EBRD and UK promote commercial mediation in Serbia

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo
@pyrkalo

EBRD and UK promote commercial mediation in Serbia

New project will help local institutions and businesses take advantage of alternative dispute resolution mechanism

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with funding from the UK Government’s Good Governance Fund, is launching a technical cooperation programme in Serbia to strengthen the use of commercial mediation in disputes.

The programme will be directed at the legal and business community, trade organisations, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Judicial Training Academy of Serbia.

While Serbia adopted a new law on mediation in 2014, the implementation is not yet complete and businesses still mostly rely on settling disputes in court rather than taking advantage of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. This not only overloads the court system but increases time and costs to reach resolutions.

To address this issue, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce has set up a mediation centre which the EBRD project will support by providing training for professional mediators.

In cooperation with the Judicial Training Academy of Serbia, a public institution dedicated to train judges and prosecutors, the project will also help the Serbian authorities to train and accredit court staff as mediators.

Further activities will focus on raising awareness among key actors in the business and legal community about the benefits of commercial mediation and cooperation with universities to develop mediation-related curricula in law faculties.

The project is part of the EBRD’s Investment Climate and Governance Initiative which aims to support reform-minded governments and its corporate clients to increase transparency, good governance and healthy competition in the countries where the Bank invests.

The UK Government’s Good Governance Fund aims to, among other things, facilitate improvements in the business climate, support reform of the tax system and reduction of bureaucracy in order to generate more foreign and local investments, as well as to support rule of law, freedom of expression and democratic debate in order for Serbia to be a net contributor to peace and stability in the Western Balkans. The Fund is expected to provide about 4.5 million pounds of support to Serbia in the next financial year (2017/18), as it did this financial year.

Serbia’s Minister of Justice, Nela Kuburovic, took part in a round-table discussion launching the commercial mediation programme in Belgrade today. She was joined by Dragomir Milojević, President of the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia; Marko Čadež, President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce; and Nenad Vujić, Director of the Judicial Training Academy of Serbia.

“During 2014, there were over 9,500 commercial disputes in Britain, worth over £9 billion, which were resolved by mediation. More than 75 per cent of cases were solved on the day of mediation, while 11 per cent were solved soon after. The British Embassy Belgrade, together with the UK Government as a whole are striving to be a reliable partner to Serbia in what we call real support for real reform.  Hence our support to this project within the Good Governance Fund to the amount of €250.000“, said H.E. Denis Keefe, British Ambassador to Serbia. 

Dan Berg, EBRD Director for Serbia, said: “Slow and complicated dispute resolution has been cited as a concern by investors seeking to work in Serbia. Mediation can offer the benefit of a quicker, cheaper and more tailored approach to commercial dispute resolution and for this reason is increasingly popular in the EBRD’s countries of operations. After the adoption of the new law on mediation in Serbia, it is important to focus on the implementation and enforcement of its provisions. The EBRD is committed to help Serbia promote and facilitate the use of commercial mediation on a national scale and is grateful to the UK government for its financial support of the programme we have launched.”

The EBRD is a key economic player in Serbia with over €3.5 billion invested to date. The Bank invests in all major sectors of the economy to support private sector development and regional integration.