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CSS's Reservations with regard to the draft Anti-corruption Strategy, designed by the Serbian Anti-Corruption Agency in 2011, are now confirmed by the European Commissioner for Enlargement

In December 2011, at a meeting of "the broad working group" (in fact the experts) gathered by the Anti-Corruption Agency to rubber-stamp legitimacy on a draft Anti-Corruption Strategy that had been designed by a working group headed by the Director of the Agency in the preceeding weeks, CSS's representative voiced strong opposition to pushing the adoption of this document through the Government Session scheduled for 15 December 2011, which was the plan by the Anti-Corruption Agency. The reason was that the strategy document was lacking in many professional areas, especially in the field of ethics, which was proclaimed the key strategic orientation of the document.

CSS's representatives pointed it out to the Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency that the Working Group that had designed the draft strategy included only one expert, with the rest of the group being drawn from bureaucratic staff, and that the methodology of the document was "embarrassingly bad".

Following the meeting, CSS's representatives were asked by the Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency to detail their comments and specific suggestions in writing, which we did, and a letter was sent days after the meeting to the Director of the Agency and State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice in charge of coordinating the strategy. That same month, the draft document was taken off the Government agenda for adoption. However, no further work was initiated on improving the document. Instead, the document was sent to the European Commissioner for Enlargement for comments prior to being re-scheduled for adoption by the Government.

The opinions of the European Commissioner for Enlargement, which was published in the Serbian media in late February 2012, was defeating for the Anti-Corruption Agency, as it specifies that the draft strategic document is of a very bad quality, and in fact demands that the Anti-Corruption Agency be discharged from the duty to do any further work on the document, asking that the Serbian Ministry of Justice takes full responsibility for the next version.

The embarrassment arising from this reaction is solely the result of the lack of receptiveness of the Anti-Corruption Agency to the input received by experts and its complete lack of realisation of the fact that ethics documents cannot be designed by people not trained in ethics. The Anti-Corruption Agency is a government organ that must be thoroughly reformed, starting from its Council, to its Director, to its staff. The Agency is absolutely professionally incompetent to address the specific themes of anti-corruption policy, especially those founded in ethics.

Anti-corruption policy today in Europe is a developed practical, and even academic, area of study. It is totally unacceptable that staff without any international publication, training or research record in the ethics of anti-corruption designs and coordinates anti-corruption work. While this fact may be unpleasant for some of those involved in the Anti-Corruption Agency, it is so starkly visible from Brussels, and so obvious in the media appearances of Agency representatives and in the quality of the documents emanating from the Agency, that any delay in re-organising the Agency will only add explosive potential to public and expert perceptions of the acute lack of serious approach to dealing with specific issues of anti-corruption policy in Serbia. This was implicitly said by Commissioner File, as well, through his request that, instead of the Agency, the Ministry of Justice takes full responsibility for further work on the Strategy.