Rise in 'Urgently' Passed Laws Queried in Serbia

Legal experts say trend towards passing laws in urgent procedure is stifling democratic debate and lowering the quality of legislation.

Serbia Parliament
 

A marked rise in the number of laws passed  in urgent procedure in Serbia and without debate – often under the excuse of EU membership talks – is raising questions about transparency and the quality of legislation. Milan Antonijevic, from YUCOM – Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, told BIRN that the number of laws passed in urgent procedures had jumped again in this parliamentary session.

From April 2014 until August 2015, 149 out of 250 laws were adopted in urgent procedure, he noted. “When so many laws are made under urgent procedures it means you lack quality. There is no public debate in which public and civil society organizations are involved,” Antonijevic said. The quality of parliamentary legislation is one of the issues that the European Commission will assess when examining Serbia’s progress toward EU membership. The European Commission announced that annual reports on the progress of candidate countries will be launched on October 21.

Many people in Serbia assume that urgent procedures are a consequence of the need to implement EU legislation rapidly. But Antonijevic from YUCOM says this is incorrect. “The EU must not be an excuse…it should be a stimulus and a reason more for quality procedures in parliament,” he said. Borko Stefanovic, an opposition Democratic Party deputy, told BIRN that too many laws were being adopted automatically and public debate thereby avoided. “There is no real national reason for it. The assembly is just adopting the orders of the state apparatus,” Stefanovic said.

However, there is some evidence that the previous government run by Stefanovic’s Democratic Party did much the same. Analysis by Open Parliament, a civil society initiative that monitors the work of Serbia’s parliament, said a record number of laws was adopted by urgent procedure in 2008 – almost 92 per cent. Stefanovic agreed that his party was once a part of the problem, adding that most countries in the transition process face the same issue.

“The democratic process is [seen as] slow, ‘boring’ and not efficient enough. The only thing matters is implementation,” Stefanovic said. According to the same analysis by Open Parliament, before the regime change in Serbia in 2000, only around 42 per cent of laws were passed in emergency procedure. After 2000, the figure rose to 52 per cent with a tendency towards growth. By 2014, almost 72 per cent of the laws were being adopted in emergency procedures.

Serbia is not alone in this trend. Croatia, the last country to join the EU, adopted 1,140 laws by urgent procedures and only 243 regularly from 2003 to 2011.

BalkanInsight

12 October 2015