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    • Systemic Police Reform Is a Necessary Step for Progress in the Area of ​​Justice, Freedom and Security

    • Date: 24 May 2019

      The focus on results instead on the processes is necessary for the progress of Serbia's accession negotiations with the EU in the area of ​​justice, freedom and security, it was concluded at the meeting of the Working Group of the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) on Chapter 24 and the Negotiating Group on Justice, Freedom and Security Issues Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) organized on May 24, 2018 in Belgrade.

      Referring to civil society's comments on the revised Action Plan for Chapter 24, BCSP Director and Coordinator of the Working Group of the NCEU for Chapter 24 Sonja Stojanovic Gajicstressed the importance of these recommendations for efficient and effective police organization, with rationally determined number of employees.

      "The Revised Action Plan for Chapter 24 is a step forward, but it’s not enough, since the indicators of progress do not reflect the concrete results," said the BCSP director.

      Transparency in the work of the border police, the fight against organized crime, and the reduction of political influence on investigations are of particular importance for progress in accession negotiations with the EU. Although regular information is provided on certain thematic areas of police work, comprehensive reporting on the police organization is still missing,  Stojanovic Gajic warned.

      A good part of the civil society proposals on accessibility of the chapters has been adopted, except for those concerning relations with neighbours and the jurisdiction of provisional institutions in Kosovo in the domain of readmission, legal assistance and integrated border management. As these issues are an integral part of Chapter 35, greater synergy between the two negotiating groups is an important step towards fulfilling the conditions for membership, concluded Stojanovic Gajic.

      What Is the Place of the Revised Action Plan for Chapter 24 in the European Integrations of Serbia?

      Head of the Negotiating Team for negotiations with the EU Tanja Miscevic pointed to the importance of the fact that our country is the only one near Montenegro that has started membership negotiations.

       "The government and representatives of civil society strive for the same goal when it comes to Chapter 24, which is making a credible and feasible plan," Miscevic reminded.

      In particular, she pointed to the frequent changes in the external circumstances that constantly impose the need to amend action plans in the area of ​​Justice, Freedom and Security and more effectively align with EU acquis, such as migration and the fight against terrorism.

      Miscevic concluded that without consultations with representatives of the civil society on the comments of the European Commission there will be no successful walk towards the final stage of the negotiations under this chapter.

      Chief of the Negotiation group for the Chapter 24 and State Secretary in Ministry of Interior Zoran Lazarov said that Serbia has already achieved some quality and measurable outcomes in this area. Lazarov stressed that the Action Plan for Chapter 24 suffered many changes in content and methodological terms, and that the revised document was in line with the recommendations of the European Commission. The current assessment is that Serbia is on track, with 55% compliance with the EU acquis.

      "Cooperation with neighbours, Frontex and EU police forces in the field of migration, harmonization of national strategic documents in the field of organized crime and the establishment of the National Coordination Body for the Prevention and the Fight against Terrorism are just some of the newly adopted measures of the Republic of Serbia," Lazarov said speaking about the successes in individual thematic areas.

      In the part of the meeting closed to the public, representatives of civil society had the opportunity to ask questions to the coordinators of working groups for individual sub-chapters within Chapter 24.

      Judicial cooperation, visa policy, organized crime, the fight against human trafficking, police cooperation, terrorism, counterfeiting of money, drugs and hooliganism were the most important thematic areas discussed.

      Accessibility of Moi Reports for Greater Transparency of Reforms

      BCSP Researcher Sasa Djordjevic asked a number of questions about preventing corruption at all levels of the police organization, controlling external borders, achieving results in the fight against organized crime, and combating drugs and violence at sports events.

      "Insufficient transparency and availability of MoI reports remains a problem," Djordjevic highlighted.

      Lazarov replied that the Serbian police had recorded significant successes in the previous period, and that the MoI stands out by the level of transparency among other institutions.

      Referring to the issue of transparency in the fight against organized crime, BCSP Researcher Bojan Elek pointed out that although the MoI stated that a mid-term review of the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) was conducted, this document was still not published.

      Coordinator of the Working Group on the Subchapter Fight Against Organized Crime Gordana Janicijevic reminded that new types of transnational crime also require new analysis of the SOCTA, and that the exclusion of this document in the Action Plan for Chapter 24 is definitely a failure.

      Analyzing the successes and failures of Serbia in the fight against terrorism, BCSP Executive Director Predrag Petrovic commended the establishment of the National Coordinating Body for the Prevention and Fight against Terrorism, but also pointed out that it is unclear what the criteria is for the appointment of the head of this body.

      At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the representatives of the MoI and the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy draft a plan of the thematic sessions that will be held in the future.

      BCSP is the coordinator of the Working group for Chapter 24 for NCEU - a permanent, institutionalized body within which thematically structured debates between representatives of the state administration, non-governmental organizations, politicians, professionals, professional organizations and the general public on future accession of Serbia to the European Union are conducted. It consists of 21 thematic working groups which are covering all 35 chapters of the Acquis.

      Article written by BCSP intern Marina Radovanovic.

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