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Coalition prEUgovor presented on November 30 its latest 6-month report on Serbia’s progress in Chapters 23 and 24. The Report is divided into three main parts: Political criteria, Chapter 23 and Chapter 24. The end of each subchapter of this report contains recommendations for possible future improvements. The Report is available here.

Although Chapters 23 and 24 have still not been opened, in the course of 2015 the state and other stakeholders (primarily civil society organisations) worked intensively on preparing and amending the Action Plans for these two Chapters. Draft Action Plans were changed and presented several times. The Action Plan for Chapter 23 was adopted after the European Commission (EC) approved its third draft, which is also expected for the Action Plan for Chapter 24. The blueprint for these two documents are EC recommendations from the Screening Report,

presented in 2014 for Chapters 23 and 24. Members of the prEUgovor coalition actively participated in preparing the Action Plans, notably by giving concrete comments on improvement of particular segments falling under their scope of activity. After the final drafts of these documents were presented, prEUgovor members decided to monitor the dynamics and quality of the fulfilment of individual measures and activities relating to those recommendations that are within the sphere of interest of coalition members. In this regard, in addition to assessments of the general situation in individual fields, a focus of this independent report is also placed on concrete individual activities that the state takes or intends to take. As Serbia is only at the start of the negotiation process, while Chapters 23 and 24 will be in the EC’s focus until the end of the pre-accession phase, in the coming period the emphasis of the prEUgovor will be even more strongly placed on monitoring the fulfilment of individual obligations arising from the Action Plans. The reports will be prepared on the basis of such monitoring. The end of each subchapter of this report contains recommendations for possible future improvements.

Reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption, and respect and improvement of fundamental human rights (including, of course, relations with Priština!) are the fields and topics that have dominated, for years, relations between Belgrade and Brussels, and which shall certainly be discussed a lot in future as well. However, the main topic in the public discourse and political life in Serbia has been, in the past period, the great refugee crisis that the EU has been facing since spring 2015, including Serbia as one of the key transit countries on the new migration route. The refugee wave, triggered by several crisis hotbeds, notably the years-long civil war in Syria, has still not subsided. Since the crisis erupted, several hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have passed through Serbia on the road to “richer” EU countries. Despite the enormous influx of people and tensions that the crisis created in Serbia’s relations with the neighbouring countries, notably Croatia, the response of government authorities has been exceptionally human since the start of the crisis, which has been commended several times also by different European officials. On the internal front, Serbia’s government authorities have made several important steps aimed at improving some of the proclaimed policies, to mention only prevention and curbing of human trafficking.

The national legal framework in the anti-human trafficking field was developed in accordance with the Republic of Serbia’s international obligations. Serbia’s government authorities have made efforts to adopt a coordinated approach to identifying victims through the establishment of the Centre for Human Trafficking Victims Protection. However, the Republic of Serbia has still not adopted the National Action Plan and Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. On the other hand, the legal framework is still insufficiently applied in practice, which is why we still face cases of punishing human trafficking victims for offences that are a direct consequence of their exploitation. In addition, property claims are still not decided upon in criminal proceedings, the penal policy has not been changed for years, and a victim remains insufficiently protected both in the identification process and judicial proceedings. Problems also relate to the implementation of activities in other fields, including the attitude of the highest authorities towards independent oversight and regulatory bodies etc, which is also analysed in this report. The report is divided into three main parts: Political criteria, Chapter 23 and Chapter 24. As already mentioned, they do not give an assessment of the situation in all sub-areas, i.e. entire chapter, but cover only those aspects that are in the sphere of interest of coalition members.

Finally, with some delay, in mid-November the EC published its annual report on Serbia’s progress in negotiations with the EU, where it presented detailed assessments also of other chapters and topics, including those followed by the prEUgovor coalition. Due to a short period between the publication of the EC Report and the prEUgovor, coalition members were not able to give an overview in this independent report also of the assessments presented in the EC progress report.

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