14 November 2016 The members of the European Integration Committee at the 56th COSAC meeting
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
European Integration Committee Delegation Takes Part in 56th COSAC Meeting
A delegation of the European Integration Committee took part in the 56th meeting of the Conference Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union - COSAC, 13-15 November 2016, in Bratislava, under the auspices of the parliamentary dimension of the Slovak presidency of the European Union.
On the first day, the participants discussed the state of play of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union, strengthening the role of national parliaments in the EU, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said that this was Slovakia’s first presidency of the Council of the European Union and a real evaluation of it can be given only once it is completed. Despite the troubles it had during the presidency, Slovakia can proudly present tangible results in several areas of importance for the citizens of the European Union. Progress has already been made in several areas, and there is still time to complete all the set goals. The Bratislava Summit has shown that Slovakia is a successful partner in the European Union and has chosen the right priorities – economic strengthening of the Union, new investment impulses, creation of a sustainable migrant policy, strengthening global cooperation, etc. Fico stressed that during Slovakia’s presidency progress has also been achieved in the enlargement policy by the opening of two negotiation chapters with Serbia.
State Secretary at the Slovak Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Ivan Korcok said that the enlargement policy is one of the most successful policies of the European Union, stating that the candidate countries should be enabled to, once they have achieved some kind of progress, which is generally not a simple process, feel the results of that progress. He added that Serbia has in the last several days made progress in the talks with Pristina and has reason to expect as a result the opening of new chapters.
Committee Deputy Chairperson Elvira Kovacs thanked the Slovak presidency, pleased that at its very beginning, in July, two very important chapters in the EU-Serbia negotiations had been opened – chapters 23 and 24. She said that we are aware the a successful completion of the negotiation process depends on a number of factors, so in the previous period the Republic of Serbia focused on capacity-building and inclusion of a bigger number of social factors in the negotiation process. She informed the participants that the Republic of Serbia is ready to open negotiation chapters 5, 25 and 26, hoping that they would be opened by the end of the Slovak presidency i.e. by the end of the year.
She stressed that there is no doubt the process of integration of the Balkan states is facing big challenges such as the events connected with the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, growing numbers of refugees coming to Europe, which draw attention away from the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, but despite all this she believes that support for the reform in the Western Balkan countries is extremely important, and the clear prospect of EU membership is the key factor of regional stability. She thanked the officials who encourage the candidate countries to fulfil the membership criteria, stressing that that would be the most elemental standard of relations with the Western Balkan countries on the path to EU accession. Finally, she expressed her firm belief that the integration of this part of Europe contributes to peace and security, as well as prosperity and that the principle of solidarity is crucial for the development of the enlargement policy, along with the candidate countries’ dedication to overall reform.
On the second day the participants discussed the Energy Union and securing the external borders of the EU in the context of irregular migration.
In her speech on migration Dusica Stojkovic said that Serbia is on the main Western Balkan route between the EU member countries from which refugees and migrants enter our territory. The challenges we face surpass our capacities, but despite all of it we treated the refugees and migrants humanely and with dignity, line with international and European standards. She said that the closing of the Balkan route had reduced the influx of migrants crossing through Serbia, but the flow of migrants has lately again been growing on a monthly basis and stressed that though the mass rush of migrants through the Western Balkan route was decreased, it still exists. She also stated how many migrants have gone through Serbia in the last year and half.
She added that Serbia’s capacities have been stretched to the maximum, so we engaged emergency reception areas. She stressed that, financially, the influx of migrants is a huge challenge and burden on Serbia which is ready to participate in the quota system in accordance with its capacities in agreement with the European Union if the migrants decide to remain in Serbia. However, she said that Serbia is unable to receive many migrants, including the ones whose asylum requests are declined in the European Union. She concluded that all the countries on the route need to coordinate activities and in, a timely fashion, exchange information on the measures and activities conducted to secure the border crossings.