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Dec 18, 2017 18:20 EEST
December 18 (SeeNews) - Lack of independence and poor efficiency of the judiciary are a major deficiency regarding the rule of law in Serbia and the most demanding task along with the reforms needed for European Union (EU) accession, according to German foundation for liberal politics Friedrich Naumann.
"Political pressure on courts is merely a tip of an iceberg. Political influence on law enforcement sector, or on various regulators, is even stronger," the foundation said in the Europe edition of its Freedom Barometer.
The report is based on data covering the 12-month period between July 2016 and June 2017.
Corruption is also among the most serious issues, as suspected cases involving high officials are not investigated, while whistleblowing media or non-governmental organisations, or other critics, are smeared, Friedrich Naumann said. "Despite promises, there is even less transparency in the biggest public-funded projects. Political manipulation with the Anti-corruption Agency, its marginalisation and ignoring it by the law enforcement sector intertwine each other."
Private property in Serbia is not adequately protected, as the judiciary and especially the Prosecutor’s Office are not independent from the strong out-of-court influences. The executive branch of government has a constitutionally significant role in the appointment of judges, which will require changes in the Constitution along the further EU accession process, the foundation said.
On the other hand, freedom to trade internationally is generally upheld in Serbia, as tariffs are mostly low, apart from agriculture products. The recently introduced New Computerised Transit System has significantly reduced transit burden, which is important for Serbia as a major trading hub due to its geographical position, Friedrich Naumann Foundation noted.
Freedom and fairness of elections have decreased in Serbia, due to 2016 early parliamentary elections that abound with irregularities, according to the foundation. "Serbian authorities have effective power to govern the country and there are no unconstitutional veto players able to undermine decision-making process. However, the biggest threat to country’s democracy is coming from the ruling elite and weak system of checks and balances."
Independence and freedom of media in Serbia continue to decline due to serious challenges faced by media outlets and journalists. The government makes use of both political and economic pressure to influence their reporting, thus biased coverage prevails in both the traditional and online media. Critical outlets, especially investigative journalism, are often targeted by the hostile statements of the highest officials in the country, as well as by state-controlled tabloids, the foundation said.
Private property in Serbia is not adequately protected, while the size of government in Serbia is much more pronounced than in other transition countries on the same level of development, with the government consumption reaching 43.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, Friedrich Naumann Foundation added.
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