Like many other countries in transition Serbia was eager to transform its legislation in line with the EU accession process, but the record pace was often traded for provisions which were either hard to be implemented or in collision with one another. Two publications produced by the experts in drafting laws and supported by SDC and UNDP, are set to make a change.
The ability to impact society through well-written legislation is unparalleled. Thanks to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and UNDP support, the experts of the Faculty of Law in Belgrade produced a Monograph and Handbook on “Nomotechnics and legal reasoning”, which should help lawmakers to draft laws and supporting legislation in a clear and well-reasoned manner thus strengthening the country’s ability to improve the rule of law. The publications are the first response to the well-recognised need for improvement in legislative procedures and should help the members of the Parliament in performing their legislative and overseeing role. Participatory development of programming can indeed offer results and sustainable solutions. Such an example is investment into parliamentary development at national and local level that the SDC recognized and together with UNDP embarked on by supporting the legislative branch through the “Strengthening the Oversight and Transparency of the Parliament” Project. As a result of this longterm engagement some major gaps in the system were identified and tackled though a process of extensive consultations, with strong national ownership. The abovementioned publications are just one step into that direction. What is it so important for an ordinary citizen to be protected by the legislative framework? How does that impact his or her right to be able to live and work? It seems that the “power of pen” may have been somewhat underestimated since neither the academia nor the professional public managed to cover the need for legislative drafting education. Hence, SDC and UNDP, in cooperation with Parliament and the Government of Serbia provided two grants to the Faculty of Law to spearhead the process in Serbia and establish the much needed curricula and practice. The Faculty gathered all dealing in any way with legislative drafting, introduced the curricula as a mandatory topic and prepared a Monograph and a Handbook for civil servants filled with practical examples. The lecturers of the Faculty of Law carried in 2016 a university Course in Legislative Drafting for national level institutions which attracted 135 participants, of whom 81 were civil servants from all the government ministries and institutions and 54 students from the Faculty of Law in Belgrade. The course is today a part of the regular curricula at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade. The main objective of this course is for Faculty of Law students to gain legislative drafting skills and to upgrade the knowledge of civil servants on this topic at the national level. On top of that a Legislative Drafting course was also organized for the representatives of local assemblies and self-government administrations in three regions (South Serbia, Central Serbia and Vojvodina) in 2017, featuring lecturers from the Faculty of Law and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. This course further improved the understand of participants on the transformative impact of the legislation drafting, and strengthened legislative drafting skills of local government officials. Publishing the Monograph and Handbook on Legislative Drafting came as a demand expressed by the attendees of the 2016 Legislative Drafting Course and due to the fact that there is no such comprehensive publication on legislative drafting in Serbia. The publications should help the officials in state institutions and bodies involved in the adoption of legal acts gain a systematized and analytical approach in drafting legislative acts and amendments. For law students, these publications will be useful as an additional reading for the Legislative Drafting and Writing Legalistic Documents subject, at the graduate level, as well as for other areas of legal education at faculties of law. The Monograph may have additional educational purpose in all spheres of practicing the legal profession, due to the parallels of theoretical insights (the rule of law, law, constitutional democracy, transition, EU and legal standards formed in the practice of its institutions, especially the European Court of Human Rights), and practical guidelines for designing regulations. It is also expected that the Monograph could help in giving insight into legislative drafting best practices and current theoretical knowledge of the legislative process in the transition countries and to provide a credible understanding of the content and importance of European standards, including the reasons for their adoption, in addition to a mere need to meet the EU membership criteria. Interested practitioners as well as students may find additional resources at the website launched by the Faculty of Law and devoted to the Course at http://wp2008.ius.bg.ac.rs/nomotehnika/ and included the Course in the regular Faculty curriculum. It is expected that the publications and the course will help raise the level of knowledge about all the phases of the process of adopting laws and other regulations, and improve practical skills of students as well as practitioners in shaping and amending a draft law. The project also raised the awareness among the students and the public servants and other authorities on the importance of the knowledge acquired for the strengthening the rule of law in the process of so-called transition, which Serbia is undergoing now. Gaining a full insight into the importance of harmonization of the national law with the EU law and mastering the techniques of harmonizing newly adopted laws in line with the EU standards, is a prerequisite for the successful accession process.
In addition, we asked Dr. Radmila Vasić, Professor at the Department of Theory, Sociology and Philosophy of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, to tell as about future plans of introducing Nomotechnis as a mandatory subject and about Manual on Nomotechnics
What was your personal contribution to introducing Nomotechnis as a mandatory subject at the Faculty Law pursuant to the obligations stemming from two grants that the Faculty got from the UNDP / SDC project?
— At first, the course about writing legal documents was experimental and non-obligatory for our students, and then made into an optional subject, but with the status of the subject taught at the basic studies. The subject Nomotechnics – Writing Legal Acts became mandatory for fourth year students, and one of the two such subjects that students can choose from. In particular, I will propose that the monograph, as a whole or its selected parts, to become compulsory literature for students who choose Nomotechnics – Writing Legal Acts. This means that I will strive to include the book in the curriculum, which, just like the curriculum implementation plan, is devised this time of the year for the next school year. However, I should mention that, at state universities, not everything hinges on “personal” work and effort. The competent faculty bodies have to agree on the curriculum and the plan for its execution, and then the curriculum needs to be accredited by the National Accreditation Body, which evaluates the need for certain types of knowledge, the organization of teaching, the spatial capacities of the faculty, qualified teaching staff, etc.
How far along is the drafting of the Manual on Nomotechnics for education professionals (at the central and local level), and is the content going to be adapted to the needs of people who work with it on a daily basis?
— The manual is a shortened selection of the topics covered in the monograph, the purpose of which is to be accessible and easily usable in the daily work of relevant state bodies at all levels of government. I have never heard someone complaining that “everyone is objecting to too many quotes from legal philosophy”. For the sake of the argument, let’s just suppose that that is true. You see, the title alone – Nomotechnics and Legal Reasoning – tells the readers that nomotechnics is not just a set of technical instructions, which just like a cake recipe, you can hold in front of you and use. A modern-day lawyer cannot and should not be a robot. If he were, such a lawyer wouldn’t need to obtain his education from university. The main intention of the project’s author is to help acquire, supplement or enhance knowledge and skills in this area of legal reasoning and practical activities in formulating the highest normative acts, laws above all, which are crucial for establishing the rule of law in transitional Serbia. In terms of its content and formulated “recommendations”, the manual falls between the monograph and the codified methodological rules which are useful, but, in my professional opinion, not sufficient. If they were, we would not have even considered writing the Monograph and the Manual.