Associations of Citizens: Shrinking Civic Space Serbia 2014-2018

Belgrade, December 10, 2018 – This analysis was done with the aim to systematically and through practical examples describe the space for the operation of civil society in Serbia in the past five years. This year, for the first time since the democratic changes on October 5, 2000, a significant derogation of the legal framework for civil society work was noted through the adoption of the Law on Free Legal Aid, and new threats emerge in the form of the Civil Code Draft and possible measures in the field of combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The analysis deals with the fundamental freedoms necessary for the smooth functioning of civil society organizations – freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The analysis also presents shortcomings and problems related to the participation of citizens and civil society organizations in decision-making, institute of simulated public hearings, new solutions adopted by the recently adopted Law on Lobbying, as well as the dangers of the announced changes to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance.

The number of physical assaults on activists, property attacks, threats and pressures on members of civic associations was also observed during this period, as well as campaigns against civil society, humanitarian foundations and civic movements in the media, which seriously threaten the right to freedom of association. A special part is dedicated to the analysis of a parallel civil sector – governmental associations of citizens that are used for acts of corruption and legitimacy of the processes that are carried out without public participation.

Civic Initiatives presented this analysis on International Human Rights Day and the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pointing to the continued violation of the right to freedom of assembly, association and expression.