End of semester event for the English-language “Master in European Integration” course

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 9 June 2020, an event was held to mark the end of the semester for the English-language “Master in European Integration” course at the Law Faculty of the University of Belgrade. This course is being supported by IRZ. The online event hosted around 50 participants and was opened by the course leader, Prof. Dr. Dragica Vujadinovic. The Deputy Ambassador for Germany in Serbia, Dorothea Gieselmann, then spoke about the German contribution towards Serbia’s preparation for entry to the EU. During her speech, she presented the process for accession to the EU and the current status of Serbia’s preparations for joining. Dorothea Gieselmann explained how Germany was supporting the process, as well as talking about the current lack of progress in rule of law reforms, which represents the main obstacle for continuing negotiations, and described the present situation in the EU ahead of Germany’s takeover of EU Council presidency.

Following on from her lecture, the audience showed their interest by asking plenty of questions. The fact that one of the issues addressed was the judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court on the purchase of government bonds by the European Central Bank is proof of how closely the Masters degree students are also monitoring legal developments in Germany.

The event was rounded off with a lecture by the IRZ Head of Section for Serbia, Dr. Stefan Pürner, on the specific challenges of interlingual communication in the legal field. This is particularly significant in the multilingual European Union, he said, with the various legal traditions of its member states. Dr. Pürner spoke amongst other things about how the use of the English language inevitably leads to a loss of information during communications about legal issues between Continental European countries, since the English language cannot illustrate many of the legal institutions and dogmatic subtleties that are foreign to Common Law countries. The Slavic languages and German, on the other hand, are to a large extent compatible in this respect. Therefore, legal experts from Germany and Slavic countries communicating in English can be compared to an attempt to convert a piece of music from stereo to mono before using the result to turn it into a stereo recording again.

The event was not just open to past and present participants in the master’s course. Since it took place online and was advertised on LinkedIn, for example, many other interested parties also joined the event, who would not have been able to attend in person in Belgrade. They included many project partners, experts, representatives of members and alumni of IRZ, including:

  • Gudrun Steinacker, a former German Ambassador in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro,
  • Michael Haußner, Secretary of State, (ret.), a former IRZ advisor to the Croatian and Montenegrin Ministers of Justice,
  • Winfried Schubert, former President of the Constitutional Court of the State of Saxony-Anhalt and of the Higher Regional Court of Naumberg,
  • Notary Richard Bock (ret.), former Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries, and
  • Martin Knapp, Managing Director of the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

German-speaking IRZ Alumni Discuss legal Issues with Regards to Coronavirus

Grafik: IRZ
Grafik: IRZ

On 9 April 2020, the first online discussions were held for German-speaking IRZ alumni on the subject of “Coronavirus and the Law”. The participants, who joined the discussions from Belgrade, Berlin, Bonn and Sarajevo, started by setting out the areas of the law where changes have already taken place as a reaction to the coronavirus.

Joining the online workshop from Berlin and Bonn, for example, were a Bosnian scholarship student from the German Bundestag (International Parliament Scholarship) and a Serbian Master’s student at the University of Bonn. Another participant currently studying in Belgrade has already been granted a scholarship for the next master’s course in German law in Bonn.

Before compiling the areas of the law subject to change as a result of the coronavirus, the participants in the online workshop started with a comparative analysis to establish that state interventions in the West Balkan countries go much further than in Germany. The wide variety of possible reasons cited for this included: The generally more authoritarian way of dealing with citizens in these countries, the poorer state of the health system and the proximity to Italy, giving rise to concerns that the scenario in Italy could be repeated in their own countries.

The series of events beginning with this online workshop will analyse and compare the situation in individual areas of the law. This process began by looking at procedural law, with some drastic changes to the legislative process in the West Balkans over the past few weeks. In Serbia, for example, the “regulation on the way defendants are involved in main criminal proceedings held during the state of emergency declared on 15 March”(Law Journal of the Republic of Serbia number 49/2020) states that defendants will only take part in the trial against them by video conference. According to press reports, some defendants whose court cases have already taken place in this way have in some cases been sentenced to severe terms of imprisonment.

The participants in the workshop commented critically on provisions such as these. They are worried that future civil proceedings for small claims could take place online, especially since the way citizens communicate is increasingly adjusting in line with technology. As far as the questioning of witnesses and defendants is concerned, the consensus here was that there should be no deviation from the basic principle of the immediacy of the main trial. If, for example, communication takes place exclusively online, there could be problems arising from the lack of opportunity for the court to take body language into account during a statement.

The online workshops currently underway will help to prepare for the annual IRZ alumni workshop in Belgrade, where participants will be able to refresh their knowledge of German law and take the opportunity to discuss legal issues in German.

These workshops for German-speaking students are part of a long-running series of IRZ events, in which participants can gain key qualifications for legal transactions between their home countries and Germany and for European integration.

Virtual events

Grafik: IRZ
Grafik: IRZ

IRZ is currently holding talks with various project partners with the objective of offering web-based events. The first formats have already been made available online.

One of these was the course on German legal technology at the Law Faculty in Belgrade on 30 March 2020. This course has been offered in the standard format for more than 15 years and has always been well-attended. Dr. Stefan Pürner, the responsible IRZ Head of Section, was also able to welcome around twenty participants to the first online version of the event. From Bonn, he answered questions on German civil procedure law and the associated terminology. One of the main subjects covered during the discussions was the institution of the Rechtspfleger (senior judicial officer) in Germany, and Dr. Pürner was able to refer to the dual language edition of the German Act on Senior Judicial Officers published by the IRZ.

Alumnus Peter Brudar is clear proof of the fact that regular attendance of this legal terminology course pays off. As a scholarship student sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, he graduated from his Master’s course in German law at the Law Faculty of the University of Bonn on 31 March 2020 by passing his oral examination.

The Master’s course on European legal harmonisation at the Law Faculty in Belgrade is also currently running as an online seminar. The IRZ has been organising a study trip to Strasbourg and Karlsruhe as part of this course for years.

Also, over the coming week, a regular online workshop is due to start, in which German-speaking IRZ alumni from various countries in the Western Balkans will be able to discuss the subject “Corona and the law”. This workshop will also be used to prepare the content for the annual conference for IRZ alumni from the Western Balkans, which is due to take place during the second half of the year.