This report aims to highlight all of the key issues for the past year in the Republic of Serbia in regard to legislative development for protecting the environment as well as the process of preparing for EU accession in accordance with Chapter 27 negotiations on environment and climate change. In 2016, Serbia adopted a new national approximation plan in which all legislation affecting the environment is to be in line with the European Union (EU) acquis by the end of 2018. Development was slowed significantly due to events related to the parliamentary election and its outcome, which took place from April to the beginning of August, as well as from other regional and self-governing body elections. The new government, as it is composed of the same parties and coalition of its prior counterpart, brought no significant changes to any ministry. Thus, no decision was reached in order to divide the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection into two respective ministries. For this reason, the same administrative issues have yet to be resolved—in particular, the budget allocation between these two areas. The absence of two distinct ministries has not proven beneficial to expediting legislation. Nevertheless, there were a number of noteworthy developments, such as several key laws being adopted and a Green Fund prescribed within newly adopted amendments to the law on environmental protection (coming into effect on 1 January 2017). (1) Financial Framework While a decision to create the Green Fund was made in 2016, no bylaws have yet been adopted to make it operative. The deadline for the creation of bylaws to establish an operative Green Fund is 1 March 2017, but, in 2016, the fund was not governed under any legal procedure. The law directs that the Green Fund is to be controlled by the Ministry of Finance and not by another independent institution. Since no regulation exists for budget oversight or direct channels of allocation, it is likely that the taxes collected for the Green Fund will not be entirely allocated to their end purposes; instead, due to inadequate transparency already present within the budget, it is highly probable that the Green Fund, when finally enacted and even when appropriately used, will be obfuscated and mismanaged. Complicating the matter is the fact that new presidential elections are to be held in April 2017, thereby putting on hold any new developments until the government itself has been re-established. A budget addressing environmental protection needs for the next two years was adopted in December 2016, but the funds thereof are planned to go largely towards the recycling industry for separate waste streams. This budget did not include the necessary financing of other sectors, including waste and pollution, within Serbia. Also regarding budget planning, many issues remain. The total sum of money collected is insufficiently known to calculate its appropriation and allocation, which is compounded by the fact that there is no transparent plan of where the money shall be invested over the next two years. (2) Major Developments The Paris Agreement, which was concluded at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was signed by Serbia in April 2016, but it has yet to be ratified by the National Assembly. A National Climate Change Strategy has been initialized in its drafting and is supported by EU Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) funds. As a signatory, Serbia must eventually find a way in which the ambitious objectives of the Paris Agreement are to be met within the corresponding time frame. This is particularly pertinent to Serbia’s further commitments to join the EU and bring its own laws into harmonization within the broader framework and directives of the EU. The first biannual report on the UNFCCC was delivered in March 2016. (3) Horizontal Legislation On 19 February, the National Assembly ratified amendments on the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. The Office of the Ombudsman for Personal Data Protection and Public Information has received a number of complaints that the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is not being implemented with respect to open transparency on the public record of work undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection. The general concern, as well as the focal point of all sectors, has been the practical non-existence of the implementation of environmental laws. While on paper these have been adopted for all sectors, they are de facto not in practice due to conflicts with bylaws that hinder their implementation. (4) Air Quality An Air Quality Plan for Belgrade was adopted in 2016. The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency is still establishing a digital monitoring system for the whole of Serbia with funds from the IPA. This process is ongoing. In addition, bylaws were established to support the digital monitoring system, which includes thresholds and limit values. (5) Water Contrary to the announcement made in 2015 that a water strategy would be adopted in 2016, no such strategy has been adopted nor any amendment to the Law on Waters or the National Danube River Basin Management Plan. In June 2016, the sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin was held in Belgrade, resulting in an agreed-upon initiative to research potential natural retention methods. The main project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection is to support the assessment of costs for various significant directives (for example, on water policy, drinking water, urban waste water treatment, and nitrates) that were initiated in December as well as the assessment of the directives’ specific implementation plans, which are currently underway. However, there is no sustainable system as yet that can reliably provide the basis to accurately calculate the price for water. Limited developments were seen in constructing and planning waste treatments installations in Šabac, Niš, Bela Crkva, and Zrenjanin. (6) Nature Protection There have been no significant developments. (7) Noise Some progress has been made in this area due to the final formulation of a plan for a noise wall along the E70 highway and its partial construction, which is underway; however, the legislation that should follow the noise map has not been completed yet. (8) Chemical Bylaws were put into place in support of the chemical registry and the development of market regulation for chemicals. Significant progress was made in the chemical sector through the adoption of bylaws that improved the European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. Biomass has come under a list of active substances in bio-seed products. (9) Waste The process remains in effect to re-establish the waste management system and introduce the implementation of primary separation within the context of the circular economic policy. (10) Conclusion Though there has been little development in 2016 due to various causes—foremost among them political and administrative—the preparation needed for further progress and monitoring did move forward to a limited extent. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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