After 18 months of implementation of the action plans for Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom, Security), the upcoming year is a good time to revise these key strategic documents. The Action Plans are tools for achieving substantial progress in the areas of rule of law, human rights, justice, security and the fight against corruption. Bearing in mind the special importance of these Chapters, as well as the fact that the reforms have stalled and are not proceeding at an equal pace in all the relevant areas, the revision must include not only a change of deadlines, where there were delays, but also essential changes based on the lessons that have been learned in the previous period.
In that sense, the revision of the action plans should be based on the following principles:
- Transparency and participation of a wide range of actors. The process of revision should be fully transparent, with the participation of civil society organisations and the interested public, in accordance with the good practice that was already established in the course of development of these documents in 2015 and the explicit requests of the European Union defined in the screening reports. It is particularly important to allow sufficient time for the adoption of the planned legislative changes by the National Assembly, to give Members of the Parliament an opportunity to engage in high-quality public debate.
- The emphasis should be shifted from institutional design (institutions and change of regulations) to the implementation of the existing regulations and the provision of detailed description of measures required for better implementation.
- It is necessary to look at the action plans from the perspective of effectiveness and mutual compliance of measures. It is crucial to ensure that the planned activities really lead to the set objectives. In this respect, it is also necessary to align the set deadlines, particularly concerning measures from which a synergistic effect is expected.
- The objectives should be defined as precisely as possible. This will reflect positively for the citizens, allowing them to see whether or not we are truly moving toward achieving the declared objectives, as well as the state authorities, because it will reduce the space for arbitrary interpretation of success and achievement of the expected changes, which will consequently facilitate the process of Serbia's membership negotiation with the European Union.
- It is necessary to equate the level of generality of measures in the action plans, to make them sufficiently specific to allow monitoring. There is also the need to be able to establish, after their implementation, whether or not the expected effects have been achieved.
- Each criterion must be accompanied by adequate impact indicators, which should be formulated better than the existing ones. In order to be able to assess the extent to which the desired change has been achieved, it is necessary to define measurable indicators of the performance and effectiveness of institutions charged with implementing the measures.
- It is necessary to improve the general atmosphere that surrounds the implementation of reforms in this area, so that it is based on freedom of the media, open debate and meaningful public participation.
The revision should allow Serbia to take what the European Commission explicitly demands one step further, thus demonstrating the commitment of the Serbian Government to democratic reforms. The process of accession to the EU should not be reduced only to what is written in the action plans, and the percentage of fulfilment of objectives contained therein - the spirit of democratic reforms must be reflected in the actions of the Government.