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INFO   :::  Reports - PAGE 1 > The Year When Serbia Charted its European Course


The Year When Serbia Charted its
European Course

- Annual Report for the Year 2009 -

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This is the tenth in a row annual report of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia scrutinizing the overall political and socioeconomic context that considerably determines the quality of human rights, as mirrors of all societies and reliable indicators of the value systems on which they rest. The Serbian society is still heavily laden by the legacy of the recent past. It has not embraced yet a proper attitude towards it, an attitude that would assist in overcoming of accumulated problems, including those in the area of human rights. On the other hand, in 2009 Serbia made a breakthrough in the process of charting its European course. Hence, the report for the year 2009 is published under the title "Europeanization: Accomplishments and Limitations."

The task of knotting Serbia to European integrations was far from being an easy one. It was challenged by the strong opposition of a powerful conservative bloc unwilling to accept the electoral defeat in 2008. Having won these elections by a rather thin margin, the democratic bloc was struggling to consolidate its power at local, regional and national level. Though working in the climate of constant opposition, the government managed to fulfill the preconditions for activation of the Provisional Trade Arrangement with EU and obtain access to "white visa regime." Speaking of the latter, the Ministry of the Interior was almost successful beyond expectations. In the meantime, the conservative bloc adjusted its rhetoric to new circumstances: it took up a pro-European discourse and thus opened the door to communication with the West. This is what the Helsinki Committee's annual report says among other things and points out, "Kosovo's independence - i.e. denial of the realities - still topped the country's foreign policy agenda and all diplomatic activities. However, economic realities had to be prioritized over it in international relations but were not in the relations with neighboring countries: they remained at low level and only moved in a positive direction under the pressure from European Commission and EU member-states, as well as US."

Referring to the year 2008, the report calls it "crucial" for yet another reason - for the first time ever the regime was taking punitive measures against outbursts of violence and discriminatory incidents, thus somewhat neutralizing the previous government's negative effects on all the forms of human rights defense. And yet, when it comes to overall social climate and value system, Serbia still tends towards the radical right wing: nationalism, xenophobia and intolerance still dominate the value system whereby the society - and, unfortunately, younger generations - function.

On almost 600 pages, the Committee's report for the year 2009, "Europeanization: Accomplishments and Limitations," apart from the introductory section and the analysis titled "Violence Spills from Political onto Social Terrain" broaches the topics grouped in the following chapters: "The Mechanisms of State Repression," "Legal System," "The Parliament and Independent Agencies," "Freedom of Religion," "The Tribunal in The Hague and its Social Effects," "Minorities: A Measure of Democracy," "Social and Economic Rights," "Vojvodina, Sandzak and South Serbia," "Economy," "The Media," "Serbia and the World" and "Serbia and Its Neighbors."

Looking back at the year 2009, the Helsinki Committee recommends, inter alia, to the government of the Republic of Serbia:
- Meet the requirements for EU candidacy as soon as possible, which implies urgent arrest of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic;
- Effectively contribute to normalization of regional relations, which implies recognition of Kosovo;
- Provide support to the revision of the Dayton Peace Accord that would stabilize Bosnia-Herzegovina and open up its European prospects;
- Manifest readiness for genuine acknowledgment of the Srebrenica genocide now that the Declaration on Srebrenica was adopted by the parliament;
- Pursue fundamental decentralization of the country while paying due heed to specificities of all regions, notably multiethnic and multireligious regions such as Sandzak;
- Draft a new information law that would properly regulate the media space;
- Genuinely support functioning of all independent regulatory agencies.
- More efficiently promote new values in the context of Activities and prepare citizens for Serbia's membership of NATO;
- Round off the reform of the judiciary as a basic link in the chain of the rule of law;
- Promote the climate and values of tolerance and human rights, and manifest true interest in good relations with all minorities;
- Establish the mechanisms for cooperation with the civil society and enable adequate participation in the work of the parliament to its representatives;
- Efficiently counteract any attempt to undermine interethnic relations and constructively work towards overcoming conflicts within some minority or religious communities.

Some of the Committee's recommendations to the international community are as follows:
- Speed up the process of Serbia's EU candidacy some opposition conservative forces are endeavoring to prevent;
- Stop treating Serbia as a regional leader, given that such treatment generates confusion in the region and, at the same time, fuels territorial aspirations still alive in Serbia proper;
- Put an end to the issue of borders in the region as soon as possible so as to curb the trend of its ethnification;
- Insist on transparency and departization of Serbia's political life, as well as on the fight against organized crime and money laundering;
- Insist on wholehearted process of facing up the past within Serbia and on the reform of the educational system at all levels, and provide support to alternative education based on the concept of human rights.

The 2009 annual report, circulated both in Serbian and English, is published with the assistance of Civil Rights Defenders. It is available for downloading at Hard copies can be obtained in the Committee's offices - Rige od Fere St. # 20/V.

Belgrade, June 23, 2010

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