Republic of Serbia

The estimated number of population in the Republic of Serbia in 2020 was 6 899 126 (the estimations are based on the results of natural changes statistics and population internal migration). Observed by sex, 51.3% were women  (3 538 820) and 48.7% were men (3 360 306).

A newly formed government created a Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and social dialogue. Even though this is a step forward, further efforts are still needed to ensure systematic cooperation between the government and civil society. There needs to be an environment that enables development and financing of civil society organisations (CSOs), due to many attacks against CSOs that are continued (including verbal attacks and Parliament).

Civil society should be empowered, and is a crucial component of any democratic system. Human rights defenders and CSOs raise awareness about civil and political rights, and should be recognized and treated by state institutions. 

In December 2020, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) expressed concerns regarding the allegations that Serbia had misused in July 2020 its law on the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism with the aim to restrict or coerce civil society actors for their work and criticism of the government. In its plenary session of April 2021, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism of the Council of Europe (MONEYVAL) called on all members to ensure that the FATF Recommendations are not intentionally or unintentionally used to suppress the legitimate activities of civil society. 

Several CSOs suffered attacks including verbal, smear campaigns and their financing ending up in tabloid newspapers, as well as in Parliament even though a code of conduct was adopted in December 2020. Individuals and organisations are under particular pressure if they criticise the authorities in developments related to the rule of law. A legal framework for cooperation between the government and CSOs is broadly in place, but its implementation needs improvement and systematisation. Some CSOs have reported that the time given for public consultations was too short or that their comments on draft laws were not sufficiently considered and looked into. 

The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue took among others the competencies of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society and initiated a series of public dialogues on various topics (general interest, gathering members of the government, independent bodies, international organisations and CSOs).  

The following paragraphs have been citated from the European Commission’s Report for Serbia in 2021:

The National Convention on the EU has continued to monitor and assess the progress of accession negotiations. A national strategy and action plan to help create a positive environment for CSOs have still not been adopted. A council for civil society cooperation has yet to be set up. In order to mitigate the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, Serbia adopted a regulation on fiscal benefits and direct payments to economic entities recognising CSOs as potential users of economic aid. 

The Government adopted a National Strategy for Gender Equality on 14 October 2021. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Commissioner for Equality issued several recommendations to the government related to the restriction of movement of the elderly, persons with disability and lack of support services to vulnerable groups. Roma women, older women, poor women, women with disabilities, refugee and internally displaced women, continue to experience intersecting forms of discrimination, which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. On violence against women and domestic violence, a new strategy was adopted in April 2021. The latest national action plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security covers the period 2017-2020 and a new one is pending. In February 2021, a former mayor was sentenced to three months in prison for ‘illegal sexual activity’ towards one of his staff. Although the case was not qualified as ‘sexual harassment’, this was the first case of an elected official being sentenced to prison for this type of case. The implementation of the law against domestic violence needs to be improved. An integrated system for collecting and monitoring cases of violence disaggregated by type of violence and by relationship between perpetrator and victim still does not exist. The definition of rape still has to be amended in the criminal code in order to comply with the Istanbul Convention. An action plan on the national programme for safeguarding and improving sexual and reproductive health has yet to be adopted. Additional funding is needed to ensure it is implemented as regards improving access to quality services in this area. Serbia has some level of preparation to implement the EU acquis on justice, freedom and security. Limited progress was made in the reporting period. Serbia continued to significantly contribute, as a transit country, to the management of the mixed migration flows towards the EU by playing an active and constructive role and cooperating effectively with its neighbours and EU Member States. It also continued to effectively implement the integrated border management strategy and its action plan. Serbia has yet to establish a convincing track record of effective investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in serious and organised crime cases, and to further align with the EU visa policy. The recommendations from the 2020 country report remain outstanding, except for continuing increasing border controls, especially border surveillance including identification and registration measures in full respect of fundamental rights, and increase efforts to detect and prevent smuggling of migrants.

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