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J. Joksimović: Care for citizens and flexible sustainability of Serbia during pandemic

March 09 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Care for citizens and flexible sustainability of Serbia during pandemic

All the reforms Serbia has implemented in the area of the rule of law in the previous years with the support of the Council of Europe, within European integration, have resulted in Serbia demonstrating flexible sustainability during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the citizens’ interest comes first, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has assessed today.

Speaking at the second meeting of the Beneficiary Steering Committee of the joint EU/CoE programme ‘Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022’, Joksimović has said that Serbia has managed to provide a high level of service and care to its citizens for everything that has been essential during the pandemic.

In that regard, she has mentioned the right to information and right information, care for citizens’ health, and access to instruments for addressing all the challenges a situation such as a pandemic may bring.

“Rule of law must be a daily topic both for the member states themselves and for us who will have that topic open until the end of our process and which will remain open even when we become members, because it covers all vital areas that define the success of a democratic society, efficiency, and what the state should offer its citizens”, said Joksimović.

She has added that it entails equal access to justice and protection of fundamental, human and all other rights from all areas, including new generation rights and everything that has additionally become a challenge during the pandemic which has shown “how vulnerable we are and how we can be resilient if we truly act as an inclusive and participatory society and if fundamental rights of all citizens of Serbia and the EU are not only genuinely respected but also sustainably and continuously developed”.

Joksimović has noted that there is another set of necessary reforms that should gain momentum in Serbia, adding that the process has been “put on hold” due to the pandemic as well as the developments in the EU which is facing various challenges.

“With our sustainable reforms and sustainable approach, we strive to help and participate in the recovery and revitalisation of what the EU represents for all of us, which is not only a strategic goal, but a natural place of belonging and sharing challenges with everyone in the Union”, stated Joksimović.

As regards the ‘Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022’ programme, Joksimović has said that its essence and substance imply that the matter of the rule of law and everything it entails should truly permeate all public and sector policies and everything that Serbia is negotiating under the new approach – six clusters.

She has recalled that cluster 1 remains the most important cluster based on which progress in rule-of-law reforms will be measured and which will serve as a criterion for determining the pace of the rest of the negotiations.

“As regards the details of the programme with our partners from the Council of Europe concerning the rule of law, it is certainly important that the EU also supports the standards set by the Council of Europe, using them as criteria for progress in negotiations related to the rule of law, human rights and overall democracy in Europe”, said Joksimović.

She has emphasised that cooperation with and support of the Council of Europe and the EU through the programme is important for Serbia not only in terms of negotiations, but also for adopting international practices and standards and establishing them in the existing social framework of Serbia, which spills over to the legislative framework.

“Our goal is for institutional participatory democracy, which faces challenges across Europe, to still become our final destination, and I think that everything we do will, step by step, lead us to the main goal of inclusive, democratic and institutional culture and system. Serbia is not that far behind, there are things we have to do, we are aware of them, particularly in the area of judiciary reforms and constitutional amendments”, said Joksimović.

According to Joksimović, the second stage of the programme has yielded concrete and valuable results in the area of the rule of law and judiciary, fight against discrimination, protection of vulnerable groups, fight against human trafficking, and strengthening media freedom and freedom of speech.

She has added that the reason for that lies in the fact that the programme included a large number of national institutions and independent state authorities, independent bodies and all other stakeholders.

“One of the most important results achieved in the previous period is the preparation and adoption of the Law on Missing Babies, for which the Council of Europe has given us its full support”, noted Joksimović.

Joksimović has further said that significant progress has also been made in terms of the rule of law in prisons and police actions with the adoption of a programme on mental health protection in Serbia, adding that the first draft of the new Strategy for the Development of Penal Sanctions Enforcement System has been prepared.

Progress has also been made in the work of the national councils of national minorities, said Joksimović, adding that the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination has been aligned with the best European standards.

Local self-governments have been empowered to smoothly ensure fundamental human rights to members of the LGBT population, stressed Joksimović, adding that capacities have been strengthened in assisting victims of human trafficking and that there are visible results in media freedom.

“All these results have truly contributed, these are the concrete things we have done. All this is beginning to come to life and to be applied, and step by step, it will certainly lead to a better, more inclusive environment that will promote all rights – fundamental human rights”, concluded Joksimović.

Source: Tanjug