Coalition prEUgovor welcomes the interest shown by the Government of Serbia in the findings of the ALARM report, which this group of civil society organizations has been publishing every six months for seven years, following the situation in the areas related to Chapter 23 (judiciary, anti-corruption, fundamental rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) of European integration. We believe that it would be extremely important, and far more useful for reforms in Serbia, if the negotiating team and the Government would consider our findings and proposals for solving the problem, when we publish them in Serbia, without waiting, as in this case, for them to be used first as a source in other research.
The Serbian government has sent an open letter to the American organization Freedom House, regarding their new Nations in Transit report. The reason for this action is a slightly lower score on that list (from 50 to 49 out of 100 possible points), as a result of which Serbia fell into a lower category (“transitional/hybrid regimes” instead of “semi-consolidated democracy”). The decline was caused by a lower rating for the “corruption” category, where Freedom House looks at “public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anti-corruption initiatives”.
The findings of the Freedom House referring to prEUgovor ALARM report from September 2019 and the Government’s reaction were as follows:
Freedom House states that the prEUgovor ALARM report notes some progress on changes to the anti-corruption law, but that no progress has been made in implementing the existing one. This was the reason for the Prime Minister’s Office to conclude that the prEUgovor report “does not mention stagnation or deterioration in relation to corruption in Serbia.” The Government’s response, on the other hand, did not comment on the remaining part of the Freedom House report, which referred to ALARM: “On the contrary, [ to the lack of progress in implementation of the law], the existing National Anticorruption Strategy expired at the end of 2018, and the fact that nine months later Serbia had no new strategy was clear evidence that fighting corruption was not a government priority. The [Alarm] report also noted numerous failures to adopt anticorruption-related legislation or take other measures, all of which suggests a lack of political will to tackle the problem.“
Without discussing the methodology for the Freedom House research and the correctness of its application when giving an assessment for Serbia in this particular case, we believe that the Government should refer to all the findings and conclusions when conducting such analyses. In any case, far more important than reacting to the unfavorable results of research and rankings of countries would be to solve specific and undoubted problems, which the prEUgovor has consistently pointed out for years.
The next ALARM report, for the period of October 2019 – April 2020 will be published soon.