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Nations in Transit 2012 - Serbia

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2012 - Serbia, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Capital: Belgrade

Population: 7.3 million

GNI/capita, PPP: US$11,090

Source: The data above were drawn from the World Bank's World Development Indicators 2010.

Serbia 10-year ratings

* Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance, to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

2012 Scores

Democracy Score:3.64
Regime Classification:Semi-Consolidated Democracy
National Democratic Governance:3.75
Electoral Process:3.25
Civil Society:2.25
Independent Media:4.00
Local Democratic Governance:3.50
Judicial Framework and Independence:4.50

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary:

The Republic of Serbia made progress on its path to European Union (EU) integration in 2011 with the arrest of well-known war criminals Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić. In other areas identified as priorities for EU accession, reform and diplomatic efforts were only partly successful. EU-brokered bilateral trade negotiations with Kosovo broke down during the year, resulting in the postponement of a European Commission vote on Serbia's EU membership. Dialogue with Kosovo – an important accession prerequisite – remains problematic and politically dangerous for Serbian politicians, as refusal to recognize Kosovo's secession remains one of the few things on which all of Serbia's political parties can agree.

An ongoing conflict between President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS) and the G17+ party led by former minister of economic and local development, Mlađan Dinkić, challenged the stability of the government in early 2011, causing several members of parliament (MPs) to resign. Dinkić himself left the government in February after repeated clashes with the finance minister and other members of the DS. To resolve the issue, parliament approved a reshuffle in March, reducing the size of the cabinet, but keeping the G17+ party in government.

Living standards continued to decline in 2011, though inflation stabilized after the exchange rate shocks of late 2010 subsided and is expected to remain in the single digits in 2012. In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted Serbia a substantial loan to protect its economy against market instability.

In 2011 authorities adopted a law to increase transparency in the financing of political parties and election campaigns and amended key electoral legislation. The judiciary pushed to correct errors made after a 2009 decision on court re-appointments. However, the review process was controversial and heavily criticized by civil society groups.

National Democratic Governance. The ruling coalition continued key EU reforms and held its mandate despite a cabinet reshuffle and the opposition's calls for early elections. The first-ever EU-backed bilateral talks between Priština and Belgrade began in March, but had largely broken down by year's end. Though still suffering a protracted economic crisis, Serbia concluded a sizeable loan agreement with the IMF in September. Serbia's national democratic governance rating remains at 3.75.

Electoral Process. The Law on Financing of Political Activities was adopted in 2011 with the aim of improving the transparency of political party and campaign financing in advance of the spring 2012 elections. However, it is unclear whether parties will be obliged to respond to questions by nongovernmental organizations and the Anticorruption Agency regarding the sources of previous years' funding. The new Law on Conflict of Interest aims at ending the established practice of awarding Serbian political leaders multiple elected and non-elected positions. Pending evidence that new legislation will lead to greater transparency in political party financing, Serbia's electoral process rating remains at 3.25.

Civil Society. Serbian civil society organizations have a solid record of promoting human rights and anticorruption efforts, but extremist organizations remain an ongoing issue for security in the country. In 2011, the government felt compelled to cancel not the October Gay Pride parade and all other events public gatherings planned for that weekend, following direct threats and reports from law enforcement officials that indicated nationalists and neo-Nazi extremists were planning disturbances in several parts of Belgrade. Roma continue to face frequent discrimination and attacks. Serbia's civil society rating remains at 2.25.

Independent Media. Media ownership in Serbia is generally nontransparent, and the largest outlets are government-owned. Media frequently rely on financing from political parties. Journalists face harassment and physical attack, though incidents of the latter have declined in recent years. Several outstanding cases of attacks on journalist remain unsolved. No changes were made to improve media regulations by supporting journalistic independence and professionalism. Therefore, Serbia's independent media rating remains unchanged at 4.00.

Local Democratic Governance. Serbian authorities adopted the Law on Financing of Local Government to strengthen local governance and increase financing, though some observers fear it could exacerbate the state budget deficit. Most Serbians believe crucial decisions are not made by local authorities, but rather by top party leadership and local tycoons. Disagreements between local and central governments over minority representation in the local national council led minorities to boycott the 2011 census, significantly skewing its results. Serbia's local democratic governance rating remains at 3.50.

Judicial Framework and Independence. Judicial reform continued in 2011 with the adoption of new civil and criminal procedure codes aimed at improving efficiency. The High Judicial Council reviewed the controversial 2009 re-appointment procedures for judges and prosecutors amidst strong criticism from the Judges Association of Serbia. During the process, many of the original decisions were revoked. One year after the court restructuring, case backlogs remain high, and civil proceedings remain slow despite attempts to improve efficiency. A lack of standard policies on sentencing in criminal cases is believed to have led to a rise in repeat offenses. Serbia's judicial framework and independence rating remains at 4.50.

Corruption. Efforts to combat corruption remained comparable to the previous year, with continued large-scale investigations into corruption scandals in the construction and healthcare sectors. However, political will to make use of existing anticorruption frameworks remains weak. Graft and misconduct remain serious problems in the healthcare sector and the judiciary. In December, the government backed controversial amendments the Law on Public Procurement that ignore relevant EU directives. The government refuses to investigate several corruption cases referred by its own Anticorruption Council. With no significant gains in anticorruption efforts, Serbia's corruption rating remains at 4.25.

Outlook for 2012. The Kosovo issue and the domestic economic crisis will continue to dominate Serbian politics in 2012. The second wave of the global economic downturn is expected to further stunt the county's economy, though short-term reform measures will likely be introduced, mainly in the banking sector. The 2012 elections will be a critical test for the country's anticorruption efforts, as the 2011 Law on Political Party Financing comes into force. The new government will face ongoing challenges, primarily regarding the ongoing economic crisis, public sector and pension reform and endemic corruption.


Aleksandra Nenadovic

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