After Eight Years, the Constitutional Court indirectly repeals the “Vulin Decree”

In Belgrade, October 27, 2022
The Initiative A 11 informs the public that the Constitutional Court issued decision in case no. IUz-332/2015, published yesterday in the “Official Gazette of RS” no. 117/2022, ruling that the provisions of Article 80, paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Law on Social Protection are contrary to the Constitution.

Delaying its publication by six months, the Constitutional Court indirectly repealed the so-called “Vulin Decree” after as much as eight years, stipulating, inter alia, that the social assistance could be abolished or limited to those beneficiaries of the social protection system who refuse the work engagement.

The Decree was justified by the fact that “the social assistance will not be assistance but earnings”, but through its application, at least ten thousand individuals were forced to perform unpaid work set as a condition for receiving the social assistance. These people were forced to clean the streets, remove snow, dig canals, maintain roads, and in some cases, dig graves in order not to lose social assistance.

In October 2014, at least three initiatives were submitted for the review of the constitutionality and legality of the said Decree[1], while the Protector of Citizens submitted a petition for the review of the constitutionality of this by-law regulation. In November of the same year, 57 civil society organizations submitted a petition to the Government of the Republic of Serbia to suspend the application of the contested Decree promptly.

Instead, only at the end of last year and on its own initiative, the Constitutional Court initiated and implemented the procedure for reviewing the constitutionality of provisions referred to in Article 80, paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Law on Social Protection, which prescribes that the center for social work can conclude an agreement with the beneficiary of the financial social assistance aimed at overcoming actively his/her unfavorable social situation, which includes, inter alia, the possibility of reducing and terminating the right to financial assistance in case of unjustified non-fulfillment of obligations from the agreement, as well as that social inclusion measures are prescribed by the Government. These provisions of the Law were the basis for the adoption of the Decree on Measures of Social Inclusion of Beneficiaries of Financial Social Assistance, better known as the “Vulin Decree”.

The Constitutional Court reviewed the constitutionality of the above-mentioned provisions of the Law from the following perspective: whether the Constitution allows the possibility of prescribing measures of social inclusion by a by-law regulation of the Government, whether the principle of the rule of law allows that the reduction or termination of the right to financial social assistance can be the subject of an agreement between the centers for social work and beneficiaries of the social protection system, whether these provisions are in compliance with the principle of equality of all before the law, as well as whether the legislator had the obligation to regulate in detail the issue of the termination or reduction of the rights of beneficiaries, and not to leave it to secondary legislation.

Although with the adoption of the Constitutional Court decision, the legal basis for the “Vulin Decree” ceased to exist, it cannot be overlooked that with such a decision, the Constitutional Court failed to rule on the possibility of introducing unpaid, forced labor for beneficiaries of the financial social assistance. In 2014, it was rightly pointed out that this kind of work is contrary to the obligations contained in the Convention of the International Labor Organization no. 29 from 1930, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Revised European Social Charter and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

There is a justified concern that this matter, which implies that the social assistance should be “earned”, could be incorporated in the new Law on Social Protection, which would violate permanently the fundamental principles of social protection that exist in our society. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Court failed to deal with these issues, so we can only hope that the decision-makers, when drafting the new Law on Social Protection, will take into account international human rights standards binding on the Republic of Serbia.

For more information, please contact us at: Danilo Ćurčić, .


[1] The initiatives were submitted by the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights – YUCOM, Autonomous Women’s Center and Regional Center for Minorities, Praxis and League of Roma and Democratic Party.