5 May 2022 National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic

5 May 2022 National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic

Thursday, 5 May 2022

National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic Address Belgrade Law Faculty Students

The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic addressed the students of the Faculty of Law in Belgrade in the course of their visit to the National Assembly House.


THE FOLLOWING IS THE SPEECH OF THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA IN ITS ENTIRETY:

Dear guests,
Dear students and colleagues

I say - colleagues, because we are like people who take part in the parliament’s work. You in the students’ parliament and me in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, so we will have a lot of common topics to talk about. Welcome to the National Assembly and thank you for your initiative to visit us and get a little closer to our work, although I am sure that as students of the Faculty of Law you know very well how our parliamentary system works.

At this moment, and you are certainly aware of that, the National Assembly is at a something of a standstill, because we expect the constitution of a new Assembly based on the results of the elections of 3 April. From a legal standpoint, which will surely interested you, this is an important legal situation in our political system which does not happen often, but is prescribed in detail by our Constitution and laws and needs to be implemented strictly following that procedure.

Namely, the previous Assembly legislature, of which I am the Speaker, was elected after the elections held in June 2020 and did not last its full, four-year term. In order for the parliamentary elections to be held at the same time as the regular presidential elections and the elections for the Belgrade City Assembly, the Assembly needed to be dissolved and new elections called.

You will notice that these decisions - to dissolve the parliament and call an election, are made at different levels of government precisely in order to ensure maximum democratic control of the election process and respect the constitutional separation of powers. As the Assembly Speaker, I called the elections, pursuant to the Constitution - for the President of the Republic, and the President of Serbia called the elections for the National Assembly. It is also within my duties to call local elections - in this case for the Assembly of the City of Belgrade and several other municipalities and cities in Serbia. For reasons of expediency and rationality, all these elections were held in one day, Sunday, 3 April. In the meantime, the current parliamentary legislature has continued to work, although it does not pass laws, which is our most important activity, because the Government of Serbia, as the main submitter of laws, is in a technical mandate.

In order to avoid an institutional vacuum, this parliamentary legislature will remain in office until the mandates of the new MPs, elected in the elections of 3 April, are verified, and I expect that to happen in May.

That is the final procedure, one preceded by a series of tasks and decisions we completed in the previous period, and I will say a few words about them.

Namely, in the past year, the National Assembly held an inter-party dialogue concerning changes in election conditions with the aim to improve our election process wherever possible. The National Assembly was the organiser of that dialogue which was conducted on two levels. At one level, representatives of the European Parliament also took part in the dialogue, at the request from a number of opposition parties. In that part, I coordinated the work together with David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as with a group of MPs who directly participated in the talks.

At the second level, the dialogue took place between the ruling parties and the part of the opposition which did not want European representatives to take part in the talks. It is important to know that both parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties and movements participated at both of these levels, equally, because we wanted to reach a solution that would be acceptable to the widest circle of political participants. And we came to that, after several rounds of talks and constant consultations, in a good atmosphere and with excellent joint efforts.

The result of those talks was that we made certain changes in our electoral system, meaning changes in several election laws, as well as regulations applied by the Republic Electoral Commission. In any case, these elections were conducted according to the rules stemming from the widest possible consensus, which is why their organisation has already received very positive assessments from important international factors, such as the European Parliament and the OSCE, which also had their own observation missions.

At the same time, the National Assembly has completed another very important job, one that concerns changes to the Constitution of Serbia. This also does not happen often in our political and parliamentary life, because any change to the Constitution is a long and complex process and requires maximum openness and participation of a very wide range of institutions and experts. This is the first change to the Constitution in the 15 years since its adoption.

At the beginning, I must stress that the Constitution has been changed only in the part that refers to our judiciary, that is, in the way the highest positions in the judiciary and prosecutor's office are elected. Those provisions have been deficient from the very beginning, since the Constitution was adopted and Serbia has received objections to them since 2007, only a few months after the Constitution was adopted. The common assessment of some relevant European institutions was that our way of electing judges and prosecutors allows greater influence of the other branches of government - legislative and executive, in the selection of judges and prosecutors which harms the democratic order, especially the independence and autonomy of the judiciary. The European Union had the most objections to that, mentioning this shortcoming in every annual report on Serbia's progress towards full membership. And the Venice Commission was particularly critical - a body of legal professionals operating within the Council of Europe and the highest European legal authority for legislative drafting and harmonisation with the best European solutions.

We approached Constitutional change three years ago, when the first drafts of new solutions were made and were constantly finalised and harmonised with generally accepted European standards in communication with the Venice Commission. In the past year, when we initiated the Constitutional change procedure, we conducted a series of public hearings in the National Assembly on the new constitutional solutions. In this form of work the Assembly invites the most prominent experts in a given field to a conversation to listen to their opinions and advice and then to incorporate them into the legal text. At the abovementioned public hearings, we had, as guests, our most prominent legal experts from your faculty, as well as other law faculties in Serbia, we had lawyers, judges and prosecutors, we also had experts from the non-governmental sector dealing with the rule of law.

One of the obligations in the process of Constitutional change is to hold the widest possible consultations on it, not only through discussions in the parliament, but through dialogue with all interested parties. We did this to the maximum extent and heard everything we needed to hear. The reason for it is that the Constitution does not change every day and the solutions we come to must be long-term and meet the set objective. We were successful because all the relevant factors assessed that Serbia has made great progress in the field of justice which is now dissociated from the influence of politics, i.e. the other branches of government in its work.

In addition, we conducted a rather complicated parliamentary procedure, which included many sessions of our Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Issues, as well as several plenary sessions of the Assembly, to ensure a two-thirds support both to call a referendum and adopt the referendum’s decision. I will remind you that these changes were also supported by the citizens at the referendum of 16 January.

Therefore, the Constitution has been changed in full accordance with the procedure prescribed for such cases, as well as in accordance with the highest international standards that apply in Europe today. I think we went a step further than that, because we tried to consult a very wide range of experts, representatives of the judiciary and all others interested in this issue, because we wanted to reach a constitutional text that would gain the widest possible social consensus.

I have made an effort to present to you first hand, but in brief, only some of our most important activities in the past period, and I am sure that you have some additional questions and comments, so I will be glad to answer if I can.

Thank you again for coming to visit us!


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