European Western Balkans

European Commission follows developments in the High Public Prosecutor’s Office in Serbia

European Commission; Photo: Pixabay

BRUSSELS – We expect Serbia to proceed swiftly with the effective implementation of this legislation implementing the 2022 Constitutional amendments aimed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said in a written response for the European Western Balkans portal.

Commenting on the recent transfer of prosecutors Bojana Savović and Jasmina Paunović and having the embezzlement case in the Public Enterprize Electric Power Industry of Serbia (EPS) taken away from them a day after the arrest of six suspects, Pisonero pointed out that the European Commission is aware of the recent developments.

“Independent functioning and integrity of prosecution service is key for Serbia’s progress in the area of rule of law and these issues are followed closely in the context of EU accession negotiations under chapter 23, and those are judiciary and fundamental rights”, Pisonero said. She added that Serbia is expected to proceed swiftly with the effective implementation of this legislation and therefore establish the High Judicial and High Prosecutorial Councils as soon as possible.

According to Pisonero, the legislation introduces, among other things, the obligation to justify decisions, including those on the transfer of prosecutors, and a guarantee of the improvement of legal remedies, after the new High Council of Prosecutors has been formed.

“These changes aim at strengthening the internal autonomy of individual prosecutors. We expect Serbia to proceed swiftly with effective implementation of this legislation and therefore to establish the High Judicial and High Prosecutorial Councils as soon as possible, through a swift election of the lay members”, Pisonero said.

She concluded that Serbia is expected to deliver results on other key priorities in the area of rule of law, including the fight against corruption.

Two deputy prosecutors from the Belgrade High Public Prosecutor’s Office, Bojana Savović and Jasmina Paunović, investigated the case of embezzlement in EPS, which cost the citizens of Serbia about 7.5 million dollars.

Their transfer and seizing of this case occurred just one day after six suspects were arrested, whom the prosecution accuses of falsifying documents and presenting that an industrial railway was built from the Stig railway station to the Kostolac B thermal power plant, which does not exist.

As the investigation so far has shown, the work was never completed and the money was paid to private companies, so the state enterprise EPS was damaged for almost 7.5 million US dollars.

The case was taken away from the prosecutors without explanation, and Savović and Paunović were transferred to another department. In a statement, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office emphasized that the “transfer” took place according to the regular transfer annual plan to other departments. However, part of the opposition and professional associations and non-governmental organizations believe that it is a matter of pressure from the judicial authorities on independent prosecutors, as well as a cover-up of cases of high corruption. Nenad Stefanović, the senior public prosecutor of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, denied those accusations.

Last week, in front of the buildings of the Government of Serbia and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Serbia, a new protest was held in support of the two prosecutors with the request that they return to their old positions. The organizers of the protest compared them to Laura Kovesi, a symbol of the anti-corruption fight who was replaced by the authorities in Romania and was appointed the chief prosecutor of the European Union by Brussels.

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