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J. Joksimović: Constitutional amendment is an opportunity that must not be missed

December 22 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Constitutional amendment is an opportunity that must not be missed

At the meeting of the National Convention on the EU today, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has assessed that it is not the Union’s obligation to run the campaign on constitutional amendments in Serbia, since that is the responsibility of the government and civil sector, in particular “the part involved in this topic and claiming to be pro-European”.

Joksimović has said that civil society organisations have a role to participate in the campaign and explain to the citizens how the changes will manifest and reflect on their interests.

She has reminded that public opinion polls in the last few years have shown that the first thing the citizens expect from the European integration is fight against corruption and independent judiciary.

“These are the specified interest of the citizens, and they fall within the responsibility of all governments, but also civil society, in particular the one involved in this topic and claiming to be pro-European. It is fine for the EU to express its opinion and say that these changes are all right, but this is our campaign”, Joksimović has said.

Adding that the EU has indicated that the proposed amendments represent a big and important step forward pertaining to what representatives of judges’ and prosecutors’ associations have anticipated for years, she has also added that the amendments are in line with the European standards.

She believes that an active campaign is necessary in order to explain to the citizens that this referendum is not about the change of the anthem or coat of arms, but to make a statement on diminishing the political influence in election of magistrates.

“This will make a huge step forward compared to scandalous, epic failure of the 2009 judicial reform, due to which the state has paid more than EUR 60 million for all indemnities so far”, she has emphasised.

Joksimović has invited everyone to stop confusing the citizens, saying that as a citizen she will vote “yes” in the referendum, as she believes this to be a huge step forward for our country.

“The citizens expect this and for years now they recognise it as one of the problems burdening our society for decades”, Joksimović has noted.

She has added that the part of the civil sector involved in this, claiming that their conscience is clear since they have participated in inclusive and transparent debate leading to the completion of the constitutional amendments text, should not really prioritise the holidays as their conscience may not be that clear.

“This is not a simple issue that all citizens can understand, since they are not all legal professionals or share the interest in such topic at the level of expert debate. However, citizens are interested in the effects of this change, they want to know if judges and prosecutors will be independent and free of political influence, if access to justice and fairness will be improved for each citizen”, she has indicated.

She believes that this detachment from the campaign by one part of the civil sector, first of all destroys the foundations of the National Convention “because when someone says that instead of consensus, the pluralistic consensus, they will get involved in individual engagement and campaign, this destroys the foundations of the Convention”.

She believes there should be no detachment “especially because the Convention on the EU should support everything leading to the achievement of best European standards and values that will bring us closer to the EU membership”.

In her words, three conditions need to be met for having a dialogue - to be interested in the topic, to have arguments and courage and to be ready to combine them.

“I am not sure which of these three elements the Working group for Chapter 23 of Convention is missing, but it obviously is missing something”, she has said.

Joksimović has stated that this amendment of the Constitution is an opportunity not to be missed, adding that this is her opinion both as a minister and a citizen of this country.

“It is hard to assume that such opportunity will appear again so we could realise a profound structural change of our society and our system. I believe I did good, I do not think I have impaired the status of obligation of not participating in the campaign, I have expressed my views as a citizen”, she has stated.

She has emphasised that today’s dialogue should not be completed without those in the National Convention who have the most credibility to talk on the constitutional amendments.

She has stated that luckily the most relevant ones – judges’ and prosecutors’ associations have taken part without politicization.

“I am interested to see what will happen with our European integration, however that is not paramount here – it is instead the achievement of something our citizens have wanted for a long time – a more independent judiciary, improved access to justice and fairness and efficient fight against corruption”, Joksimović has concluded.

Source: Tanjug