Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

As soon as it was published, the last European Commission Report on Serbia pointed out that the regime in Belgrade is authoritarian, more seriously than any prior report. This gave another opportunity to prime minister Ana Brnabic to publicly embarrass herself, this time by stating that the report is “partially non-objective”.

Let’s ponder for a moment over the characteristics of a partially non-objective report. If the collection and analysis of data were carried out using a uniform methodology, how is it possible that we ended up with a document of allegedly uneven objectivity? The same applies to the authors of the report. They can be either entirely impartial in their assessment of the situation, or not at all.

However, it is obvious that the prime minister’s assessment of the objectivity of the report is not about its truthfulness or verifiability of facts and conclusions, nor the characteristics of its authors, but rather a well-known method of SNS. It comes down to this – if you praise me, you are objective; if you have any objections to my work, you are blinded by bias and you do not know what you’re talking about.

And what does the European Commission report on Serbia actually say?

It stresses that the further course of negotiations, meaning the process of European integration of Serbia, will depend on the establishment of the rule of law. The issue of normalization of relations with Kosovo is in second place. This was certainly the initial shock – when you mention the rule of law to the ruling party, especially as the most important issue, they are immediately thrown into a collective panic.

More specifically, it concludes that the political scene is ever more divided and that there’s no dialogue, which hinders the operations of democratic institutions, particularly the parliament. According to the Commission, the ruling coalition, which paralyzed parliamentary debate and, therefore, the control of executive power, is responsible for this. It lists the following practices as proof of this claim: unfounded joining of large number of important issues into a single item on the parliamentary agenda, continuous submission of amendments by the MPs of the ruling majority in order to monopolize the time for discussion, including during the discussion on the budget. The report also criticized the fact that the majority of laws were adopted in urgent proceedings, that the parliament hasn’t discussed the reports of independent state bodies since 2014, and that the opposition is marginalized in the work of parliamentary boards.

Attacks and threats against journalists are also noted, as well as a physical attack against an opposition party leader, which initiated civil protests. It is recognized that citizen gatherings aim to establish freedom of the media and free and fair elections. The Commission did not have much good to say about the elections – it pointed out that Serbia did not apply previously addressed objections to the course of the electoral process, especially regarding the non-transparency of party funding, the use of public resources in the campaign, and inequitable media coverage of participants in the election process. Irregularities were also noted during local elections, especially pressures directed at employees of public institutions.

It concludes that there is no tangible progress when it comes to prevention of corruption, which is omnipresent in many spheres of public life.

It says that there was no progress regarding freedom of speech and that this issue is a cause for serious concern. Citizens’ associations, journalists and human rights activists work in an environment that is not open to criticism, with authorities that negatively characterize them. These comments were followed by media attacks, especially in tabloids.

It says that the pressure on the judiciary is pronounced and that Serbia must establish the independence of the judiciary and the autonomy of the prosecution. It notes that the preparation of the amendments to the Constitution regarding the judiciary was carried out in an “embittered atmosphere” and without a social consensus on key issues. It states that officials must stop commenting on investigative and judicial procedures, as well as pressuring specific prosecutors and judges.

These are just some of the statements that may seem “partially non-objective” to the prime minister. However, for each claim, the authors of the report cite examples and evidence – which are familiar to us from our everyday life. In this report, we finally recognize the signs of reality.

Ana Brnabic does not respond to this with arguments, nor does she try to refute any of the examples. She can’t say that journalists aren’t threatened and that their houses weren’t burned down, that verdicts are not passed in the media, that SNS MPs do not submit thousands of amendments to their laws, that there is no corruption everywhere you look, that individuals who are not party followers aren’t called traitors or enemies of the state in the media.

In the absence of arguments, the prime minister turns to herself. Everything she read, she says, didn’t annoy her. It entertained her. We’ll leave the discussion about the kind of empty shell of a human being you have to be to be entertained by the worrisome assessments of the situation in the country you lead for some other time. For now we can only say that the personal experiences of the prime minister, and especially her emotions, don’t concern us. What concerns us is that she should start doing her job, and if she doesn’t, she should resign.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 05.06.2019.

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Sofija Mandić je rođena 1986. u Novom Sadu. Diplomirana je pravnica, posrednica u mirnom rešavanju sporova i aktivistkinja za ljudska prava. Radi u Centru za pravosudna istraživanja (CEPRIS), a prethodno je bila angažovana u Beogradskom centru za bezbednosnu politiku i Nacionalnom demokratskom institutu. Generalna je sekretarka Peščanika, sa kojim sarađuje od 2007, kao učesnica u radijskim emisijama, a zatim i kao autorka tekstova. Autorka, koautorka i urednica je brojnih analiza o vladavini prava, stanju ljudskih prava u Srbiji i njihovoj perspektivi. Neke od skorašnjih su: Izbori pred Upravnim sudom 2022 – pregled postupanja i odluka (ur. CEPRIS, 2022), Izveštaj o javnosti rada Visokog saveta sudstva i Državnog veća tužilaca (CEPRIS, 2022), Sloboda izražavanja pred sudom (ur. SĆF, 2021-2022), Rad sudova tokom epidemije zarazne bolesti COVID-19 (OEBS, 2021), Ljudska prava u Srbiji (BCLJP, 2018-2023), Naša urušena prava (FES, 2019), Uslovi za izbor i napredovanje sudija i tužilaca u pravnom obrazovanju (CEPRIS, 2018), Skorašnji Ustav Srbije – rodna perspektiva (ŽPRS, 2017). Kao predstavnica civilnog društva učestvovala je u procesu izrade komentara i mišljenja na izmene Ustava iz 2022, kao i zakona koji proizlaze iz ovih promena. Autorka je knjige „U krugu negacije, godine parlamentarnog (ne)suočavanja sa lošom prošlošću u Srbiji“ (2023).

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