, but says more on EU’s internal issues.

      Recommendations were passed on by civil society organisations. One of them addressed the matter of adopting the National Security Strategy, but only after a thorough study into the economic, social and demographical capacities of Serbia was done. The fact that NPI does not include any report regarding Serbia’s cooperation with the Tribunal in The Hague was met with strong criticism.

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