29 Dec Open Letter to the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans’ and Social Affairs, the Prime Minister and Members of the Working Group for Drafting the Law on Volunteering


To Whom it May Concern,

Civic Initiatives, like most other civil society organizations that have initiated the adoption of the current Law on Volunteering, have been advocating for a decade for it to be amended or a new one adopted. Since the adoption and the beginning of the implementation of the law, we have expressed our dissatisfaction with the concrete solutions present in its text, as well as the very concept the legislator started from, treating volunteering not as a social value, but as free work, with additional over-regulation, which reduced volunteering to an administrative process. For that reason, welcoming the work on this important topic, we expressed interest in participating in the Working Group for the Analysis of the Effects of the Law on Volunteering, which was then entrusted with the task of drafting a new law.

However, we note with regret that the manner in which the competent Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans’ Affairs and Social Affairs conducted this process calls into question the legitimacy of this Working Group and the participation of civil society in it. The meetings of the Working Group were scheduled in unrealistically short deadlines, the materials for the meetings were not submitted in a timely manner, which prevented a constructive discussion on the proposed solutions, and reduced the work on the regulation to submitting written contributions. In addition, the presiding representative of the Ministry of Labor sent public messages at the meetings that the Draft Law must be ready as soon as possible, despite the lack of consensus of members on some key issues.

After the last meeting of the Working Group on November 29, which again left many important issues open, the Draft Law on Volunteering was sent to the members without explanation on December 6. It contains solutions that were not discussed at previous meetings, and members were given a 48 hour deadline to comment on them. After that, the current Draft Law on Volunteering was put to public debate without a meeting at which the members of the Working Group would be able to discuss the proposed solutions. A public debate on the draft was then called for the duration of New Year’s holidays, from December 24 to January 13, and a notice of the expert meeting at which the new solutions would be presented to the public was sent on Friday, for an event scheduled for next Monday.

This is just one of many indicators of how the speed of adoption is prioritized in the law-making process in Serbia, at the expense of an active and thorough discussion of the proposed solutions. On the recent example of the Law on Referendum and People’s Initiative and the Law on Expropriation, we could see the consequences of passing laws in a non-transparent and non-participatory process. Unfortunately, it can be concluded that the Government of Serbia and the ministries within it, despite that, did not realize the importance of a real dialogue with stakeholders when drafting regulations.

With this in mind, we would like to inform you that, despite our previous participation in drafting this regulation within the Working Group for Drafting the Law on Volunteering, we distance ourselves from the proposed Draft, not wanting to give legitimacy to fictitious civil society participation in decision making.

Internal deadlines of the state administration are not and cannot be a justification for compromising the integrity of the law-making process, and civil society must be an active participant in that process, not a “fig leaf” covering up the implementation of the elected executive policy.


Civic Initiatives