COVID-19 Report No. 1: Serbia Welcomes Coronavirus Without Open Arms

Updated on March 19, 2020

On March 15, 2020, at 8 pm, the President of the Republic of Serbia proclaimed the state of emergency. As a result of this, the Government has taken some preventive measures to ensure that the number of infected does not increase in a significant amount, as well as public safety.

THE BORDERS ARE CLOSED TO FOREIGN CITIZENS

Only Serbian citizens, accredited diplomats and foreigners with a temporary or permanent residency permit, those that have a special permit from the Ministry of Health are allowed to enter the country.

But that’s not all, because even those who do enter the country have to stay in a quarantine according to the following pattern:

  • Those arriving from focal areas affected by the pandemic (Italy, Switzerland, Iran, Romania, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, Slovenia and Greece) are to go into self-isolation for 28 days
  • Everyone arriving from other countries must be in self-isolation for at least 14 days.

Also, international freight transport vehicles can enter the country but only for 12 hours. Some smaller border crossings have been redirected to bigger ones for better control of the entries.

As a result of these measures, the questions of cancellation and refunding requests for travel arrangements have arisen. When it comes to refunding requests, the outcome depends mostly on traveler’s government’s orders and advice and measures taken by the state they planned on visiting.

PUBLIC AUTHORITIES

When it comes to courts and public prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of Justice has advised the judges and public prosecutors to work from home, if possible. All hearings are delayed except for the emergent ones.

The High Court Council has announced the emergent cases to be as follows:

1. Criminal matters:

  • in which custody is ordered or requested
  • offenses regulated by Articles 235, 248 and 249 of the Criminal Code
  • against juvenile offenders or in which a minor is an injured party related to the sexual offenses from chapter XVIII of the Criminal Code
  • domestic violence offenses
  • in which statute of limitations could occur
  • offenses performed during the state of emergency and related to it

2. Civil matters:

  • in which a temporary measure is being decided (designation, extension and termination)
  • in which a measure of protection against domestic violence is being decided
  • in which it is being decided to ban the dissemination of the press and the dissemination of information in the media
  • in which it is being decided about retention in a healthcare facility that practices neuropsychiatry
  • enforcement of enforceable documents relating to family relations.

Insight into case files is limited only to those cases whose hearings are not delayed. Issuing of certificates is also limited – a party must prove that such issuing is necessary.

IMPORT/EXPORT AND RESTRICTION OF PRICE LEVELS

The export of all medicines is banned for 30 days, and so is the export of basic foodstuff and hygiene products – flour, oil, sugar and sanitizers.

The Government also adopted the Decision on the Restriction of Price Levels on basic foodstuff and protective equipment such as wheat flour, bread, sunflower oil, water, salt, white sugar, meat, baby food, shampoo, alcohol, asepsol, paper masks, paper towels and toilet paper, gloves, etc. This decision will stay in effect for 30 days at a minimum.

DELAY ON BANK LOAN REPAYMENTS AND LEASING REPAYMENTS

The National Bank of Serbia adopted two Decisions that delay bank loan repayments and leasing repayments for at least 90 days.

PROCUREMENT

In accordance with Article 36 of the Law on Public Procurement, a contracting authority can conduct a negotiated procedure without prior publication if certain requirements are fulfilled. Since COVID-19 can be considered as an extraordinary circumstance unforeseeable by the contracting authority, the negotiating procedure may be done without prior publication.

COMPANY SESSIONS

Since meetings in person are not preferable, the option that the Companies Act provides for should be used. Article 212 and Article 341 state that meetings can be held via modern communication equipment and devices (conference call or other audio and visual conference equipment), as well as voting, which can be done electronically.

EFFECTS ON CONTRACTS

FORCE MAJEURE

Under Article 263 of the Law on Contracts and Torts, the circumstances that arise upon the conclusion of a contract that could not have been prevented, eliminated or avoided constitute cases of force majeure. If one’s business has suffered due to pandemic, they won’t be liable for damages if delivering goods or services on-time fails.

REBUS SIC STANTIBUS

This clause may be eligible for use if certain requirements are fulfilled:

  • circumstances emerge after concluding the contract and
  • which hinder the performance of the obligation of one party, or if due to them the purpose of the contract cannot be realized
  • this is expressed to such a degree that it becomes evident that the contract meets no more the expectations of contracting parties and
  • it would be unjust to maintain its validity.

The party having difficulties in performing the obligation may request a repudiation of a contract. It is important to note that the contract can only be terminated by a court decision, so our advice is to settle this matter with your contractual partner since the courts will not be in full function until further notice.

LABOR LAW

The Government has adopted the Regulation on the Organization of Work During the State of Emergency in which the employer is obliged to enable employees to perform work outside of the employer’s premises (work from home). If this option is not provided by the General Act or the Agreement, the employer can enable this to the employee solely through his Decision, without annexing the Agreement. If, however, work from home is not possible the employer is obliged to implement all safety measures and organize work in such way that it prevents the further outbreak of the virus (organization of shift work, organization of meetings via electronic channels, and postponing business trips in Serbia and abroad). If the employer fails to implement safety measures, the state authorities can order the closure of the business.

In terms of salary, the employer is not allowed to reduce the salary solely based on the fact that the work is not being performed on the employer’s premises.

Employees cannot refuse to come to work, take special leave of absence or refuse to go on a business trip due to fear of infection. However, if entry to a country that is the destination of a business trip is banned, or represents a viral hotspot, an employee can decline to go on such a trip.

Employees must notify their employer if they are unfit to work for any cause, as well as in the event of COVID-19. In case they go on sick leave or in quarantine, they are entitled to a compensation of salary for the time of absence from work due to temporary impairment lasting up to 30 days in the amount of 65% of the average salary they earned in the 12 months preceding the month in which they became temporarily unfit to work due to illness sustained outside of work, or 100% of salary if impairment was caused by a professional illness (e.g. medical staff).

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