Reaction of EUROMIL on the situation in Serbia

EUROMIL has been informed on the detention of some members, among them the President, of the Military Trade Union of Serbia (MTUS). The MTUS was admitted as an observer member of EUROMIL for a period of two years at the General Assembly in Rome on 28 April 2023.

On Tuesday 27 Feb 2024, EUROMIL was informed by a journalist of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, on the detention of the President of MTUS, Novica Antic. The journalist also informed EUROMIL that that Serbian Minister of Defence Milos Vucevic said on 15 February 2024 that “it is the biggest stupidity in the world that the military has unions and announced the possible abolition of the trade union if the regulations would be changed”.

EUROMIL reacted as follows:

“….. it is impossible for us to respond to an arrest without having complete information about the case.

However, regarding the minister’s statements, we must recall that trade union work in the armed forces is a constitutional right in Serbia. Freedom of assembly and social dialogue are also a fundamental right for soldiers. Should the Serbian government wish to abolish trade unionism in the armed forces, EUROMIL will respond to international bodies such as the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

The Serbian authorities should not mix trade union work in the armed forces as such with possible individual lawsuits or misconduct, which, by the way, must first be proven.”

After 48 hours of detention, Novica Antic and the MTUS Secretary General were released. However, they were both were taken again in custody on 1 March in the morning and detained for 30 days. The main reason for the detention is, at least following the media, embezzling money from the Union.

On 5 March 2024, some media published on this situation mentioning also the contacts with EUROMIL and others. Asked by Politico, EUROMIL reacted with a short statement: “EUROMIL reacted strongly to the events in Serbia and rejected any possible ties with the Russian authorities. However, President Emmanuel Jacob explained that it was difficult for EUROMIL to comment until there was more clarity on the situation. The organization could take the short-term step of temporarily suspending Serbia’s observer status pending clarification. But he stressed that this situation should not be a reason to undermine or even abolish the constitutional rights of the Serbian military, which was previously proposed by the Defense Minister.” (article BIRN)

This last message was also underlined by the Board stating that this situation is a result of the behavior alleged by some, but that EUROMIL continues to call on the Serbian authorities to respect the constitutional trade union rights that exist within the Serbian armed forces. Misconduct by some individuals, if proven, may not affect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens in uniform and be used to ban these fundamental rights and freedoms.

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