BELGRADE – The state of emergency in Serbia due to the COVID-19 pandemic was marked by numerous measures that directly affected the institutions, the application of democratic principles, but also the deviation from them. Therefore, the Serbian National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) announced a comprehensive monitoring report on the measures introduced by the Government during the state of emergency.
NCEU is a permanent body for thematically structured debate on Serbian accession into the European Union, between representatives of the governmental bodies, political parties, NGOs, experts, syndicates, private sector and representatives of professional organizations.
It was primarily established as a body with the aim to facilitate cooperation between the National Assembly and the civil society during the process of the EU accession negotiations, which consists of the Program council, over 20 working groups with more than 700 members, Shortlist professional team and Secretariat of NCEU.
Jovana Spremo, Coordinator of the Working Group for the Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental rights) and Advisor for EU Integration at the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM, explains that the report will consist of four sections – political criteria, rule of law and fundamental freedoms, economic criteria, and social policy.
“The first section will refer to those measures that concerned democracy, work and measures of the National Assembly, then the suspension of the election process and the work of civil society itself. The second section which concerns the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, will show how the institutions reacted in relation to the measures proposed by the Government. Also, the second section will cover the way in which certain freedoms were endangered, how proportionate the restriction of freedoms was and whether there was an adequate response by the authorities to the appeals of civil society,” explains Spremo.
She adds that the third section refers to economic criteria, and the fourth to social policy, i.e. the way in which the Government responded to the needs of certain socially endangered categories, workers’ rights, employment and similar.
Coordinator of the Working Group for the Chapter 19 dealing with social policy and employment, Nataša Vučković from the Center for Democracy Foundation points out that this Working Group intensively monitored the impact of the pandemic on employment, health and safety at work, and the position of particularly vulnerable groups and their protection during the pandemic.
“The members of the Working Group have published several relevant analyzes. The Working Group had two meetings during the last month during which information was exchanged and recommendations were defined. Based on all these activities, the Center for Democracy Foundation is preparing a comprehensive overview of the situation caused by the pandemic in the areas that the Working Group normally monitors within its activities. Considering the priority we have given to monitoring the situation in health care and social protection institutions, the report of the group will also contain a review of the situation in these areas,” Vučković explains.
Considering that all members of the Working Groups have a regular way of reacting in certain areas for which they are experts, the NKEU Program council decided that the Working Groups collect information from the members about their activities during the state of emergency. The members actively worked on monitoring the implementation of the measures and recording all the problems that occurred in connection with the measures. The comprehensive monitoring report will present information gathered from all members on their actions and responses to potential violations of human rights and certain freedoms due to the implementation of the measures, or due to the shortcomings that the measures themselves had.
Spremo explains that the added value of the report is that everything that happened during the state of emergency will be available in one place.
“Everything that has been pointed out so far will be available in the report – the issue of non-functioning of the National Assembly until almost the last moment in a state of emergency, the manner in which it was declared, the position of civil society, the position of the media, which measures have additionally jeopardized certain rights like freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, what was proportionate and what was not, what the right to a fair trial looked like, what were the reactions to the problems of certain vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, people in the process of getting an asylum and similar,” emphasizes the Coordinator of the Working Group for the Chapter 23.
The report is currently being prepared and will be available at the end of the month.