National Assembly Deputy Speaker Veroljub Arsic and MP Stefana Miladinovic met today with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger.
First off, the OSCE Secretary General praised the close cooperation between the OSCE and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. The central topics of the meeting were the coming parliamentary elections, opposition boycott, amendment of the Constitution, possible amendments to the Assembly Rules of Procedure and the situation in Kosovo-Metohija.
Arsic said he was very pleased with the cooperation with OSCE, highlighting its regional significance. He added that he also appreciates the cooperation with OSCE on the reform of the election process. The Deputy Speaker explained that some parties in Serbia strive to bring the election process and results into question, stressing that it is crucial that the process reflects the will of the citizens because the composition of the parliament depends on it. Arsic said that the National Assembly’s work is satisfactory and there has been some progress in the last few months. According to him, the Rules of Procedure are the biggest problem in the operation of the Parliament. “More liberal Rules of Procedure can be passed if a code of conduct for the MPs is passed”, said the Deputy Speaker. “We had a working group who made a draft of the new Rules of Procedure, however the opposition resisted the adoption of the text stressing that it prevents the MPs from exercising their freedoms”, said Arsic. He stressed that the ruling majority does not want to limit or thwart anyone’s political freedoms, though the adoption of the draft would help the Parliament fully exercise its duties as a representative body. “Your support for the adoption of new Rules of Procedure and code of conduct would be greatly appreciated. I expect the assessment of the document to be objective so that no one can accuse us of stifling democracy”, said Arsic. The Deputy Speaker explained that democratic elections do not have a long tradition in Serbia and the Law on Election of MPs though good, needs to be updated. “Our country keeps developing technically, technologically and democratically and seeing how it is at a completely different level than 20 years ago its legislation needs to be modernized accordingly”, said Arsic. According to him the administration is ready to accommodate the opposition as far as the Constitution and laws allow, but some of its demands cannot be met. “We cannot set up provisional authorities for the duration of the electoral process nor can we influence the editorial policy of private media, especially those not based in Serbia” said the Deputy Speaker. He stressed that National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojkovic has publicly invited the opposition leaders to talks on several occasions, which they rejected demanding that she resign.
Speaking of the coming parliamentary elections, Arsic voiced his concerns about the situation in Kosovo-Metohija, hoping OSCE will remain neutral. The Albanian side keeps pressuring the Serb population threatening it, attacking its property and with the initiative of Kosovo Albanians for the so-called unification of the northern and southern side of Kosovska Mitrovica. Since its signing, the Serbian side had met all the requirements of the Brussels Agreement, while the Albanian side did not fulfil the one obligation expected from it. The Deputy Speaker also listed the series of Pristina’s unilateral moves that undermine the dialogue viz. the incursion of the Kosovo special police forces in the north of Kosovo-Metohija on 28 May, adoption of the statute of Trepca mining complex on 3 February and imposition of 100% customs tariffs on Serbian products which is in violation of CEFTA. All of the unilateral acts of the provisional institutions in Pristina jeopardize the peace and stability in the whole region and block the talks that could lead to a final and mutually acceptable solution.
Responding to Greminger’s questions about the amendment of the Constitution, Arsic said that the Assembly had launched the process to change the Constitution concerning the status of the bearers of judiciary and prosecutorial office, in cooperation with the Venice Commission.
Greminger said that the OSCE will continue to support the work of the National Assembly, especially in terms of strengthening parliamentary oversight, visibility and transparency. He praised the MPs’ efforts to draft a code of conduct and improve the Rules of Procedure. He said that the OSCE supports the electoral process reforms and has the instruments to assist in the efforts, adding that ODIHR will be sending a mission in November to observe the regular parliamentary elections in March.
MP Stefana Miladinovic thanked the visiting delegation, concluding that the OSCE and the National Assembly should continue to cooperate on strengthening the visibility of the Parliament. She praised the positive change resulting from the cooperation with the Women’s Parliamentary Network. For years the MPs had strived to raise the level of the institution as a supervisory body respected by the Government and the judiciary, as well as the other institutions and society at large. Miladinovic took the opportunity to praise the Assembly’s transparency, which makes the institution, according to UNDP estimates, first in the state and second in the region. As the Head of the standing delegation to OSCE PA, Miladinovic also took the opportunity to mention that she took part in the organization’s autumn session as a Special Rapporteur for Digital Agenda.