BELGRADE – Serbia has been struggling for six years to put in place a law on free legal aid, which is one of the requirements for progress in its EU accession negotiations. The law will be adopted by the end of 2016 and implemented in 2018, the justice ministry told EurActiv Serbia.

Due to the low salaries, high fees and lengthy court proceedings, many Serbs have difficulty affording justice.

The average salary in Serbia is around 45,000 Dinars or €365, while the data on the median salary is not published. It is widely believed that the median salary is far lower than the average one, the latter being boosted by the high salaries paid to company managements and in public companies and some lucrative sectors such as banking. Court and lawyer fees amount to hundreds of thousands of dinars which many cannot afford.

The draft law on free legal aid that is most likely to be adopted, seen by, envisages free legal aid for the recipients of social welfare and certain vulnerable groups such as victims of trafficking, torture and domestic violence, refugees as well as other individuals whose right to legal capacity is debated in the court proceedings.

It would not be possible to implement the law sooner, as administrative capacities have to be built and training for its application organized, the Justice Ministry told EurActiv.

“A campaign is also planned in the period ahead to inform citizens of the new law, requirements for free legal aid beneficiaries, and other important issues related to its implementation”, the ministry also said in a written response, without elaborating on the specific solutions.