The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić attended yesterday the opening ceremony of the Serbian Cultural Center “Kolo” at the border village Morahalom in Hungary, which was built within the project of cross-border cooperation of Serbia and Hungary, and soon the Hungarian Cultural Center will be opened in Palić. The project was supported by the European Union with 3.2 million euros.

The main goal of the project “Multicolored cooperation” is the comprehensive strengthening of the cross-border relations of two peoples, regardless of their borderlines and this institution shall provide the constant and interesting content of the cooperation for the people of both countries, it was said at the opening.

The officials of Serbia and Hungary were present at the yesterday ceremony and agreed that the relations of Serbia and Hungary are at exceptionally high level and getting better from day to day.
The Serbian Cultural Center “Kolo” in Morahalom should be the center of Balkan culture at this part of Hungary and the place of cultural cooperation of artists on both sides of the border. It will have the role of the new bridge of cooperation between two countries and nations and institute for cultivating and strengthening of cultural values.

The NPM team visited yesterday two health care institutions in Niš. The visit was paid to the Psychiatric Clinic of the Clinical Center Niš after it was announced and in accordance with the plan of visits for 2019, while the visit to the Center for Mental Health at the Clinical Center Niš was visited by NPM members without previous announcement.

Apart from the representatives of the Protector of Citizens, the NPM team included the doctor specialist of psychiatry, representative of the association International Assistance Network (IAN).

Both these institutions were visited by the NPM for the first time with the aim of observing the position of patients, exercise and promotion of their rights and special attention was paid to the conditions in which they are accommodated, the reception procedure, and the treatment of agitated patients. The heads and employees of both institutions cooperated with the NPM team and enabled them to implement the visit in compliance with entrusted competences and mandate. The NPM shall execute reports and issue necessary recommendations to competent persons on completed visits.

Ombudsman Zoran Pašalić said today that in the past 10 years, the Institution of the Ombudsman received 725 complaints from the residents of Leskovac, which, he said, mainly concerned the property-legal and socio-economic sphere.

After talking with the citizens of Leskovac, representatives of the local government, non-governmental organizations, public institutions and businesses, Pašalić said that the number of complaints from residents of that city is decreasing from year to year and that in most cases they concern problems not only typical for Leskovac, but for the whole of Serbia.

The transition to an entirely different property rights system has brought many problems. Citizens in Leskovac, as well as other cities, also complained about the environment and illegal landfills. He said that, in cases when cooperation with local self-governments is good, problems related to local governments can be resolved very quickly.

“However, the biggest problems we have are with local governments, and by that I do not mean in Leskovac. Only persistence, frequent visits and more conversations will give us specific results. If one does not open up to the citizens, but rather thinks that he is there for his own sake, it is very unlikely that the situation in that local self-government will be good and that citizens will be satisfied”, Pašalić said.

According to him, the citizens of Serbia “know astonishingly little” about the powers of the Protector of Citizens. “The amendments to the Law on the Protector of Citizens should strengthen the capacities of the Ombudsman institution, but my goal is to solve some systemic problems during my term of office that would in turn solve some individual problems, or to solve some individual problems that would solve some systemic problems, which is not easy at all”, said Pašalić.

He stated that currently, in his work, attempts of politicization of the work of the Protector of Citizens bother him the most. “I know that I will change the fact that the Protector of Citizens is seen as a political body. The Protector of Citizens is not a non-government organization nor a civil society organization, but a state institution, an independent one, that only accounts to the Serbian Parliament”, Pašalić said.

Stating that Leskovac is the ninth city in the past year in which citizens have had the opportunity to speak directly with the Protector of Citizens, Pašalić announced that by the end of the year, the “Day of the Protector of Citizens” will be organized in four more cities, but that visits will also be organized in the future because, as he added, not all citizens have the opportunity to come to Belgrade to the institution's headquarters.

The Ombudsman, Zoran Pašalić and the Mayor of Leskovac, Goran Cvetanović, attended the opening of the renovated premises of the Social Welfare Center in that city today.

The visit to Leskovac was realized within the project of increasing the accessibility of the Protector of Citizens to citizens living in the interior of Serbia. The project is implemented by the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia with the financial support of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Serbia.

In 2018, more than 9,000 citizens addressed the Institution of the Protector of Citizens, and nearly 3,400 complaints were received in which the citizens pointed to the violations of their rights.

This is what the Ombudsman, Zoran Pašalić, said today when presenting the report on the work of his institution in 2018 in the Serbian Parliament, which stated that last year the Protector of Citizens made 297 recommendations to the administration bodies.

Of the total number of referrals made, 144 were related to gender equality. The largest number of citizens' complaints in 2018 concerned the work of representatives of the executive branch, especially the ministries, about 20 percent of all complaints, as Pašalić said. According to him, the number of complaints related to the work of local self-government units accounts for about 13 percent of the total complaints.

Citizens also complained about the work of the judicial authorities, 11 percent of all complaints. The majority of citizens complained about the violations of rights in the area of good governance, economic and social sphere, Pašalić added.
He said that the complaints were about existential problems and unemployment, but also about the inefficient state administration, which is silent when it should act for the benefit of citizens.

There were frequent violations or denials of citizens' rights in the work of administrative bodies, as well as repetitions of the same or similar problems in their work, Pašalić said. On the other hand, the Protector of Citizens also noted more intensive activities of the Serbian Government in modernizing the work of the state administration through the development and implementation of various electronic services. The progress is reflected in serious approach and more frequent implementation of activities aimed at improving the human resources in the field of good governance, Pašalić said.

The Protector of Citizens said at the beginning of his presentation that he was sorry that MPs were not present in larger number that day, adding that there were no politics, political affinities and animosities in the report and actions of the Protector of Citizens. He emphasized that human and minority rights and freedoms are the fundamental values on which, in addition to the rule of law, social justice, the principles of civil democracy, the Republic of Serbia is based.

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