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    • Battle for the rule of law in the Western Balkans

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    • Numerous incidents, starting from the Savamala case in Serbia, followed by the beating of protesters in Montenegro, together with the mass wiretapping scandal in Macedonia, signified the regression of the rule of law in the Balkans, is one of the conclusions of the second panel of the conference “Security challenges as a link between the citizens and institutions”, which was organized by Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) on the 21st December 2016 in Belgrade.

      National case studies on the rule of law in Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, which were developed within the project Monitoring and Evaluation of the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans, financed by the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) were presented at the panel.

      During the past year, Serbia has opened Chapters 23 and 24, has successfully managed the migrant crisis and has reduced case backlog in judiciary. However, achieved success is mainly limited to these three points, states BCSP researcher Bojan Elek.

      The process of the European integrations has little impact on the citizens’ everyday life, and Serbia still has laws and the Constitution, but not legality and constitutionality, which can best be illustrated by Savamala case, empasized Elek.

      “The National Assembly of Serbia is reduced to a simple voting machine that does not control executive branch and that adopts majority of acts through the emergency procedure. Combating organized crime and corruption is being reduced to mass arrests in front of the media, whose outcomes remain unknown. It is necessary to inform interested parties, especially the European Union, about the fact that the European integrations are being more and more being brought down to the technical process, without going into the substance of the process” warned Elek.

      Montenegro is seen as the leader of the European integrations in the region, but the actual state in the society is not good, says Ana Djurnic from the Institut Alternativa from Podgorica.

      “Two of the most important illustrations of this state are recent foundations of Agency for Prevention of Corruption and the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, performed in a very non-transparent manner, accompanied by many obstructions. The electoral process has also been marked by manipulations and oppositionisboycotting National Assembly of Montenegro,  requesting new elections, hence the severe crisis of democracy continues”, stressed Djurnic.

      At the conference was stated that human rights and media freedoms are at the bottom of the Government agenda in Montenegro.

      “This can be seen through the continuous attacks on the journalists, unresolved cases of this attacks and excessive use of force by the police. The case that stands out is the incident of beating protesters by members of Special anti-terrorist unit, which still has not been resolved” concludes Djurnic.

      Macedonia was struck by a political crisis where the information about wiretapping of 20.000 people was central point.

      “Data from intercepted phone calls pointed out to corruption, crimes and manipulation of election results by politicians on the decision-making positions. Due to this political crisis, the question of rule of law was sidelined”, states Kristina Dimovska from European Policy Institute from Skopje.

      The biggest progress in Macedonia has been made in the field of fight against terrorism, but solely on the normative level, while most severe regression has been seen in judiciary, it is the opinion of European Policy Institute.

      “Most significant examples of this view are continuance of adopting laws in emergency procedures, where Assembly of Macedonia acts solely as a voting machine. Special Prosecutor for monitored calls confirmed the inability of regular institutions to act, and that institution had a problem with lack of resources and insufficient number of employees”, warned Dimitrova.

      Civil society organizations criticise and offer solutions to many problems, but it often happens that they are isolated and that their suggestions get refused, was the conclusion of the discussion.

      The event was organized with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union through the program of support to civil society and the European Fund for the Balkans through the regional program "Think and Link." The views and opinions expressed here and at the panels do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Norway, the European Union, the European Fund for the Balkans and other related organizations.

      This article was translated by BCSP intern Emilija Davidovic.

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