In a new report on Serbia, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) calls for further measures to prevent corruption respect of persons with top executive functions, including the President of the Republic, ministers, assistant ministers, state secretaries, chiefs of cabinet and political advisers, as well as members of the Serbian Police. GRECO provides 24 recommendations to the country’s authorities and awaits a report on their implementation by end September 2023 (see the French version of the report as well as the Serbian translation provided by the authorities).
In the evaluation report, GRECO notes the central role played by the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption in many different respects, such as public bodies’ integrity plans adopted to offset corruption, public officials’ asset declarations, training and advice, and lobbying rules. The Agency’s action is based on the Law on the Prevention of Corruption, which imposes requirements on public officials, and the Law on Lobbying. GRECO recommends, however, that the role of the Agency be strengthened by making public its recommendations and the response of the Government and Presidential administration. Besides, the remit of the Law should be expanded to cover all persons with top executive functions, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers’ chiefs of cabinet as well as advisers.
In addition, as far as central governing structures are concerned, GRECO calls for a public strategy on corruption prevention that would explicitly cover persons with top executive functions. Integrity checks should take place prior to the appointment of ministers, as well as a part of the recruitment of chiefs of cabinets and advisors (including those of the President) to manage possible risks of conflict of interest. In addition, all persons with top executive functions should be required to disclose ad hoc conflicts of interest, and the exception whereby they are exempt from doing so in case of “danger of delay” in decision-making should be removed from the law.
As regards the law enforcement, GRECO finds that a public strategy on corruption prevention in the police should be adopted. Measures should also be taken to achieve a more open and transparent competition in the procedure of appointment of the Chief of Police and other senior management posts to prevent political appointments. Moreover, the existing Code of Police Ethics should be revised so as to cover all relevant integrity topics (such as conflict of interest, gifts, contacts with third parties, outside activities) and be accompanied by practical examples. Regular integrity vetting throughout the career of police members needs to be put in place as well as rotation of staff in corruption risk-prone areas.
This is GRECO’s first report on Serbia in the 5th Evaluation Round which focuses on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies. The implementation of the recommendations addressed to Serbia will be assessed by GRECO through its compliance procedure in 2023.