BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian lawyers said Thursday they have asked for European Union help to resolve a more than two-month old dispute with the government that has practically paralyzed the judiciary in the country, which is seeking to join the bloc.
Hundreds of lawyers rallied outside the government headquarters, vowing to persist in their demands for lower taxes and changes to the newly established notary service.
Serbia's Bar Association went on strike over those demands in mid-September, putting on hold thousands of cases in the already overburdened court system.
The strike prompted inmates in pre-trial detention to complain they were spending more time behind bars than necessary.
The head of the Bar Association, Dragoljub Djordjevich, said he is traveling to Brussels Thursday after several failed attempts at a compromise with the government.
"They don't care if the courts don't work!" Djordjevic told the crowd, referring to the authorities. "Never before were lawyers in Serbia forced to protest in such a way, not since we were formed."
The lawyers also demanded the resignation of Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic, jeering and booing at the mention of his name. No government official was immediately available for comment.
Serbia must reform the judiciary — widely seen as political, inefficient and corrupt — as part of the reform needed to join the EU.