La Abogacía en el mundo

Problemas en Serbia, apoyo a las negociaciones del Colegio de Abogados de ese país

Report on UIA, CCBE and IBA joint mission in Belgrade - Serbian Bar Association

by Andras Szecskay


The Serbian justice system has ground to a halt over the past few weeks following a months-long conflict between the legal profession and the government over recent legislative changes primarily concerning the work of notaries public.

Following the recent reform and introduction of the profession of Notary public in Serbia (which grants exclusive rights of practice to Notaries in Serbia in certain legal fields and, as a consequence, deprives approx. 8500 lawyers from a range of traditional fields), lawyers had been on strike from September, 17 2014 until the end of January 2015, hence they did not attend court hearings. On November, 4 2014 a protest was held in front of the Parliament, which gathered around 5000 lawyers who demanded amendments to the Law of Notaries Public. At this point, almost all administration of justice in Serbia has been frozen. Further citizens of Serbia cannot enter into agreements in a timely manner as only 92 notaries are appointed who cannot take over the work of 8500 lawyers.

The Serbian Bar Association turned to the UIA and to other international legal organizations, CCBE and IBA to help to mediate with the Serbian government as they could not find means of negotiation. 

In order to help find a solution to the situation, the UIA, together with the CCBE and the IBA, sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Vu?i? and Minister of Justice Selakovi? asking for a meeting in order to discuss recent legislative changes in Serbia and in particular the law on public notaries and its impact on the lawyers' profession. The request for the meeting was sent at very short notice in light of the General Assembly of the Serbian Bar Association originally scheduled for December, 11 2014 (which was subsequently re-scheduled for December, 22 2014). The idea was to meet with the Government officials before the General Assembly. The team of representatives of the UIA, CCBE and IBA was selected at the recent special task force meeting in Brussels following the Plenary Session of the CCBE on November, 29 2014.

The Prime Minister appointed Minister of Justice Selakovi? to represent the government of Serbia. The meeting was held on December, 10 at the Ministry of Justice and lasted for four hours in the late evening hours (between 20:00 and 24:00). The representatives of the UIA (Andras Szecskay) the CCBE (Peter S. Szabó) and the IBA (Peter Köves) first expressed concerns of the international legal organizations due to the lack of proper access to justice by Serbian citizens, due to the improper administration of the justice system as well as the lack of rule of law during the introduction of all relevant legislation (as they were introduced without any consultation with the lawyers as most important stakeholders in this issue). The delegation further attempted to mediate the crisis and emphasized the need to start with the negotiations. The delegation stressed that the solution is to be find on negotiations to be held among all stakeholders and the international organizations do not want to prefer any of the possible solutions complies with rule of law. Following the meeting, the government and the bar representatives agreed to set up small working groups to continue negotiating to find the best solution. 

The meeting was widely commented on in the Serbian printed and electronic media and mentioned the mediation efforts of the three organizations.

During the meeting with the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, the representatives of the UIA, CCBE, and IBA stressed the importance of a negotiated solution to the current crisis in order to bring an end to the ongoing conflict and to let the justice system carry on its functions. Minister of Justice pointed out the importance of the termination of the strike. This conflict may remain an obstacle to chapters 43 and 44 of the accession negotiations, therefore the CCBE also updated DG Justice Vera Jourova, who was supposed to visit the Serbian Government the day after our mission was in Serbia.

During our meeting with Minister Selakovi?, the delegates emphasized their confidence that although the parties will be able to find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem, the experts of the three organizations - the UIA, the CCBE and the IBA - remain available for further consultation and in order to share knowledge and experience regarding possible solutions to the problem.

In January the negotiations resulted in a mutually acceptable settlement and the relevant laws and regulations have been amended accordingly which was finally approved by the Serbian Parliament. As an obvious outcome, the strike ended at the end of January 2015.

by Andras Szecskay

Director - Independence of the Profession