Measuring Justice in Serbia – an Imperative for EU Accession

February 5, 2015


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  • Serbia is set to embark on EU accession negotiations, and rule of law is at the heart of that process.
  • The Serbia Judicial Functional Review, developed by the World Bank in collaboration with the European Commission and the Government of Serbia, will be the definitive guide to Serbia’s progress.
  • The Review provides a comprehensive baseline assessment of the functioning of the judiciary vis-à-vis EU benchmarks. Its recommendations will inform Serbia’s EU Accession Action Plan and pathway ahead.

“The accession process today is more rigorous and comprehensive than in the past. This reflects the evolution of EU policies as well as lessons learned from previous enlargements. (…) The rule of law is now at the heart of the enlargement process. This new approach will shape the Commission’s work with the enlargement countries.”

Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2013-2014, European Commission

A well-functioning justice system is an important condition for any country, and it is essential for supporting economic growth and shared prosperity around the world.

For countries aspiring to EU membership, a well-functioning judiciary takes on an additional dimension – it is an imperative pre-requisite for EU accession. And, despite concerns of crisis and instability in recent years, the prospect of EU accession remains a compelling motivator for candidate countries.

Under the European Commission’s new more rigorous approach to rule of law, candidate countries must now demonstrate that their courts function to certain standards, and that the system serves its citizens well terms of resolving disputes and enforcing rights. This requires significant transformations in areas such as judicial independence, court system efficiency, access to justice and the fight against corruption. The Commission will be monitoring progress closely in these areas, among others.

But how does one measure justice?  How do you assess the functioning of a country’s justice system? And how high must candidate countries jump to meet these EU standards?  These are questions that the Government of Serbia is posing at the outset of EU accession negotiations.

The Serbia Judicial Functional Review adopts an innovative and evidence-based approach to this challenge of measuring justice.

The Judicial Functional Review, requested by the Serbian authorities and the European Commission, provides a detailed baseline assessment of the current functioning of the judicial system in Serbia vis-à-vis EU standards. According to Georgia Harley, World Bank Justice Reform Specialist, "The assessment had to be comprehensive and objective – something that both sides would trust and use as a shared tool.

" We have worked very closely with our partners, including the European Commission and the Serbian authorities, to provide a solid assessment of Serbia’s judicial system.  "

Klaus Decker

Lead Author of the Serbia Functional Judicial Review











The Functional Review assesses external performance in terms of service delivery (i.e. efficiency of service delivery, quality of services delivered, and access to justice services) as well as internal performance in terms of resource management (e.g. financial resources, human resources, ICT, and infrastructure) for service delivery. The analysis is based on a Performance Framework developed in cooperation with all stakeholders that maps system performance aspects, identifies indicators, lists the data sources, and matches them with the applicable EU standards and references. Based on the analysis of these data, the Functional Review provides a suite of agreed recommendations for addressing the challenges facing the Serbian judiciary, along with a few key priorities to set the Serbian judiciary on a critical path.

The Functional Review concludes that a series of tough decisions will be required to align the sector’s performance with EU benchmarks. However, with the requisite commitment and will, alignment with EU performance is achievable in the longer term.

“We have worked very closely with our partners, including the European Commission and the Serbian authorities, to provide a solid assessment of Serbia’s judicial system. It was particularly important to work in full transparency, share results early on for feedback, and treat everybody at equal footing,” says Klaus Decker, Senior Public Sector Specialist at the World Bank.

The Judicial Functional Review is now considered the definitive baseline to measure the impact of future reform initiatives and compliance with the requirements of Chapter 23 of the Acquis Communautaire, which covers judiciary and fundamental rights.

Srdjan Svircev, World Bank Public Sector Specialist, says "Serbia is now better informed than any country that has gone before it. For that, we can be proud. Serbia is set on a good track for Chapter 23 that now needs to be continued."

To access the "Serbia Judicial Functional Review" report, please visithttp://www.mdtfjss.org.rs. The Review was funded by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Justice Sector Support in Serbia, which has been established with generous contributions from the EU Delegation in Serbia, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.