At the conference „Judicial Efficiency – Strengthening of the rule of law“ - the closing event within the „Enhancing educational activities and improvement of organizational capacities of the Judicial Academy“ project, which is financed by the European Union, held in the Palace of Serbia, the activities and results of the project were presented.
In the process of accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union, by opening the negotiating Chapter 23, Serbia made the commitment to implement a thorough reform of the judicial sector. Improvement in the quality of training of judges and public prosecutors, for the purpose of handing down of better judicial decisions, is one of the basic goals of the envisaged reform. As a further step in the partnership in the enhancement of the capacities of the judiciary, the European Union allocated EUR 2 million as a part of the support to the Judicial Academy for the implementation of the project, which is managed by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Serbia – by the Department for Contracting and Financing of EU Funded Programmes.
The team of 52 experts from 7 European countries, in close cooperation with the Judicial Academy, in a period in excess of 2 years, provided support to the system of training in the judiciary having achieved the following results: the judiciary in Serbia is getting closer to the implementation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights – new tools have been developed for judges and public prosecutors; the methodology for further improvement of the knowledge of judges and public prosecutors has been improved – the rulebooks, guidelines, and training materials have been developed; the system of the initial training for judges and public prosecutors has been improved - the better system of mentorship has been developed; the institutional profile of the Judicial Academy within the European system for training in the judiciary has been strengthened.
The new Web site of the Judicial Academy, the development of which was supported by the project, will enable easy access electronically by judges and public prosecutors to the majority of the developed tools, rulebooks, guidelines, and training materials at their workplaces. The network of judges and public prosecutors specialized in the implementation of the Convention on Human Rights, established within the project, will provide professional support to courts in the implementation of the European standards for the protection of human rights.
The results achieved by the project have significantly contributed to the building of the capacities of the Judicial Academy and to further establishing of the European standards in the judiciary, whereby the citizens of Serbia will also be enabled faster and better quality access to justice.
In the opening session, the participants were addressed by Mr. Nenad Vujić, the Director of the Judicial Academy, His Excellence Mr. Sem Fabrizi, the Ambassador and the Head of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Dragomir Milojević, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Mr. Dušan Čarkić, the Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ms Zorica Stojšić, the First Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor, Mr. Mirko Čikiriz, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, and by Mr. Juan Carlos da Silva, the Team Leader of the „Enhancing educational activities and improvement of organizational capacities of the Judicial Academy“ project.
Nenad Vujić, the Director of the Judicial Academy, welcomed the participants and stated that the project worked both on the support to the enhancement of the quality of training courses within the Judicial Academy, and on the initial training programme, through the experiences acquired through the support in the continuous training, which were also applied to the initial training programmes. ”Our assignment is to work on the enhancement of professional skills, efficiency, integrity, and competence of judges, because without such qualifications and qualities we cannot talk about the independence of the judiciary, and without the independent judiciary we cannot talk about the legal security and the rule of law. That is why the role of the Judicial Academy, which has been recognized by the European Union, is actually a big one. Within this project, the Judicial Academy was not only the beneficiary but also a partner in the project and that is the principle which the Judicial Academy is applying so that we could produce the results of the project as best as possible as well as think about the sustainability of all the achieved project activities that the Judicial Academy is engaged in. In addition, in order to continue to build the capacities of the Judicial Academy, owing to the European Union, in the forthcoming period, the reconstruction of the new building of the Judicial Academy will also be supported, so that the Academy can have adequate conditions for its operation. There will certainly also be further support from the European Union, as well as the activities that are ahead of the Judicial Academy”, pointed out Vujić opening the conference.
Ambassador Sem Fabrizi stated that the institutions of the European Union devote special attention to the training in the judiciary, inter alia due to the fact that, upon coming into force of a great number of regulations of the European legislation in the area of the judiciary, judicial office holders across Europe are obliged to apply them. This is why the support to the enhancement of training in the judiciary is one of the priorities of the European Union aimed at promoting the competence and strengthening of confidence in the system of the European values in the judiciary.
The participants were also addressed by Dragomir Milojević, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, who pointed out that this project is a clear indicator of the continuous and dedicated assistance by the European Union to the Judicial Academy in the recognition and overcoming of challenges in the implementation of reforms in the area of training of judges and prosecutors, improvement of the organization of work of educational institutions, familiarization with the best practice in drawing up the training programmes. „The Judicial Academy as the only institution in Serbia in charge of professional improvement of judges and prosecutors and the persons who are being prepared to perform a judicial or prosecutorial function, through special programmes of the continuous and the initial training, in the course of eight years of its existence is increasingly fortifying the purpose of its existence, concluded Milojević.“
The Project Team Leader, Judge Juan Carlos da Silva welcomed the participants of the conference by emphasizing that the judiciary in Serbia is getting closer to the better implementation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and pointed to some of the most important results of the project: new tools for judges and public prosecutors, improvement of the methodology for further enhancement of knowledge of judges and public prosecutors, and new tools for the Judicial Academy. He also added that the significant contribution of the project is also improvement of contacts of the Judicial Academy with the relevant judicial institutions in other countries through the participation of the Academy in the events organized by the European Judicial Training Network, including the training courses and the annual conference of this organization as a distinctive point of progress resulting from the JAP project. In the course of the project implementation, six priority areas for training were identified: the law of the European Union – the fundamentals of the EU law, the civil, criminal, and administrative ones, then the prevention of domestic and gender-based violence, criminal investigation in the areas of financial and economic crimes, judicial skills and enforcement of court decisions, and economic knowledge in the area of criminal proceedings. Having pointed to the most important elements and results of the project, Judge da Silva also said: „The project covered ten training modules, which were implemented in cooperation with international experts, over forty trainers were trained, over eighty training courses were provided across the country, and over two thousand three hundred judges, public prosecutors, deputy public prosecutors, judicial and prosecutorial assistants, and police officers were trained.“
Zorica Stojšić, the Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor, welcomed the successful implementation of the project of support by the European Union to the Judicial Academy. She stressed that capacity building of the judiciary contributes to the strengthening of the rule of law. „It is our pleasure that the project covered the support to the educational activities of the Judicial Academy because, in such a way, both the capacities of the Judicial Academy and the capacities of the public prosecutor's office are built through improved professional improvement. The Republic Public Prosecutor's Office maintains continuous cooperation with the Judicial Academy to wit in the implementation of the general programme of continuous training as well as of special training courses in various areas.„
In his presentation, Mirko Čikiriz, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, stated that the Judicial Academy is one of the key stakeholders in the process of the reform of the judiciary as the institution, which is the agent and transferor of knowledge. ”It has the role to improve and raise the competence and professionalism and the quality of the judiciary in Serbia to a higher level. For this to be possible, bearing in mind that the Judicial Academy is a young institution, which has up to now already encountered numerous challenges, first of all it is necessary to believe in it but also to invest a lot in its capacities and in its development in general.“
The following persons relayed their respective experiences from the project: Leposava Vukanović Porubović, the Deputy Public Prosecutor and a mentor for the initial training in the Judicial Academy, Nebojša Đuričić, the Judge of the Second Basic Court in Belgrade, the trainer in the application of the new Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Tanja Pavlović Nedeljković, the Judge of the Appellate Court in Kragujevac, the trainee in the area of judicial skills, and Danijela Dukić, the Judge of the Commercial Appellate Court, a member of the National Network for the implementation of the European standards of judicial protection of human rights in the Republic of Serbia.
During the conference, the Director of the Documentation Centre from Spain (CENDOJ) Ignacio Vicuña, also had a very interesting presentation, familiarizing the participants with the importance of this institution pointing out that the Documentation Centre is the technological centre for the General Council of the Judiciary of the Kingdom of Spain, the mission of which is to enable to employees in the judiciary sector as well as to citizens the access to the operation of courts. After a long-term experience, the Centre has become the leading reference point when we talk about the processing, analysis, and dissemination of the jurisprudence with over 6.5 million of court decisions in its database. Mr. Vicuña emphasized that in the operation of the Centre special attention is devoted to the transparency of justice, the protection of personal data, the use of information, and the state-of-the-art technologies (Big Data, processing of natural languages, machine learning, Internet and data analysis, etc.).