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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Serbia

Serbia’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 74 reads:

“Everyone shall have the right to a healthy environment and the right to timely and full information about the state of the environment. Everyone, especially the Republic of Serbia and autonomous provinces, shall be accountable for the protection of the environment. Everyone shall be obliged to preserve and improve the environment”. The harmonization of Serbian laws with EU legislation should be used as an opportunity to identify additional technical and financial support from both national and international sources and to strengthen the capacity to develop and implement environmental health policy tailored to Serbia.

Featured Legislation

2005: The Health Care Law was passed, This legislation includes the adoption of the National Programme in the area of protection of health from environmental pollution and its implementation. It also specifies the monitoring and assessment of the adverse effects of environmental factors on human health.

2006: The Forestry Development Strategy for the Republic of Serbia was approved. The purpose of the present Strategy is to coordinate the general development goals of the forest sector of Serbia and define the measures for achieving the goals. The Government shall establish the balance of social interests related to the forest, by creating the favorable climate for economic development, for the conservation of the ecological value of forests in Serbia as well as the forest social functions and by proposing the most optimal legal framework for forestry. As the response to the need for changes, through the Strategy of Sustainable Development of the Republic of Serbia, the Government has initiated a broad initiative for the reform of all sectors, including the forest sector, through the definition of a new policy, laws and institutional changes. Also, it is important to emphasize the necessity of cross-sectoral harmonization and also the harmonization with other strategic documents at the national level, first of all the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy RS, then the National Strategy of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources RS, and the National Programme of Environmental Protection RS, which are being prepared.

2009: The Public Health Law was signed. This law includes environmental health in statutory public health activities. Many environment-related laws cover various industrial sectors, hazards and media. The majority of these laws are harmonized with EU legislation. The Government of Serbia has initiated activities and investments in the environment and the country’s health system, to address the environmental determinants of health in line with European Union standards and WHO initiatives. The Government of Serbia adopted the Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan in 2009.

2009: The Environmental Protection Law was adopted. This Law regulates the integrated system of environmental protection which is essential for mankind, progress and sustainable society evolution that will preserve the ecosystem and environment. The system of environmental protection uses measures, conditions and instruments for: a) sustainable management, preservation of the natural balance and its integrity, biodiversity and quality of natural wealth in order to assure the survival of all living beings; b) prevention, control, reduction and recovery of all types of environmental pollution. The basic principles of environmental protection are listed and defined as follows:

1) The principle of integrity – state bodies, bodies of the autonomous province and bodies local self-government units ensure the integration of protection and improvement of life environments in all sectoral policies by implementing mutually agreed plans and program and application of regulations through the system of permits, technical and other standards and norms, financing, incentive and other environmental protection measures.

2) Principle of prevention and precaution – every activity must be planned and conducted in such a way as to: cause the least possible change in the environment; poses the lowest risk to the environment and human health; reduce the load space and consumption of raw materials and energy in construction, production, distribution and use; include the possibility of recycling; prevent or limit the impact on the environment at the very source of pollution. The precautionary principle is achieved by assessing the impact on the environment and using the best available and available technologies, techniques and equipment. The lack of full scientific reliability cannot be a reason for not taking action to prevent environmental degradation in case of possible or existing significant environmental impact.

3) The principle of preservation of natural values – natural values are used under conditions and in a way that ensures the preservation of the value of geodiversity, biodiversity, protected natural assets and landscapes. Renewable natural resources are used under conditions that provide them continuous and efficient renewal and continuous quality improvement. Non-renewable natural resources are used under conditions that provide them long-term economical and reasonable use, including restriction of use of strategic or scarce natural resources and substitution with other available ones resources, composite or artificial materials.

2010: The Statute of the Institute for Nature Protection of Serbia was introduced. This publication contains the Statute of the Serbian Institute for Nature Protection, which is a public organization established in order to perform activities for the protection of nature and natural resources located on the territory of the Republic of Serbia (except for natural assets that are located on the entire territory of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina).

2019: The Sustainable urban development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia until 2030 was proposed. This Sustainable urban development, here programmed until the year 2030, is being adopted for the first time in the Republic of Serbia in accordance with needs of urban planning, solving urban development problems and potentials that urban settlements carry among the development of related activities and sectors. Urban development policy is a public policy that is crucial as an instrument for achieving sustainable urban development by using the integrated management approach. National urban development policy, by modern definition, represents a coherent set of decisions, guided by the national government through the co-operation process with different actors in formulating a common vision and goals to which they are directed in long-term transformative, productive, inclusive and resilient urban development process.

2020: The Regulation establishing hunting areas on the territory of the Republic of Serbia was promulgated. This Regulation establishes all recognized hunting areas present on the territory of the Republic of Serbia. This publication provides details for each hunting, such as the name of the hunting area, a description of the boundaries of that hunting area, the total surface area of the hunting area, as well as a map of all hunting areas.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Co-chair of the European Green Party, Thomas Waitz, raised concerns in Parliament regarding the dumping of construction waste in Serbia. Waitz has demonstrated support to local movement “Don’t Let Belgrade Drown” (Ne davimo Beograd) and is speaking with people from civil society organizations that are working on the green transition, social justice, good governance and transparency and making institutions functional. Waitz admitted that despite his familiarity with the environmental issues in Serbia, he was shocked when he witnessed untreated wastewater being poured into the Danube and saw the construction waste landfill in the Reva bog in Belgrade next to the same river. He has pledged to speak about it in the European Parliament and asserted such cases would be declared “environmental crimes” in the EU. The European Commission and European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, has proposed a plan to address environmental issues in Serbia; however, accusations have been raised that the Commissioner is patronizing Serbia. Serbia is officially working to join the EU and supporting the goal in a rhetorical sense but it has actually been moving backward for the last seven or eight years. Mining is a contentious issue in Serbia, as information and contracts are hidden, and locals and other stakeholders don’t get a say and the environmental assessment process is seldom transparent, Waitz warned.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environmental Protection: