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    • The atmosphere of fear makes it difficult to control security institutions in Europe

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    • Date: 30 November 2017

      Democratic institutions and the rule of law have been endangered throughout Europe, and the polarization of societies has made it difficult to oversee the security sector. This was emphasized during the third panel of the conference organized by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) on the 20th anniversary celebration, on 28 November 2017 in Dorcol Platz.

      The third panel conference was dedicated to exacerbating democratic control of EU security institutions and responses to strategies that are increasingly used to reduce the accountability of state security actors in Central and Eastern Europe.

      The role of civil society is to use the judicial system in order to preserve the accountability of state agencies and to raise awareness in the police by co-operating in the education of civil servants, said Arvinder Sambei, Director of Amicus Legal Consultants Company and former Senior Prosecutor for Crime Prosecution for England and Wales and legal adviser to the Permanent Joint Staff of the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom.

      "After the adoption of the Draconian laws on the mass surveillance of British citizens, civil society organizations joined to challenge it in court. Ethnic-based profiling remains one of the biggest problems in UK police forces, so civil society focuses on educating police officers and so far it has managed to induce some positive changes, "Sambei concluded.

      Liberal democracies must not hesitate to use legal means against groups that would abolish democracy through populism, and the idea of ​​a security sector reform is not only a problem in post-conflict societies, it is becoming a serious problem in Central and Eastern Europe, says Josef Batora, professor of political science at Komenius University in Bratislava.

      "The presence of a fascist political party in parliament was unthinkable five or ten years ago in Europe, and now it is a reality in Slovakia. Populist and fascist movements in this part of the EU claim that state institutions are not capable of defending citizens, and such rhetoric has led to situation that in 2012, 20 percent of voters who first came to the polls in Slovakia voted for extreme right parties, "Batora said.

      He added that the liberal elites in Slovakia reacted to this challenge by direct engagement of young people, which is why the extreme right failed to repeat the success of 2016.

      The Western Balkans must reach the European Union as soon as possible, and any delay or slowing down of this process could negatively affect the state of democracy in the region, says Professor of International Relations and National Security at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb, Dejan Jović.

      "We need to be more realistic in order to complete this process. The longer these countries are waiting to join, from the point of view of democratic control, the institutions are getting worse, and there is still possibility for them to go deeper into autocracy. If we have Cyprus in the EU, why not receive Bosnia and Herzegovina, which now acts as a more integrated state than Cyprus, "Jovic concluded.

      Participants agreed that certain political actors use the atmosphere of fear to force citizens to choose between democratic governance and security, and that the European Union must stop this trend in order to prevent the diminishing of its own integrity. Conference "Breaking Fear : What can civil society do to protect the responsibility of the security sector at the time of fear?" was organized as the part of  celebration of the 20th anniversary of BCSP, the first civil society organization in the Western Balkans specialized n security topics.

      After the conference, Stevan Dojčinović, Sandra Benčić, Vukašin Obradović, Bobana Macanović and Miroslav Hadžić contributed to the gathering by presenting personal experiences of Breaking Fear.

       

      Conference "Breaking Fear: What Can Civil Society Do to Save Accountability of Security Governance in the Time of Fear?“ was organized as part of the BCSP's 20th anniversary celebration. BCSP is the first civil society organization in the Western Balkans specializing in security topics.

       

      Translated by BCSP Intern Mijat Kostic

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