European Integration Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs and Deputy Chairperson Dubravka Filipovski took part in the meeting of the Chairpersons of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), held under the auspices of the parliamentary dimension of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, on 17 and 18 September 2023 in Madrid.
The meeting was opened by the presidents of the Spanish Congress and Senate, Francina Armengol Socias and Pedro Rollan Ojeda, who presented the priorities of the Spanish Presidency. The COSAC meeting was attended by the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of the European affairs committees of the EU Member States, candidate states, representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission, and special guests.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker and European Integration Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs pointed out that enlargement is not defined as a special priority of the Spanish Presidency, but it is mentioned within the framework of strengthening the concept of European unity. She said that a few weeks ago at the Bled Strategic Forum, the year 2030 was set as the target date for EU enlargement in terms of the Western Balkans. The fact is that the time that has already passed without any real changes has fuelled scepticism, Kovacs stressed, adding that the most obvious explanation for the impasse is the lack of EU commitment to the Western Balkans. The region is firmly on the Union’s agenda, but it has never been a top priority. Between the Eurozone crisis, crisis in Ukraine, wave of refugees, coronavirus pandemic and the most recent Russian aggression in Ukraine, enlargement keeps sliding down the EU's priority list. In the conclusion, Kovacs said that it is time to change the Western Balkans’ perspective from the policy of "waiting for Godot" - to a policy of predictability, credibility, trust and support.
European Integration Committee Deputy Chairperson Dubravka Filipovski pointed out that each EU presidency sets different priorities, but it is important that the rule of law and respect for international principles remain in force. She said she hoped the Spanish Presidency would make the effort to organise an intergovernmental conference in December at which a new cluster would be opened in the negotiations with Serbia. The Republic of Serbia and the National Assembly continue to work diligently and consistently to implement the reforms needed to become a member of the EU. There is no European unity without the Western Balkans in its fold, Filipovski concluded.
In the session two, on the future of Ukraine in Europe, Filipovski said that the Republic of Serbia advocates respect for the principles of international public law and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN member states. Serbia condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and truly regrets the suffering of Ukraine and its people, the people of Serbia sympathise with them because we experienced something similar during the NATO bombing and sanctions that imposed on our people and country. Filipovski stressed that Serbia will continue to follow the humanitarian situation very closely and provide assistance to Ukraine, as evidenced by our recent decision to donate goods and medicines to alleviate humanitarian suffering, as well as to support Ukraine’s European integration by sharing our experiences of the negotiation process. Serbia has been in the EU accession process for over 20 years and the process is taking too long. Filipovski underlined that Serbia is suffering major consequences in the EU negotiation process because Pristina has not fulfilled any of its obligations from the Belgrade-Pristina Relations Normalization Dialogue. Filipovski stressed that we support Ukraine's aspirations to join the EU, but urge European officials not to forget to value Serbia's efforts because our economy, culture and history are at the foundations of Europe, we are geographically in its centre and as a nation we belong to the European family. That is why we are not saying that the European Union should expand, but that it should encompass the Western Balkans region which is already an integral part of it in every sense. I hope that the EU will successfully resolve the challenges it is facing and that the enlargement policy will not be called into question, Filipovski concluded.
Speaking in the second session, Kovacs pointed out that EU enlargement is definitely back on the agenda, especially after the Russian aggression against Ukraine. She said that despite this, there is increasing pressure to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and the geopolitical situation clearly indicates that there is no alternative to enlargement. The war in Ukraine increased the hunger for enlargement and confirmed the impression that there is a strategic necessity for EU enlargement. In simpler words, it is now or never, said Kovacs. As a representative of a national minority, Kovacs emphasized that Ukraine's international legal obligations are to protect the rights of national minorities, especially by establishing appropriate mechanisms for the implementation of these rights. The rights of national minorities are human rights, and given Ukraine's European aspirations, compliance with relevant international regulations is vital, Kovacs concluded.
The COSAC Plenary under the auspices of the Spanish Presidency of the EU will be held on 26 to 28 November 2023 in Madrid.