The new General Administrative Procedure Act finally comes into force on 1 June 2017. The Act was passed by the Serbian Parliament on 29 February 2016, but an almost 18 months transition period was left for adaptation to the new legislation.
This Act is heralded as a means to substantially speed up administrative proceedings and cut red tape wherever possible.
The Act limits the practice of different special administrative procedures stipulated by sector legislation, and makes it only an exception. In addition, this sector legislation cannot lower the standards of protection of individual’s rights below the level laid out by the new Act.
The authorities are now bound by the new Act to take into consideration previous administrative practice thus increasing predictability of their decisions.
Two new types of administrative acts are introduced by the new Act – administrative contract and administrative guarantee. The former is introduced in order to facilitate faster creating of legally binding relationships between an individual and the authorities. By the later the authority issues a binding statement that it will issue an administrative act at the request of a party in an administrative proceeding. Both of these new forms will show their full effect when they are applied in amended sector legislation.
A complaint can now be filled if the public services are not provided in the way stipulated by the laws regulating them.
The Act finally codifies one-stop-shop. This will enable both local and central authorities to provide services from more than one authority in one place, thus shortening the time needed for completing more complicated legal procedures. This was eagerly awaited, especially by the local governments in rural areas, but also by those authorities who want to create a more business friendly environment.
The procedures for notifying the parties are made more effective and the option of electronic communication with the parties is introduced. Notification was always a sore spot of all Serbian administrative procedures and it is expected that this new Act will speed them up and make them more reliable.
The provisions prescribing the principle of effectiveness and economy are the only part of the new Act that is already in force since June 2016. The authorities are now under legal obligation to communicate with each other and exchange data from official records. It is now illegal to require a party to collect the documents from another authority. The authority that is conducting the proceeding has to communicate directly with the other authority to obtain the documents. However, this has still not been put into practice, because the authorities tend to communicate slowly and the parties are often unofficially instructed to collect and bring the documents themselves in order to speed things up.
The new Act brings much needed overhaul of the Serbian system of administrative procedures. Its provisions are meant to introduce efficiency, and make the whole system much more transparent and citizen-friendly. However, the passing of the Act is only the smaller part of the reforms in the system. The collision with long wrought administrative practices and inertia as well as applying the provisions in day to day practice will be the real test of the Act.