Mali to remain minister, Belgrade University's ethics committee decision is political
"If I have any objections towards Mali, then it's that he allowed for these pressures and blackmail, and for this doctoral thesis to be politicized as a topic"
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Sunday that the decision to declare that Finance Minister Sinisa Mali's doctoral thesis was plagiarized is "a prime example of a political decision and political pressure" - which also calls into question the independence of Belgrade University.
"This is a prime example of a political decision, political pressures, double standards, and whatnot. For me, this seriously questions the independence of Belgrade University and goes far beyond Sinisa Mali's doctorate," Ana Brnabic told reporters in Novi Sad, when asked about Sinisa Mali's doctorate and whether he would face any consequences.
"For me, as prime minister of Serbia, the most important thing at the moment is that everything I do shows that we as the government will not at any point influence the autonomy of the university. But others, who love that university so much, should think about all these questions and say what the answers are, because this far exceeded the issue of Sinisa Mali's doctorate," said the prime minister.
She supported her claim that Belgrade University has double standards when deciding on violations of the code of ethics, by citing example of the Faculty of Transport.
"The situation was completely different when Professor Dragan Djuricin launched proceedings before University of Belgrade for non-academic behavior of his colleague, Academician Teodorovic, because the academician was disparaged him publicly - the code of ethics prohibits this from being done completely baselessly. In this case, Belgrade University reacted completely differently. It forwarded his complaint to the Faculty of Transport, the Educational-Scientific Council rejected it and sent it back to the University, while the University merely forwarded it to Professor Djuricin and called for decentralization, not wanting to interfere any further. In the case of Sinisa Mali, it interfered four times and reversed the decision of the Educational-Scientific Council four times," said Brnabic.
Asked how she understood President Aleksandar Vucic's statement that Sinisa Mali must also bear political consequences, and whether that meant it would affect his role as minister, the prime minister said she would speak with Vucic "both as president of Serbia and as president of the Serbian Progressive Party" regarding this issue.
"If I'm not mistaken, President Vucic said that Mali should bear political consequences for his poor judgment and political decisions, while as finance minister he is also a political figure. If I have any objections towards Mali, then it's that he allowed for these pressures and blackmail, and for this doctoral thesis to be politicized as a topic. I think it was important for Sinisa Mali to come out and say at one point, 'Folks, as you politicize this doctorate, I want no part in it, I don't want to do this to myself, to my family, or to the government'. That's what I would have done," said Brnabic.
The prime minister added that Mali should have withdrawn his doctorate earlier, because, as she said, he had not been awarded the title (of doctor) in the first place.
"And (he should have) said that this has nothing to do with academic integrity or expertise anymore, this has only to do with political pressures - which was there from the moment a group of students blocked the Rectorate and said, we will block it again in case we don't like the decision - he should have said that he was no longer interested in this," said Brnabic.