On Friday, 5 March 2021, Elvira Kovacs, National Assembly Deputy Speaker and Chairperson of the European Integration Committee, took part in the Thematic Social Dialogue on the Proposals for the Amendment of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, organised by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue.
The Thematic Social Dialogue was also attended by Gordana Comic, Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Mission in Belgrade, Maja Popovic, Minister of Justice, Brankica Jankovic, Commissioner for Equality, Milana Rikanovic, Head of the UN WOMEN Serbia Office, Darija Kisic Tepavcevic, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Katarina Golubovic, Chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUKOM, and Milan Markovic, Head of the UN Human Rights Team and Programme in Serbia.
The proposal for the amendment of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination was presented by Prof. Nevena Petrusic of the expert legal drafting working group.
In her address, the Chairperson of European Integration the Committee said that public debate on the text of the Draft Law on amending the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination is of special importance for the Committee she heads because the principle of non-discrimination is part of the European Union identity – and the Union’s identity is being committed to the principles of ... "freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law", contained in the preambles of the Maastricht as well as the Lisbon Treaty.
To achieve its strategic commitment - joining the European Union, Serbia must meet one of the basic political criteria - to provide stable institutions that will guarantee democracy, rule of law, respect and protection of human rights, Kovacs pointed out.
She said that in the 12 years since the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination was passed, the need to amend the Law has been recognised, especially in terms of harmonisation with the EU acquis and the legislation. The experience gained from the implementation of the Law is a valuable resource when preparing these amendments. After consultations with representatives of the European Commission, the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination was found to need harmonisation with the provisions of European Union directives, primarily Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000, on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. This Directive contains a special section concerning the Member States’ obligation to establish a special independent body to promote equal treatment of all persons. It requires the Member States to designate one or more bodies to promote equal treatment of all persons, without discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, which may be an integral part of the body entrusted with the protection of human rights at national level or the protection of the rights of the individual, most often the Ombudsman. In addition, harmonisation with Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000, on establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation is also needed. The existing Law also necessary to be harmonised with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, adopted in Istanbul on 11 May 2011.
She added that the National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis Communautaire for the period 2018-2021 also plans the adoption of the Law amending the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, and the Revised Action Plan for the Implementation of Chapter 23, adopted at the session of the Government of the Republic of Serbia of 10 July 2020, envisages amendments to the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in order to fully comply with the acquis communautaire, in particular as regards:
- the scope of exceptions to the principle of equal treatment,
- definition of indirect discrimination, and
- obligations to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities.