Scrutinising 44 per cent of the law proposals under the urgent procedure
“We have removed 16 acts from the agenda by majority voting. I believe this is not a model for us to deal with the urgent procedure, for us to physically win over the government representatives or the government as a whole by majority voting. But we have managed to reduce this percentage from huge 66% to also substantial 44% proposals of the acts, which was the percentage of laws scrutinised under the urgent procedure in the last year.”
Following the criticism of the European Commission in the last Progress Report on the work of the Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly Maja Gojković spoke at the opening of the Seventh Plenary Session of the National Convention on the EU, precisely on the part of the EC Report referring to the work of Parliament.
Talking about the problematical practice of adopting laws under the urgent procedure, which the European Commission drew attention to, Gojković underlined that the Parliament “removed 16 acts from the agenda by majority voting”, as well as that “the enormous percentage of acts proposals to be scrutinised under the urgent procedure has been reduced from huge 66 per cent to also substantial 44 per cent”.
The Speaker of the Assembly assessed that “the percentage of the laws scrutinised under the urgent procedure is enormous”, so that she “will not propose to the National Assembly to adopt laws under the urgent procedure unless necessary, meaning when not defined under the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly”.
Information that during this year 16 acts were refused to be adopted as proposals under the urgent procedure is correct. However, is it true that the total percentage of acts proposals to be scrutinised under the urgent procedure has been reduced to 44 per cent?
This percentage, 44 per cent, is real, first of all, in the 2017 Progress Report of the European Commission, where it was mentioned that the practice of adopting laws under the urgent procedure was reduced from 65 per cent to 44 per cent in 2017, but still remains high. Also, the same number is mentioned in the 2018 Progress Report for Serbia, where it was mentioned that the urgent legislative procedure still remains high – about 44 per cent from February 2018 to February 2019.
However, what the Speaker of the Assembly failed to mention is the information that 44 per cent refers to the total number of laws adopted, including the new laws, and/or amendments to the law on the one hand and laws on ratification of international agreements and contracts on the other hand. If we would only look at the number of new laws and law amendments, the percentage of those adopted under the urgent procedure would be much higher than 44 per cent.
To be more precise, according to the information from the website Open Parliament, in 2018, the percentage of laws and law amendments adopted under the urgent procedure was even 64.4 per cent. That means that urgent procedure was used for passing new laws and law amendments more often than for adopting international agreements.
By the way, for many consecutive years the European Commission has been indicating the problem of frequent adoption of laws under the urgent procedure to Serbia, and Istinomer already wrote about it, so in the last EC report this problem was emphasised again as the area without satisfying results being achieved.
GRECO, the Council of Europe anti-corruption body, warned about this as well, as in July 2015 it drew Serbia’s attention to 13 recommendations on measures to prevent corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors. One of the measures was to ensure enough time to submit amendments and to use urgent procedure for adopting laws and acts as an exception, not as a rule. This was illustrated in the Report by the information that in 2015 exactly 231 draft laws and other acts were submitted to the National Assembly for adoption by the urgent procedure. Adding to that, the National Assembly adopted 315 acts in total that year, of which more than a half, 182, under the urgent procedure. Mid-March last year GRECO announced that Serbia failed to apply any of 13 recommendations of that anti-corruption body from 2015 to prevent corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors.
In addition, according to information of Open Parliament, in 2016 the MPs adopted a total of 81 laws proposed by the government, and almost half of it was adopted under the urgent procedure.
In 2017 the situation was only slightly better, so from a total of 87 laws proposed by the government, 37 laws were adopted under the urgent procedure.
By the way, in the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, in Article 167, it is said that the law under the urgent procedure may only be adopted if human lives and health, the country’s security and the work of institutions and organisations are being threatened. Also, the reduced procedure may include laws that ratify the international agreements and those that align national legislation with the EU law. Yet, the proposer has an obligation to deliver explanation to the Assembly why some law should be adopted under the urgent procedure.
To sum the above-mentioned and go back to the statement of the Parliament Speaker, we can tell it is true that during this year 16 acts were refused to be adopted as proposals under the urgent procedure. It is true that from “huge 66 per cent” (in fact 65 per cent, according to information of the European Commission for 2016) the percentage of acts adopted under the urgent procedure was reduced to 44 per cent in the previous year (according to the European Commission Report that rate remained the same in 2017).
However, Maja Gojković failed to mention the information that 44 per cent refers to the total number of adopted documents, which includes the laws on ratification of international agreements and contracts. If we would observe only the number of new laws and the law amendments, the percentage of those adopted under the urgent procedure would be much higher for the last year and would equal 64.4 per cent, so after fact-checking what Maja Gojković said, it is the “abuse of facts”.