Serbia: Controversial law on public notaries
On September 1 2014, the Law on Public Notary came into effect in Serbia. This law was already passed in 2011, but it was postponed twice because of low levels of interest from candidates in taking the exam for this title. As part of the legal and judicial reform programme in Serbia, some of the main reasons for introducing notaries were the need for administrative relief of courts, increase efficiency and greater legal certainty for citizens.
There are basic requirements for taking the notary exam. The candidate must hold a law degree in Serbia, must have passed the bar examination and must have at least five years' experience in the legal profession.
A competition for the nomination of the first 100 public notaries was announced in June 2014: 40 places in Belgrade and another 60 to other basic courts in Serbia, and considering that it is mandatory that each municipality has at least one public notary the planned number is around 350. On August 12 2014, the first 94 public notaries were appointed and in mid-September 2014 the Chamber of Public Notaries was founded.
To preserve the independence and integrity of public notaries, they are prohibited from practising law or any other paid occupation, except from legacy executor, guardians, the occasional scientific or teaching activities, as well as mediators, arbitrators and court interpreters.
The main legal services which will be provided can be classified as: administrative (that is, the preparation of documentation), and acting as a trustee of the court and deposit operations. The notary public record is an enforceable document, and agreements related to property issues in marital and non-marital relations, alimony, gifts, and before all contracts regarding real estate, will not be legally valid if not prepared by a public notary. Under their jurisdiction will also be hereditary statements, recognition of paternity, testaments, inheritance disputes, and verification of signature, transcripts, translations, solemnisation and so on.
Another novelty is the introduction of Notary Public Minutes as mandatory for founding and other assemblies of joint stock companies with more than 100 shareholders, as well as for sessions of another body within the joint-stock company, when it decides on matters within the competence of the general assembly.
With this introduction of new practices, citizens mostly complain about the appointment scheduling (in some cases delays of more than a month), the lack of familiarity with non-standard contracts and additional costs.
Introduction of this law caused even greater resentment among lawyers in Serbia who have been on general strike since September 17 2014. This year the state has increased the tax liability for lawyers, while at the same time with the Law on Public Notary, has taken a significant part of their business.
In addition, according to the Bar Association, the passed set of laws is "controversial and contrary to the Constitution," which is why it instituted the proceedings of assessing the constitutionality of the law, and, as stated in the Decision on the organisation of protest – "suspension of work of lawyer is in the interest of citizens of Serbia". Negotiations with the Ministry are still in progress.
Aleksandra Rafailovic (email@example.com)
Eurofast Global, Belgrade
Tel: +381 11 3241484