The 2021 Serbia Judicial Functional Review measures progress against the 2014 Judicial Functional Review baseline and the 2019 Functional Review of the Prosecution System. The data collection was completed in the first half of 2021, covering 2014-2020. Detailed analysis was conducted only for the period 2014-2019, given that data for 2020 was not fully representative due to three months of court closure caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. To avoid distortion in the interpretation of data, 2020 was analyzed only at a general level. The preliminary findings and recommendations were discussed with stakeholders and development partners from February to April of 2022.
The aim of the 2021 Serbia Judicial Functional Review is to inform Serbia's EU accession negotiation process under Chapter 23 based on extensive evidence-based analysis. The Functional Review also presents an objective analysis of current sector performance. To enable comparison of the results, the methodology applied was the same as the one used in previous judicial functional reviews.
Assessments draw on a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Statistical data was collected from Serbian judicial stakeholders and included data relevant to case management, finance and human resource, and ICT. In addition to statistical data, a multi-stakeholder perception and experience survey was completed in 2020 to provide information on access and quality of justice in Serbia, as well as experience with court cases in terms of efficiency. The assessment included legal analysis, a desk review, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews.
The 2021 Functional Review follows the structure of the 2014 Functional Review and considers both system performance and management of resources. System performance was evaluated against criteria of efficiency, quality, and access, while resource management considered human resources, financial resources, and ICT. In addition, the 2021 Functional Review assessed the governance and management, and integrity of the system. Each area is compared against relevant EU standards and good practices.
The 2021 Functional Review is sector-wide, with a focus on courts and public prosecutor offices as the main justice institutions in Serbia. The scope includes all types of cases, including litigious, non-litigious, commercial, administrative, misdemeanor, and criminal. The Functional Review covers other institutions in the sector to the extent that they influence service delivery by courts and public prosecutor offices, including the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the High Judicial Council (HJC), the State Prosecutorial Council (SPC), the courts, the Public Prosecutor Offices (PPOs), the Judicial Academy, the police, and judicial professions (attorneys, notaries, private bailiffs, mediators, and expert witnesses).
Recommendations are designed to be actionable and specific with the objective of aligning the performance of the Serbian judiciary with that of EU Member States. Each recommendation is accompanied by a series of practical next steps to implement it. Each step also notes the institution that would be responsible for moving the recommendation forward, as well as other institutions whose collaboration is necessary for effective implementation. In addition, timeframes are indicated for each step, from short term (12 months) to medium term (2-3 years) and long term (5 years).
Serbian authorities will prioritize the implementation of recommendations through the revision of the Chapter 23 Action Plan. All recommendations were formulated in a consultative process with judicial stakeholders organized during April 2022.