The Law on Archive Materials and Archiving Activities (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 6/2020, ) (“Law”) started to apply as of 2 February 2021, so after many years Serbia finally regulates the protection of archival material in one place and a comprehensive manner.
In general, the Law regulates the system of protection of archival material and documentary material, conditions and manner of use of archival material, organization, competence, and activity of archives in Serbia.
The Law defines archival material as documentary material that is permanently kept, is selected original, and in the absence of original, any reproduced form of document or record created by the work and activities of state bodies and organizations, bodies of territorial autonomy, and local governments, institutions, public companies, holders of public authority, companies, entrepreneurs, persons performing registered activities, religious communities, as well as other legal or natural persons, and are of permanent importance for culture, art, science, education and other social areas, regardless of when and where they were created, and whether they are located in institutions for the protection of cultural goods, and regardless of the form and medium of the record on which they are preserved.
On the other hand, the Law defines documentary material as a set of documents or records created or received by the activities and work of the above-mentioned subjects, in the original or reproduced form of the document, regardless of the form and format of recording, as well as prescribed records.
The creator of archival material and documentary material is a legal or natural person whose activities create archival material and documentary material and the holder of archival material and documentary material is the holder of rights to archival material and documentary material or any other (legal or natural) person who, in any way and on any basis, has possession over it.
The creator and holder of archival material and documentary material (“legal entities”) are obliged to conscientiously keep archival material and documentary material in an orderly and safe condition, in the form in which they were first created. In addition to the stated obligation, legal entities are obliged to:
- provide a responsible expert for the protection and handling of archival material and documentary material; In this regard, legal entities are obliged to check the professional competence of employees who manage archival material and documentary material;
- properly manage archival material and documentary material: to record, classify, archive, keep, keep the archive book on the prescribed form, as well as to regularly cooperate with the competent public archive in order to successfully implement all measures of document management and protection;
- submit the archive book, i.e. a transcript of the archive book to the competent archive no later than 30 April of the current year, for documents created in the previous year (archive book is a basic record of the entire archive material and documentary material created in the work of a legal entity);
- adopt (i) General Act on the manner of recording, classification, archiving, and storage of archival material and documentary material, (ii) List of categories of archival material and documentary material with storage deadlines and (iii) General Act on the Method of recording, protection, and use of electronic documents.
The competent public archive gives consent to the proposal of the List of categories of archival material and documentary material with storage deadlines (in which it is necessary to insert the legal storage period) and documentary material. After obtaining the previously mentioned consent and adoption of this List of categories, legal entities are able to classify documentary material, select archival material, but also extract worthless documentary material.
Additionally, the obligation of legal entities is to hand over the arranged and listed archival material to the competent public archive, after the expiration of 30 years from the day of its creation. On the other hand, according to the opinion of the officials of the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Archives of Serbia, Flat Rate Taxpayers are not obliged to keep and arrange archival and documentary material.
Finally, if legal entities violate or act contrary to the provisions of this Act, they will be liable for a misdemeanor in the amount of RSD 50,000.00 to 2,000,000.00, and RSD 5,000.00 to 150,000.00 for the responsible person in the legal entity.
Since the Law comes into force in February 2021, as well as the fact that there are no bylaws adopted based on this Law, there is a certain degree of uncertainty in regard to its scope and application, so it remains to be seen what practice will bring us.
This text is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Should you require any additional information, feel free to contact us.
By Kristina Pavlovic, Associate, and Katarina Askic, Junior Associate, Samardzic, Oreski & Grbovic