The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Maja Gojkovic spoke at the opening of the seventh plenary session of the National Convention on the European Union on the part of the EU report on Serbia concerning the National Assembly.
Gojkovic said that, as she pointed out in her meeting with the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, the report contains certain political assessments and areas that could use some work to improve certain segments of the National Assembly’s work.
“I have defined a set of guidelines and measures how to improve the work of the Serbian Parliament” said Gojkovic stating that the measures she wishes to put into effect concern chiefly passing laws by urgent procedure, adding that she had asked the Government not to propose that the National Assembly pass laws by urgent procedure when the motion is uncalled for and has been met with understanding by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in that matter.
Gojkovic said the National Assembly had in 16 instances not accepted the motion to put the documents in question under urgent procedure and the use of urgent legislative measures had gone down by 65% compared to 2016, to 44% according to the latest report. However, she still believes the percentage to be high and in future laws will be eligible for urgent procedure only in exceptional circumstances, as stipulated by the Rules of Procedure, primarily the ratification of important international agreements due to unforeseen circumstances.
“The Parliament will no longer put documents under urgent procedure unless the reasons for it are obvious and will return them to the Government to be submitted by regular procedure”, said Gojkovic.
Gojkovic said that very soon, in June, the Serbian Assembly will consider the reports of the independent regulatory bodies for 2018 and thus demonstrate that it supports and respects the work of the independent regulatory bodies and their role in society.
Gojkovic said that the ruling majority MPs have stopped submitting multitudes of amendments as far back as January of this year, which the report has failed to note, though it should have considering that it covers the period March 2018 - March 2019.
“In talks with the MPs who submitted them, they explained that these amendments were a response to the opposition’s obstruction of the parliament’s work through the practice of submitting hundreds and even thousands of amendments stating “to be deleted” or similar proposals with no real content”, said Gojkovic adding that the National Assembly also ran into problems trying to adopt the agenda since the opposition MPs lodged between 170 and 220 addendums to the agenda with no true content which is a practice that must cease no matter where it comes from.
Gojkovic said she expected important improvements when the next budget law, as the most important law of the year, comes into assembly procedure.
“The budget, as the most crucial law of a given year will be reviewed independently, without being merged with other items on the agenda and I will move that the debate on it be doubled from the usual 5 hours per parliamentary group for the first time in 12 years”, Gojkovic stated.
The Assembly Speaker said she would also insist that the Assembly committees, in line with the Rules of Procedure, recommence with the practice of public hearings especially in the case of system laws, so as to ensure that the best possible responses be incorporated into the laws.
“For the sake of truth and the citizens, it is important to note that the report also contains information on positive developments and the progress achieved, such as the increased number of sessions where the MPs question the Government, the Parliament’s continued practice of organizing debates on Serbia’s negotiating positions on the EU accession chapters, and exchange of views with the National Convention on the European Union”, said Gojkovic.
Speaking of the Parliament’s oversight of the executive, Gojkovic noted that the report completely disregards the work of the committees, that is the fact that all the ministers come and defend their activity reports before the committees that control their work.
Gojkovic reminded the attending that she had invited on numerous occasions the representatives of the minor part of the opposition boycotting the Parliament’s plenary work, though they do work within the committees and parliamentary delegations, to come and discuss how to improve the Parliament’s work.
“I will continue to invite the heads of the parliamentary groups to talk about how to improve the operation of the Parliament and discuss these measures” said Gojkovic, adding that she was happy to see one parliamentary group and some independent MPs who had so far boycotted the plenary, come back to the sessions.
Gojkovic said that the Parliament is the best place to talk and thanked the National Convention on the European Union as a network of civil society organizations, saying that together we can “fix the mistakes we or some before us had made”.