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    • Degree of the security services' reform reflects the state of democracy in a country

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    • Date: 28 September 2017

      Security services should be regulated as soon as possible in order to democratize the society, is the main conclusion of the public discussion titled Key points in the reform of Serbian security services, organized by Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) on September 28, 2017.

      In the keynote address, the director of the BCSP Sonja Stojanovic Gajic highlighted that BCSP continuously monitors the reform of the security services since  its founding, and that BCSP presented an alternative "Model Law on Security Services of the Republic of Serbia" last year.

      "The drafting of the Model of this Law was done because it turned out that the old solutions were outdated, that they did not offer answers to the current issues. The model itself was developed in cooperation with a large number of public and private institutions", said Stojanovic Gajic.

      President of the BCSP Executive Board Miroslav Hadzic also emphasized the importance of involvement of both state and the non-state actors.

      "It is necessary to decentralize the control over security and intelligence services - they must be independent of  the executive branch, but they also must be overseen by the people who are qualified for that job. One of the solutions is the introduction of a Technical - Operational Center which would be independent from the existing services, and only provide them with services of secret surveillance, with court warrant, which would also reduce the costs and the potential for abuse", said Hadzic.

      One of the solutions for improving the existing system would be the merging of two military services (the Military Security Agencyand the Military Intelligence Agency) into one institution, which would improve the intelligence component of security work.

      "The Constitution did not clearly define the concept of work of the security services and the legal framework regulating this area has always been bad", said Svetko Kovac, former director of the Military Security Agency.

      "One of the biggest shortcomings are the police powers available to the Security Information Agency and the Military Security Agency. The police powers should be available to them only if they deal with  terrorism, organized crime, the direct threats to the state. The problem is the fact that the concept of "threats to the state" is poorly defined", Kovac concluded.

      Ferenc Katrein, former Chief Adviser to the Director General of the Hungarian Constitution Protection Office, added that the services do not have a permanent need for police powers and that Hungarian security agencies cooperate with the police but do not interfere with their work.

      "In Hungary, the control of the services is also difficult. The Oversight Committee led by the opposition in the Parliament did not have the necessary expertise for this job. Merging of the services would enable better communication of all components of the security system", Katrein said.

      At the discussion about the improvement of the security-intelligence system, which attracted great public and media attention,  the potential influence of Russian services on the functioning of certain Balkan states was also discussedas well as the constant threat of politicization of these state institutions.

      The conference was supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the project "LEGASI - Towards Legislative Reform of the Security and Intelligence System", within the MATRA program.

      Strahinja Sivcev, the intern at BCSP, contributed to the writing of the report from the event.

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