Serbia to Amend Controversial Investment Law

Serbian minister says the government has decided to withdraw a controversial clause in the law, blocking public access to information on investments.

Rodoljub Sabic by Media centre Belgrade
Rodoljub Sabic by Media centre Belgrade

Serbian Economy Minister Zeljko Sertic on Tuesday said the government would amend the draft law on investment, which initially foresaw that the government could deny access to information of public interest to journalists and others. The proposal triggered drew harsh criticism from the Public Information Commissioner Rodoljub Sabic and other experts, who said the government would now be able to block access to important information on investments.

“The Ministry of Economy has decided to remove even the slightest shadow of doubt on the law on investments and this will be one of the best laws of its kind in the world,” the ministry said. Sabic told BIRN that the amendments would ensure that the government had no monopoly on information about future investments in Serbia. “Just imagine a situation in which the government is solely responsible for giving or not giving all the information about all investments throughout Serbia. That would be unacceptable,” Sabic told BIRN.

If the draft was adopted as was first proposed, people would not be able to complain to the Public Information Commissioner since he would not be authorized to act against government decisions. The only solution for citizens would be to take the issue to court, which Sabic said would be unconstitutional as it would abolish the citizen’s right to complain.

The amended version of the law means that other state institutions, not just the government, will be in charge of giving information on investments to citizens. If they refuse to do so, citizens will have the right to file a complaint to the Public Information Commissioner. Sabic said that the government was obliged to consult him before the draft was finished, which had not been the case.

“I only knew about the draft when it was passed to the parliament and all I could do is to urge MPs to amend it. It is not a good practice that the Public Information Commissioner is not consulted over such important laws,” Sabic said. “Even the way the law was prepared was wrong, which is why it is hard for me to say this is a step forward, but in any case, it seems we will not now take a step back,” Sabic concluded.

20 October 2015