These recommendations are a result of years of re-search and monitoring the work of the National Assem-bly in the framework of the Open Parliament Initiative, as well as of the activities of Members of the Parliament (MPs), functioning of parliamentary mechanisms and processes, and analyses of comparative practice and the best international standards. The list of recommendations presented in this document is not final nor exhaustive, but rather limited to priority recommendations that CRTA believes could be implemented at the earliest opportunity, with the existence of political will, readiness for dialogue and mutual understanding of all relevant actors.

The heated debate on algorithms which are part of the software used by the state and strongly influence citizens’ lives is present in Western countries, but it has not yet reached the same level in Central and Eastern Europe. This does not mean that automated decision processes do not exist in these regions. The report alGOVrithms – the State of Play is the result of collaborative research that surveyed existing practices and has found a significant number of algorithms that may be qualified as a part of automated decision making in these countries. This report consists of data and analysis gathered by researchers from ePaństwo Foundation (Poland), KohoVolit.eu (Czechia and Slovakia), IDFI (Georgia), K-Monitor (Hungary) and CRTA between November 2018 and April 2019. Together with the report, we are presenting policy recommendations for decision makers, which are available in Serbian and English.

The process in which the Committee for Culture and Information proposed to the National Assembly Milan Marinović for the new Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Personal Data Protection did not ensure that the choice between the candidates be based on the assessment and comparison of their qualifications, previous specific experience in the fields within the competence of the Commissioner and work plans. The public is unaware of the reasons why the candidate that the Committee voted for is better than the other candidates. In the absence of pre-set evaluation criteria, the selection was made uniquely by voting, the outcome of which indicates that that the main criteria for decision-making was the identity of the proponent, and not the candidate’s expertise.

The decision of the Committee for Culture and Information was preceded by a five-minute presentation of each candidate, the candidates’ answers to questions of the Committee and a separate voting for each candidate. Out of 11 present Committee members, 10 voted for Milan Marinović, who had been proposed by the Serbian Progressive Party parliamentary group. 6 members of opposition groups did not attend the session.

As the only remaining step is the MPs vote for or against the proposed candidate, it is clear that the selection of the head of an important independent institution is taking place in a manner contrary to principles that more than 100 civil society organisations have been advocating since last November. The candidates did not have the opportunity to inform the public nor MPs (with the exception of the Committee members) about their professional work that makes them worthy of this position. The process did not ensure that the public be acquainted with proposals and plans of the future Commissioner aiming to solve the problem of a continuing deterioration of the status of access to information of public importance occurring since 2016; and to fight off challenges arising from the application of the Law on Personal Data protection.

Having in mind the entire process, civil society organisations are prompting the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government to introduce in the draft amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance provisions that would guarantee the application of the openness and transparency criteria while selecting the Commissioner.

Signatories of this statement are: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, CRTA, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM, Partners for Democratic Change Serbia, SHARE Foundation, Transparency Serbia and Open Society Foundation Serbia.

The meeting between six representatives of civil society organizations from the region and the ministers of foreign affairs of the Western Balkans and the European Union countries, was held between 3rd and 5th of July at the 2019 Western Balkans Summit in Poznan in the course of the Berlin Process.

The discussion topic were the key challenges the Western Balkans region is facing with. The meeting was moderated by Aleksandra Tomanić, Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans. Representatives of civil society – Jovana Marović (Politikon Network), Vukosava Crnjanski (CRTA), Adnan Huskić (Center for Electoral Studies), Gjergij Vurmo (Institute for Democracy and Mediation), Naim Raish (Balkans Policy Research Group) and Marko Trosanovski (Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis) – addressed crucial regional problems and challenges, as well as messages regarding the state of democracy, the rule of law, bilateral disputes, European integration, freedom of the media and freedom of speech, and future of the Berlin Process.

Vukosava Crnjanski warned that inflammatory rhetoric and weak democratic institutions are threat to the regional cooperation and stability. She called for a greater role of parliaments in the European integration process. You may access her complete speech below.

 


 

Dear ministers, dear colleagues from the civil society,

First I would like to remind us all that the European Union is first and foremost a peace project, that is grounded in values of democracy, solidarity and human rights.

Having this in mind, I would like to call the political elites in the region to show substantial commitment to this model we have strategically chosen to follow. This means to restrain from using the inflammatory rhetoric that continuously produces hate speech across the region, fuels populism and disinformation, and narrows the space for dialogue.

Another issue that I would like to address is the urgent need to restore parliaments as pivotal democratic institutions in the region. Parliaments need to be transformed from “voting machines” into genuine spaces for nurturing dialogue, overseeing the executive and deciding on laws based on facts and evidence. Parliaments should have a substantial voice in the European integration process, by taking a more proactive role in scrutiny over the progress and through active involvement in initiatives such as the Berlin process.

I would like to conclude with the following. If we fail to maintain sincere commitment in defending democratic values – hate speech, undemocratic performance of institutions and lack of citizen trust and engagement will continue to undermine regional cooperation, seriously threatening regional stability.

We have to show dedication to democracy and European Union as our key strategic priorities both through concrete actions and the official everyday narrative.

 

More than 80 civil society organisations, media, business, professional and scientific communities’ representatives are urging MPs to support Nevena Ružić as a candidate for the new Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection. We are firmly convinced that Nevena Ružić possesses the expertise, experience and integrity necessary for managing the institution of the Commissioner.

Nevena Ružić has been working for this institution for 10 years now and is currently the Deputy General Secretary of the Commissioner’s Office. Her work so far has significantly contributed to the confidence of citizens in the Commissioner’s institution and this why we believe that she would continue to work in the public’s best interest in the future. We are sure that besides the relevant professional knowledge (master diploma in legal sciences in the areas closely related to the field of activity of the Commissioner) and exceptional experience, she possesses the integrity necessary for the control and oversight of the work of state bodies. She has shown commitment and devotion through regular communication and cooperation with civil society organisations and through continuous professional development. Since 2017, she has been a member of the working body of the International Confederation of Information Commissioners. In 2012, she was elected a member of the Bureau of the Advisory Committee of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals regarding the automatic processing of personal data of the Council of Europe, where she also served as a Deputy President.

We are urging all parliamentary groups of the National Assembly to candidate Nevena Ružić and to support her selection as she fulfils all the  criteria that guarantee that she will perform the Commissioner’s duty accountably and conscientiously, in accordance with the law and good democratic practice, independently of political and other influences.

We are prompting all MPs to adopt an accountable and conscientious attitude towards the selection of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection. This institution has a huge importance for citizens of Serbia, while the laws it protects – the access to information of public importance and personal data protection – are constitutionally guaranteed rights that are fundamentals of every democratic society.

We are prompting the Committee for Culture and Information of the National Assembly to respect criteria  of transparency, openness and integrity when selecting the new Commissioner so that the public could be adequately informed and included in this process.

Civil society organisations urge the Committee for Culture and Information of the National Assembly to withdraw a requirement from calls to the parliamentary groups regarding nominations of candidates for the election of the new Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Personal Data Protection, which forbids that the candidate be employed in another state body at the time of proposing for the function, as that is not stipulated by law.

This criterion is an eliminating factor for all candidates currently working in state bodies, including the Commissioner’s Office, and is contrary to article 30 of the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, which states that a person selected for the position of the Commissioner cannot continue to work in another state body.

The signatories of this announcement also indicate that the competent Committee of National Assembly initiated the procedure for selection of the new Commissioner almost six months after the expiration of Rodoljub Šabić’s mandate, and foresaw only five working days for the submission of proposals. Besides, the calls were sent uniquely to parliamentary groups and not to the interested public.

If the new Commissioner is selected in such a procedure, the legality and the legitimacy of this independent state body will be violated, and the democratic system in Serbia further compromised.

The above-mentioned organisations prompt the  Committee for Culture and Information  to accept suggestions for process transparency, openness and integrity criteria when selecting the new Commissioner. More than 80 civil society organisations, media, business, professional and scientific communities’ representatives submitted the said criteria to the National Assembly. In this way, the public would be adequately informed and included in the process of selection of the new Commissioner.

Signatories of this announcement are: Belgrade Centre for Security PolicyCRTALawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOMPartners for Democratic Change SerbiaSHARE FoundationTransparency Serbia and Open Society Foundation Serbia.

 

Initiative Open Parliament has been launched on this very day seven years ago.

Since June 2012, Open Parliament informs citizens on the work of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, monitors MPs activities and events in the Assembly. In seven years, 1057 laws were adopted in 682 working days in the plenary which were analysed, more than 250,000 MPs speeches were published, almost 300 law abstracts, over 30 surveys on parliamentary processes and the work of the Assembly, and more than 900 citizens questions were collected.

The Open Parliament analyses and reports on the manner the Assembly is carrying out its functions and indicates the trends in law enforcement and the oversight function, the key issues and challenges in the work of Parliament and potential recommendations for tackling them.

The analysis of the current legislature indicates a drastic decline of democracy in the work of the Assembly, especially regarding the legislative and oversight function of the most important representative body. Excessive adoptions of the legislation under the urgent procedure, the obstruction of the Parliament work and the abuse of procedures that prevent dialogue in the plenary, absence of public hearings, weak oversight over the executive, especially the adoption of the budget while the ruling majority obstructs the discussion, represent the negative practices which must be changed at once.

Recognition of the negative practices by the expert public, the media, the European Union and other relevant international actors, as well as the representatives of the highest national authorities, signify a precondition for solving the crisis in the Parliament.

We invite all MPs to be accountable and initiate the public dialogue in the aim of overcoming many challenges which are preventing Parliament to carry out its democratic function effectively.

Through the platform www.otvoreniparlament.rs the citizens can monitor the work of the MPs on a daily basis, pose the questions directly to the MPs, get familiar with the activities and the sittings in the Assembly, the law proposals and the legislation that the MPs shall vote on, as well as the key amendments that the adopted laws and other acts will bring.

“It is necessary to open up institutions and leaders for potential dialogues with young people who are eager for change and advancements, while the growing apathy among future generations can be overcome by education and information“, this is the conclusion of a panel discussion  “Two angles – is there a dialogue between us?” held during the final event and the diploma awarding ceremony to the  third generation of students of the Academy for Democracy organised by the CRTA with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia.

“I am honoured to be part of this Academy for the third year in a row. In an environment where young people are separated from political processes, such an educational programme contributes to the emergence of future young leaders who will lead the country towards the rule of law and democratic values. I am particularly fond of the Academy because it has improved over these three years and have included different lecturers and topics. The contribution of this programme is extraordinary, because thanks to the knowledge and skills that can be gained, the new generations will be more willing to participate in the dialogue and development of democracy in Serbia.”, said the ambassador Andrea Orizio, the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia.

The CRTA director, Vukosava Crnjanski, thanked the OSCE Mission in Serbia for its support during all the years and expressed her satisfaction with the participation of all participants of this year’s Academy.

“During these eight months, you have shown a serious democratic maturity. I would like to thank all the participants of our Academy for having expressed confidence in the CRTA team and also to all of us who had the role of lecturers and had the opportunity to transfer a part of our experience in building of a democratic Serbia. You are our future and I hope that we have contributed to your energy to stay here and develop dialogue and democracy in Serbia. It is a great honour and pleasure to have all of you, young people, in such a democratic endeavour“, said Vukosava Crnjanski.

Panellist, Dejan Radenković, member of the parliamentGordana Čomić, member of the parliament and this year’s Academy participants Katarina Senić and Nikola Tamburkovski, agreed that it was devastating that our society despises dialogue, which is reflected not only at the political level, but also on intrapersonal relationships. The dialogue is supposed to be a voluntary process in spite of disagreements and confrontations. This is why listening and understanding are crucial for a productive dialogue.

 “As long as both actors are not open and determined to sit down and discuss topics and key issues for our society through dialogue, the latter cannot reach its full importance.   When it comes to future generations and their readiness to lead a society, my experience shows that it is getting harder for them as they are left to their own devices.“ said Dejan Radenković.   

“If you, as decision-makers and bearers of power, do not feel that it is necessary to consider whether something is moral and ethical, then you are not fit for this job. On should be well-studied and skilled enough to know what kind of consequences and effects a certain decision will engender. If you make a decision, you should reason it, because it can be life changing for citizens, concluded Gordana Čomić.

The Academy for Democracy is a one-year study programme intended for the representatives of the political youth, civil society and for young students and journalists. In the last three years, there have been more than 70 people who participated in this programme.

The entire panel discussion is available here.