Serbia has become a role model in Europe for the protection of whistleblowers, and this year the EU adopted a new Directive on the protection of whistleblowers that recognizes the highest international standards in this field.
The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Government Accountability Initiative, the project Prevention and Fight Against Corruption and Serbian organization for whistleblowers protection "Pistaljka" jointly organized the conference “Protection of Whistleblowers on Central and Local Level” held in Belgrade on 9 September 2019.
The participants were addressed by Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, Mateja Norcic Stamcar, H.E Mr. Kyle Scott, Ambassador of the United States to Serbia, Editor-in-Chief of the "Pistaljka", Vladimir Radomirović and Minister of Justice of Republic of Serbia, Nela Kuburovic.
Protecting whistle-blowers is crucial to develop a functioning democracy and to help foster equality, said Deputy Head of EU Delegation in Serbia Mateja Norcic Stamcar. She added that for this reason the EU adopted this year a new Directive on whistleblower protection, upholding the highest international standards in this field.
„Serbia has a very advanced legislation for whistle-blowers and has been implementing and reporting on it and can be commended for it. What Serbia has achieved is an inspiration for all – even in the EU. However, the final proof of success is to be seen through, and we need to see impacts on the key indicators: the number of corruption cases that have been successfully processed and solved, and perpetrators convicted. The EU will continue to be partner to Serbia on this road”, said Norcic Stamcar.
Corruption is a persistent problem, one of the greatest obstacles to economic and social development around the world, said H.E Mr. Kyle Scott, Ambassador of the United States to Serbia.
"It is difficult to tackle, that is why empowerment and protection of those who take the courageous steps to blow the whistle on corruption is essential. We were pleased to provide support to the Government of Serbia in development of the legal framework for whistleblower protection that is now considered a best practice internationally”, said Ambassador of the United States to Serbia.
Minister of Justice Nela Kuburovic said that the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers was adopted almost five years ago and that Serbia has thus become a pioneer not only in the region but on the entire European continent, and that its adoption was one of the recommendations of the Council of Europe, GRECO.
"Fighting against corruption was one of the priorities of the Government of Serbia at that moment, and it is certainly a priority of this Government of Serbia as well", Kuburovic emphasized and reminded that the Law on Lobbying, another important legal act in the fight against corruption is adopted in August this year.
Minister Kuburović pointed out that from the beginning of implementation of the Law on Protection of Whistleblowers until the end of 2018, there were 622 ongoing cases, 533 cases were resolved, and 107 internal whistleblowing were recorded.
"I urge the prosecutor's offices to carefully watch the reports of the whistleblowers, I do not want to interfere with their independence, but the Republic Public Prosecutor's Office needs to produce a special annual report that will show what happened with the whistleblowers", Kuburovic said.
Editor-in-chief of the Pistaljka, Vladimir Radomirovic said that Serbia has become a role model in Europe in terms of the protection of whistleblowers, as evidenced by the fact that Croatia has incorporated most of the provisions of that law into its legal system.
"It must be said that we are at the very beginning of its implementation and that the public will be able to conclude the final word on its success only when employers realize that the whistleblowers are not enemies, but their ally, and when the whistleblowers report irregularities without fear of any consequences," he emphasized.
Working in three panels, representatives of the central and local governments, judges and deputy public prosecutors, as well as experts from the European Union and the United States and whistleblowers, discussed effects and challenges of the Law on Protection of Whistleblowers, experiences from practice and impact of the recently adopted EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers on the Republic of Serbia and EU member states.
Tomislav Veljkovic, who reported the case in Raca Kragujevacka, where more than €600,000 was spent on a wastewater treatment plant for an unfinished facility, believes that “as soon as the state begins to resolve the cases that we have reported, there will also be other people dare to report everything they know”, said Veljkovic.