Thursday, 13 April 2006

30th sitting of the European Integrations Committee

At its thirtieth sitting, held on 13 April, the European Integrations Committee discussed the Churches and Religious Organisations Bill.



At its thirtieth sitting, held on 13 April, the European Integrations Committee discussed the Churches and Religious Organisations Bill.

The sitting was chaired by Ksenija Milivojevic.

The Committee’s sitting was attended by the Minister of Religion, Professor Dr Milan Radulovic, officials of the Serbian Government’s EU Integration Office, and representatives of the Serbian Conservators Society, the Belgrade Human Rights Centre, Civic Initiatives, and the Civil Society Development Centre.

At the start of the discussion, Ms Milivojevic informed those present of a letter sent to the Assembly by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Belgrade, Stanislav Hocevar, proposing to postpone discussion on the Bill, as well as of preliminary assessments made by Council of Europe legal experts, adding that there had been no time for a more thorough evaluation.

Presenting the Churches and Religious Communities Bill, Professor Radulovic said that Serbia has been lacking regulations to cover the field ever since the repeal of 1953 legislation reducing churches and religious communities to the status of citizens’ associations. Representatives of fifty-three churches, religious communities, and Serbian and international organisations took part in public debate of the Bill. Professor Radulovic underlined that the Bill contained general principles and standards of religious freedom prevailing in European countries, as well as that proposed solutions on relations between religious communities are specially adapted to the multi-confessional situation in Serbia.

The debate saw both deputies and NGO officials voicing comments on the Bill. Special attention was paid to the possibility of performing religious ceremonies in schools, hospitals, army units etc, the obligation of local self-government units to state their opinion on the institution of local levies to fund construction of religious buildings, the establishment of an agency to monitor religious communities’ efforts to preserve cultural heritage, and the autonomy to be enjoyed, under the Government-sponsored Bill, by religious educational institutions.

After the discussion finished, it was resolved that the Committee should use opinions voiced to draft amendments to the Bill and forward them to the National Assembly.


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