Completion of EU-financed Twinning Project for improving the prison system in the Republic of Serbia

Final event of the EU funded project “Improving capacities and capabilities within the prison system in the Republic of Serbia”
Final event of the EU funded project “Improving capacities and capabilities within the prison system in the Republic of Serbia”

On 20 February 2019 the final event of the EU funded project “Improving capacities and capabilities within the prison system in the Republic of Serbia” was held in Belgrade.

The project, that lasted 20 month, was implemented by IRZ, its Junior Partner the Austrian Agency for Economic cooperation and Development (AED) and the Administration for the Enforcement of Penal Sanctions within the Ministry of Justice of Serbia.

The attendees were addressed by the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Serbia, Ms. Nela Kuburović, the Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, Ms Mateja Norčič Štampcar, German Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Thomas Schieb, the Federal Minister of the Federal Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, Reform, Deregulation and Justice of the Republic of Austria, Dr Josef Moser, Assistant to the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Serbia, Mr Marko Jovanović and the Head of Section EU Twinning of the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ), Ms Franziska Simon. The results achieved during the implementation were presented by the Project Leader of the member state Ms. Krista Schipper and the Resident Twining Adviser, Mr. Samuli Laulumaa.

In view of Serbia's EU accession process, reforms of the Serbian prison system are required to meet appropriate standards related to criminal justice but also to ensure the fundamental rights of prisoners. In this context, the objective of the project was to improve the prison system through the transfer of expertise and good practices developed in the prison systems of EU member states. During the 20-month project, experts from IRZ and AED worked closely with colleagues from the Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions. Training seminars, workshops, study visits and meetings were organised in order to improve the employability of prisoners and improve living and working conditions within the prison system in Serbia. 

The experts in the project also worked on improving the organisational and technical capacities of the Centre for Training and Professional Education of the Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions in Niš, which is responsible for the design and realisation of training programmes for prison staff. Through the project, training was provided to prison security services staff, treatment staff and health care staff. Vocational and Education training was provided to female prisoners in the Correctional Facility in Požarevac.

Funded by the European Union

High-profile conference on the role of judges in Belgrade

The President of the Bavarian Association of Judges, Andrea Titz, giving a TV interview during the conference
The President of the Bavarian Association of Judges, Andrea Titz, giving a TV interview during the conference

On 7 February 2019, a conference was held in the Serbian capital Belgrade on “The role of judges in legal proceedings”. This was another joint event organised by the Judges Association of Serbia and the IRZ. The objective of the event was to exchange experiences with regard to the role of judges in various types of proceedings, as well as in society in general.

Following on from opening speeches made by the President of the Judges Association of Serbia, Dragana Boljević, and the IRZ, lectures were given by the President of the Bavarian Association of Judges and Local Court Director, Andrea Titz, and by Zorica Bulajić, Nadežda Budić, Srđan Savić and Dr. Gordana Budojkoić, all of whom are judges at various Serbian courts.

The speeches shed light on various aspects of the role of judges in different types of proceedings, as well as in society in general. The broad thematic scope of these introductory speeches prepared the ground for some intense discussions. These covered the following topics, amongst others:

  • US influence on Serbian criminal procedural law,
  • The importance of the obligation of judges to provide information in civil proceedings based on the principle of negotiations and
  • The political activity of judges in Germany and Serbia.

The significance of the topics discussed at this conference was also underlined by the fact that both the state television network RTS and the news agency Tanjug sent reporters and camera crews to the event and by the attendance of representatives from various non-governmental organisations. As part of the EU’s strategy for the Western Balkans, particular importance is attributed to the subject of enhancing judicial independence and this high-profile event could make a contribution towards achieving this.

First workshop for IRZ alumni from South-East European states

Participants of the workshop
Participants of the workshop

From 7 to 9 December 2018, the first workshop for IRZ alumni from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia was held in Belgrade under the motto “News on German law and the law of the region”.

The aim of the workshop was to inform German-speaking alumni from previous IRZ programmes about current developments in German law. The participants had either already attended one of the annual “IRZ Summer Schools on German Law” in Bonn and Cologne, taken courses on legal terminology at the Faculties of Law in Belgrade and Sarajevo or graduated from a supplementary course in German Law in Sarajevo. The workshop offered a good opportunity for participants to discuss legal issues in the German language. Almost twenty of the more than fifty participants also gave short speeches on the new developments in the laws of their own countries of origin. The event was also an opportunity for people to develop their own professional networks.

During the opening ceremony, Matthias Schikorski from the German Embassy gave a speech, stressing in particular that measures such as thIs, which provide an “update on German law”, enhance the sustainability of previous IRZ measures considerably.

On the opening evening, various German-speaking law professionals from Serbia, including a judge at the Constitutional Court of Serbia, Professor Dr. Milan Skulic, reported on their own references to Germany and German law, as well as on the developments in German law that they consider to be particularly important.

The first half of the second day of the conference was devoted to the latest developments in German law, with the following speakers:

  • Eva Weinbeer from the department of Public Law at the University of Regensburg: German constitutional law;
  • Presiding Regional Court Judge Dr. Ulrike Phieler-Morbach (Regional Court of Potsdam): criminal law and criminal procedural law;
  • Lawyer Dr. Karoline Mihaljevic-Schulze (Berlin): civil law.

Some intense discussions followed on from the lectures by the legal experts.

In the afternoon, three working groups were held to discuss the topics

  • “Latest developments in the law of the region”,
  • “New jurisdiction at the German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG)” and
  • “How to set up a law firm”.

The last working group was carried out in the local language, so that participants from the English-speaking internship programmes run by the IRZ could also get involved.

As the participants agreed, this new type of event was a great success. They praised in particular the great opportunity to participate actively in German and the exchange of experiences with colleagues from other South-East European countries.