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The Rule of Law: A European Union Perspective

Niš, 14.12.2023.

This year's fifth lecture, to the second generation of participants, as part of the training program Strengthening Capacities for Judicial Reform - southern Serbia, was held by Milan Antonijević, LL.M. legal expert in human rights. The lecture title is The Rule of Law: The European Union View.

The European Union granted Serbia the status of a candidate country for membership in the Union in 2012, and pre-accession negotiations on membership began in 2013. These negotiations aim to adapt the domestic legal system to the acquis of the European Union. It is being negotiated through 35 chapters, and in the current course of negotiations with the EU, Serbia has opened 17 chapters and temporarily closed two. One of the most important Chapters opened so far is the Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (Chapter 23), which includes changes to the framework in the functioning of the judiciary, the fight against corruption, and the protection of fundamental rights. Serbia has been negotiating this chapter since July 2016. It is essential because it includes topics embedded in the foundations of the Union, without which progress in other chapters is almost impossible. 

The problem is the contradictions in reading the European Union's reports in Serbia, especially in Chapter 23. Public authorities generally read them as positive and stimulating for their efforts in the negotiations. At the same time, civil society sees them as diplomatically worded sharp criticisms that say Serbia is simulating European integration, that it paused in them, or even stopped them in a practical sense. Another problem is that public authorities often declare criticisms to be "political and non-objective evaluations", without going further into the content of these criticisms. On the other hand, the European Union does not have strong enough mechanisms to force any country to fulfill its obligations from the negotiations, bearing in mind that it voluntarily agreed to adapt to the EU acquis. 

At the lecture, Mr. Antonijević emphasized, among other things: 

- Digitalization of hearings and recording of all trials is the future of the judiciary; 

- The report of the European Commission is written in diplomatic language; that's how the report should be written, and if one sentence refers to one area, it's a clear signal that we have to deal with that area seriously; 

- Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are generally implemented; 

- The attorneys-at-law and bar associations must get severe and prevent abuse of rights by initiating mass claims; 

- It is necessary to educate the public and explain to them what pressure on the court means; 

- The European Union already contributes significant financial support to judicial reform; 


The lecture was realized with the support of the Open Society Foundation


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