Presentation of a German law library in Kragujevac

A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)
A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)

As part of the 180th anniversary celebrations of the University of Kragujevac in Serbia, on 9 October 2020 IRZ presented the Law Faculty at the university with a library on Germany law and private international law. A supplementary course on German law is currently being established at the Law Faculty under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević. The book donation from the estate of Prof. Dr. Jörg Pirrung, a former judge at the European Court of First Instance, was presented by Prof. Dr. Rolf Wagner, who until recently was Head of Department for Private International Law at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).

To mark the occasion of the presentation of this valuable library, IRZ together with the Law Faculty of the University of Kragujevac organised a series of lectures, which was attended both locally and online. The number of participants in Kragujevac was restricted due to healthcare guidelines, and so many participants attended the conference online. The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Nenad Filipović, Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Dragan Vujisić, Dean of the Law Faculty, and Dr. Stefan Pürner, IRZ Head of Section, who expressly thanked Professor Pirrung’s widow for the generous donation. The second secretary at the German Embassy in Belgrade, Daniel Mohseni, also welcomed the participants and summed up the subsequent lectures under the title “The light and dark sides of German law – from legal certainty to the abuse of civil law through unrestricted interpretation in National Socialism”. He said that the successful cooperation with German institutions and the intensive teaching and research on German law was very fortunate, against the historical backdrop of the massacre in Kragujevac carried out by German soldiers during the occupation of Serbia in World War II.

Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević later went on to explain in his lecture why it is particularly worthwhile for law students in Serbia to study German law. He emphasised the fact that Germany is a typical representative of continental European law, with a long legal tradition and plenty of literature and practical application to refer to. Professor Đorđević referred to the close connection between academic and legal practice in German jurisprudence from a Serbian point of view. For a country preparing to join the EU, it is a great advantage that German law is already harmonised with European law. He concluded his lecture by stressing the merits of the German legal training system with its concept of general lawyers. The IRZ Head of Section responsible for Serbia, lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, then spoke in Serbian about the abuse of civil law in National Socialism and provided proof of the so-called “unrestricted interpretation of civil law” with cases from matrimonial and enforcement law.

The event reflected the friendly partnership between Germany and Serbia, which does not deny the dark sides of the past. The broadcasting company RTV Kragujevac reported on the event in its news programme (Učionica na otvorenom u okviru Pravnog fakulteta, from minute 2:30) and there is also an extensive report on the Law Faculty’s website, including a number of photos (Свечано отворена Немачка правна библиотека, донација фондације IRZ).

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.