International Anti-Corruption Conference Held

November 22, 2019

High-Level International Anti-Corruption Conference "Fight against Corruption for Prosperity in South-East Еurope" was held from 3-5 November 2019 in Belgrade under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic organized by the Ministry of Justice and the project Prevention and Fight against Corruption.

The conference aimed to highlight and promote the complementarity efforts of the international and national anti-corruption and integrity mechanisms and authorities, including the results of the specialised law enforcement institutions in fight against corruption in Serbia, region and beyond. More than 200 delegates from 14 countries attended the conference.

The opening ceremony was addressed by Serbian Minister of Justice Nela Kuburović and Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Ambassador Sem Fabrizi. The Minister of Justice stressed that the Government of Serbia demonstrates a clear political will and unambiguous commitment to a strategic approach to the fight against corruption.

"Aware of the far-reaching consequences that corruption has on the rule of law, social equality and economic development, Serbia began a systematic fight against corruption in 2012" Kuburovic said.

She stressed that Serbia has more than ever strengthened and rounded off its repressive mechanism in this area by adopting the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities in Combating Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption, as well as reforming the Criminal Code by introducing seven new anti-corruption crime measures while others are improved.

The Minister of Justice emphasized that Serbia paid equal attention to preventive action. In May this year a new Law on Prevention of Corruption was adopted, in November last year the Law on Lobbying was adopted while from 2015 Serbia became a pioneer in protection of whistleblowers by adopting the Law on protection of whistleblowers.

Addressing the attendees, Minister Kuburović pointed out that in the 18 months since the enforcement of the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Bodies in the Suppression of Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption began, 749 persons have been convicted of corruption offenses. Kuburovic pointed out that during that period, special departments of the higher public prosecutor's offices acted on criminal charges filed against 15,222 persons, of which 1,269 persons were indicted and 771 verdicts were rendered, of which 749 were convicted.

Minister Kuburovic says holding the conference is a confirmation of Serbia’s commitment to the rule of law and states that there is no universal answer to the issue of corruption.

When it comes to corruption, we must not forget that it, and especially the profits it brings, does not know national borders. That is why international cooperation in this area is of the utmost importance. Detecting and prosecuting corrupt actions is unthinkable without the exchange of information between different state authorities, both nationally and internationally”, notes Minister Kuburović.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi said that Serbia is on its way to the EU and that as such it is fighting corruption, that several important laws have been adopted to this end, and that there is now an emphasis on the implementation of those laws. Fabrizi stressed that it is very important that laws do not remain a dead letter and that, if the laws are enforced, the confidence of citizens, companies and the international community will be greater.

Ambassador Fabrizi says EU countries are a positive example in this area, as the Corruption Perceptions Index, measured by Transparency International, is among the top 20 in the EU’s 14 member states and wants to share its experiences in the region.

Serbia has taken a number of crucial steps in the past period, which helped build a framework of legislation and institutions that can help deter corruption and related phenomena. There is important work that is being carried out by the newly established special specialized authorities to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption and organized crime in line with the law”, Ambassador Fabrizi says.

The EU expects Serbia to actively apply these legal solutions, which is why we will monitor the results presented through the data together with the public, says Ambassador Fabrizi.

"We have a long road ahead in the European Union and in Serbia and in the countries of the region. I assure you that we will continue to work together. I thank all those involved in the implementation of projects, and especially the fighters against corruption, who are facing this phenomenonon a daily basis,” concludes the Head of the EU Delegation.

The ministers of justices, prosecutors, heads of state bodies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as representatives of the civil sector from Serbia, Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey discussed the improvement and strengthening of cooperation between the relevant anti-corruption institutions and services.

The conference was attended by Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, President of the Supreme Court of Cassation and High Judicial Council Dragomir Milojevic, Republic Public Prosecutor Zagorka Dolovac, Deputy Republic Prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic, Police Director Vladimir Rebic, Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Dragan Sikimić.

Within the conference, a ministerial segment was led by Minister Kuburović, addressing participating ministers of justice, as well as four panels on new investigative mechanisms and international cooperation in prosecuting corruption cases, the role of state authorities in preventing corruption, the role of civil society in preventing corruption and usage of modern technologies in the fight against corruption.

The conclusions of the international conference emphasized that effective fight against corruption requires:

• Effective cooperation and synergy of all national and international bodies;
• Improving the capacity of all bodies in the prevention and fight against corruption;
• Ensuring minimum standards in the field of corruption prevention - promoting institutional governance and the exchange of information and good practice between national and anti-corruption bodies;
• Improving the efficiency of public administration, increasing transparency, accountability, integrity in governance and decision-making in public policy-making - which will further mitigate the risks associated with corruption;
• The civil sector has a very important role to play in the fight against corruption, which has been recognized in all participating countries;
• Civil society organizations, in addition to raising awareness of the importance of preventing and combating corruption, must constantly monitor the functioning of government bodies and institutions;
• With an independent and strong judiciary and good laws, preventing corruption requires use of modern technologies, which will strengthen the internal capacities of public authorities in the digital age;
• Such modern anti-corruption policies make it possible to effectively measure corruption and assess its impact on economic development and the rule of law, and links between corruption and organized crime;
• Continuous trainings and exchange of information of all relevant actors in the prevention and fight against corruption.