Friday, 20 October 2006

Roundtable on role of Parliament held at Assembly House

A roundtable devoted to ‘The Parliament and principles of good governance: organisation and work of plenary and committee sittings’, was held on 20 October at Assembly House, as part of the two-year Council of Europe and European Union support to parliamentary institutions in Serbia.



A roundtable devoted to ‘The Parliament and principles of good governance: organisation and work of plenary and committee sittings’, was held on 20 October at Assembly House, as part of the two-year Council of Europe and European Union support to parliamentary institutions in Serbia.

Opening the roundtable, National Assembly Chairman Predrag Markovic hailed the continuing co-operation with international institutions assisting the National Assembly. He underlined that parliamentary law in Serbia is being employed to try to solve (through Assembly activities and changes to the parliament’s Rules of Procedure) issues that cannot be solved fully until all necessary powers are assumed and systemic laws are adopted. ‘What the deputies are facing’, Markovic added, ‘is the issue of nation-building, as well as the adoption of a large number of laws that will ensure the adoption of the standards of a strong parliamentary democracy, and, at the same time, endeavour to provide protection of individual rights. This is why strong institutions and clear procedures are needed to legally establish the state as soon as possible, and to protect individuals from any abuse on the part of the state.’

Markovic especially underlined legislative activity carried out by the Assembly, adding that all deputies’ groups helped to make this convocation the most productive in the history of Serbian parliamentarianism when it comes to adopting laws – it adopted a total of 260 pieces of legislation, including many systemic laws. In addition, the current Assembly convocation adopted the Proposal of a new Constitution and twice amended the Rules of Procedure.

The education of deputies and National Assembly Support Service employees, as well as study visits to foreign parliaments, were all important for improving Assembly work, which is why assistance by international institutions, such as the Council of Europe, OSCE, and the European Commission, is so valuable, Markovic said. Comparing experiences and parliamentary practices can help the Serbian parliament, and ‘we ask for assistance so we can help ourselves while respecting other people’s experiences’ Markovic concluded.

In his opening address, the head of the Council of Europe’s Belgrade Office, Denis Hubert, said that democracy was ‘a process whose fundamental principles include dialogue and the exchange of opinions’. He underlined that, for a parliament to function well, the opposition should make itself heard, while parliament should also oversee the work of the government. Mr Hubert added that a parliament should serve as ‘a good example for implementing the principles of transparency and accountability, respect for human rights, and sound budget principles’. He added that he considered roundtables and seminars as opportunities for further developing parliamentary democracy in Serbia.

Dr Irena Pejic, professor of Constitutional Law, spoke of the organisation and functioning of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, with special reference to the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. Analysing the organisation of the National Assembly, Ms Pejic concluded that it was an establishment founded on traditional principles.

Foreign experts and Finnish, Norwegian, and British members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) spoke about activities of EU parliaments and the Council of Europe. They presented their experiences about adopting and implementing European standards in the functioning of parliamentary plenary and committee sittings.

The attendees were finally addressed by Rodoljub Sabic, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, who spoke of the importance of a parliament’s openness to the public.

This is the second roundtable in a series organised jointly by PACE and the European Union, through the European Agency for Reconstruction, to assist in administrative capacity-building for Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments. The roundtable was attended by National Assembly deputies, National Assembly Support Service staff, foreign experts, and PACE members.



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