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    • Action Plan for Chapter 24 improved through cooperation between CSOs and institutions

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    • Date: 03 April 2015
      Reports on progress of Serbia in the area of justice, freedom and security will be semiannually presented to citizens. These documents will be available at Ministry of Interior website, and consultations with civil society organizations interested in this process will be organized on this occasion.

      Third Draft Action Plan for Chapter 24 is considerably advanced and it should enable effective implementation of reforms. For making key changes in lives of Serbian citizens, advancing activities and resources in protection of rights of victims in criminal proceedings and personal information protection are necessity. These are the main conclusions of Second working meeting between The Negotiating Group for Chapter 24 and Civil society organizations (CSOs) gathered in The Working Group for chapter 24 of the National convention on the European Union (NCEU), SECO Mechanism for area of justice and interior and prEUgovor coalition, which was held on 3rd April, 2015 in Palace of Serbia.

      Working meeting has been organized regarding process of drafting third Action Plan for Chapter 24, which is, to a large degree harmonized with CSOs recommendations and Commissions’ comments submitted for previous draft. Director of BCSP and coordinator of The Working Group NCEU for Chapter 24, Sonja Stojanovi Gajic outlined that through direct dialogue between CSOs and institutions, they learn from each other, improve solutions for planned reforms about chapter 24 and prepare for ′Negotiation Marathon′.

      "Action plan is highly better that plan for Chapter 23, because it is more precise even in methodology. It is very important for putting it into the practice and changing the lives of people that deadlines and expenses are real. Improvement is that public will be informed about plan fulfillment twice a year. That was the main request of CSOs, as well as the main result of their involvement in giving recommendations and comments. We would like to see a clearer definition of activities regarding citizens` rights protection in Serbia, as well as protection of victims of crime - asylum seekers, trafficking victims etc … This problem is not solved in the best manner, either in Action plan for chapter 24, or for chapter 23," she said and outlined the importance of including civil society in the Negotiating process.

      Members of Negotiating Group and representatives of civil society outlined that mutual cooperation, which has been hard to create from beginning, is enhanced now. Director of BCSP said that it was very important that Negotiating team adopted guidelines for including civil society in their work through Negotiating process. Guidelines should define availability of documents created in negotiation process and focal points for consultations with interested organizations.

      State Secretary of Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Chair of Negotiating group for chapter 24, Aleksandar Nikolic said that every organization interested in process could deliver their written comments on the Third Draft Action Plan until 10th April.

      "Continuous joint work of Government and Civil society on drafting the Action Plan is highly important. Serbia is ready to submit a new version of document to The Commission, which is measure for opening chapter 24, after considering suggestions of NGO sector. We would love that it become the final version," said Nikolic and added that Montenegro had had five versions of action plan for this chapter.

      Coordinator of action plan drafting for chapter 24, Drazen Maravic from The MoI has explained in detail changes that have been made in Third Draft Action plan with regards to the previous draft. He named the biggest difference as precise budget determination, deadlines and orders of activities, and he also underlined the value of CSOs` comments given to the indicators.

      "European Commission requested detailed presentation of activities regarding police reform, continuous joint work of subgroups coordinator and `primacy` of this action plan over other similar documents. It was specified that reports on implementation would be adopted semiannually - at the beginning of a year and in September- and also that they would be submitted to Government of Serbia, Brussels and Civil society organizations. This also has to be available to citizens. Cooperation with NGO sector is planned, even after adopting and implementation of Action plan. Further, I am calling NGOs to submit proposals for gender sensitive aspect of reporting about planned activities," he said.

      Maravic, who is also the Chief of Bureau for strategic planning in MoI, underlined that deadlines were rescheduled in third draft action plan, in order to harmonize it with the cycles of pre-accession Assistance of EU (IPA). Further, on Commissions request, activities after 2018 - which is the target year for satisfying the conditions for membership for Serbian government- were precised. Action plan for Chapter 24 will have precisely established order of activities, deadlines, indicators of success and detailed budget, Maravic stated. He underlined that firstly CSOs suggestions will be considered, expenses assessment made and then plan would be referred to Ministry of Finance. Maravic said that consultations with National Assembly would be held and that planned deadlines for law adopting are real.

      Coordinators for area of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters from Ministry of Justice, border cooperation from Ministry of Finance, combating drugs and euro forging from MoI, presented EC comments on parts of Action plan regarding this areas, and realized activities and reasons for accepting/rejecting CSOs` comments. At the end of the session, necessity for crime victims’ protection is underlined as well as defining institutions for fight against the drug addiction.

      Police cooperation, fight against organized crime and terrorism are areas which were detailed by coordinators from MoI, The Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office and Security Information Agency. EC comments were regarding also on filling in free workplaces based on merit system and criteria, necessity of personal information protection in police and judicial cooperation. BCSP representatives asked questions about police cooperation with Kosovo, combating violence at sport events and pointed out the fact that more resources were budgeted for Strategy for fight against terrorism that for implementation. Astra representative expressed fear for edgy or multisectoral themes like Tijana Alert (Law on Child Abduction Emergency), which does not belong to any chapter, and will not be solved in practice.

      A lot of questions and answers appeared through visa policies session, coordinated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and subarea of asylum, migration, borders and Schengen, which were coordinated by MoI. Group 484, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Praxis were very interested in enhancement of process protection and accommodation of asylum seekers, as well as irregular migrants, readmission process with Macedonia and adopting comprehensive migration policy.

      After this meeting, consultations with Negotiation groups for chapter 23 and 24 are expected in order to define the best possible way of creating measures for common areas: victims` rights protection in criminal proceedings, personal information protection and Police reform. At the end of April, new version of Action plan for chapter 24 is expected, which will be, as a final version, sent to EC for an opinion.

      Translated by BCSP intern Emilija Milenkovic

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