The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and Chairperson of the European Integration Committee Elvira Kovacs took part in the 70th Plenary Meeting 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, 26-28 November 2023 in Madrid, the Kingdom of Spain.
Pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union, the parliaments of candidate states are invited to take part in COSAC plenary meetings as observers.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the European affairs committees of the EU Member States, candidate states, special guests and representatives of EU institutions.
The meeting was opened by Jose Ignacio Landaluce Calleja, co-chair of the Spanish Parliamentary delegation to COSAC and President of the Spanish Senate Pedro Rollán Ojeda.
The attending were presented the 40th COSAC Bi-annual Report and adopted the programme of the 70th COSAC Plenary.
In session I: "Achievements of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union", the participants of the plenary meeting were addressed, via video message, by Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain, and after the debate, by Pascual Navarro, State Secretary for the European Union, who commented on the participants’ presentations during this session.
European Integration Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs emphasized that Spain provides strong support to the Western Balkans for joining the European Union, reminding the attending that the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the Western Balkans in April 2023, which was the first visit of a Spanish Foreign Minister to this region in the last 12 years, which sent a signal of Spain's support to the entire Western Balkans. She also mentioned the informal meeting of heads of state and government in Granada on 6 October 6 2023, where the leaders of the European Union reaffirmed that the European Union's enlargement policy is a geostrategic investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity, which is why Granada will forever be connected with the member states’ political will to continue improving and deepening European projects. She pointed out that for the first time in the annual report of the European Commission, as well as in the 2023 EC Communication on the EU Enlargement Policy, the key word was "enlargement" instead of the phrase "European perspective" which had been dominant for a long time.
Session II: "The Pact on Migration and Asylum in the EU", was opened by Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gómez, Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Spain, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs and Othmar Karas, First Vice-President of the European Parliament.
In her address, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs mentioned that the population of Serbia, especially the population living in Vojvodina, is very interested in the topic of migration. She pointed out that Serbia is on the main route for refugees, the so-called Balkan route. She indicated that since the migration crisis of 2015, more than 1.5 million refugees and migrants have passed through Serbia and since 2015, there has been a constant influx of refugees, who are strongly supported by cross-border smuggling and human trafficking networks. She pointed out that over the years, reports of violence and confrontations have become common near the border between Serbia and Hungary. She noted that thousands of migrants are camping in said area, looking for ways to cross the border with the help of people smugglers. "We are witnessing conflicts between migrants, more precisely, wars between criminal gangs," said the European Integration Committee Chairperson. She pointed out that every day around 1,500 migrants try to cross into Hungary, many of them handing over money to people smugglers. She mentioned that since August of this year, there have been several shootings in which dozens of people were killed and seriously wounded. She noted that the shootings took place not only in abandoned agricultural warehouses near the villages of Horgos or Hajdukovo, but also in front of a store, where migrants were shooting a few hundred meters from the city centre in Subotica.
In session III: "Energy Crisis and Green Transition", the participants were addressed by Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Vice-President and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain, Nicolas González Cesares, Member of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on the state of the Energy Union and Gunther Krichbaum, Member of the German Bundestag.
Session IV: "Situation in Ukraine and relations with the European Union", was opened by Gulio Maria Terzi di Sant'Agata, Chairperson of the EU Policies Committee of the Senate of the Republic of Italy, and Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Chairperson of the EU Integration Committee of the Parliament of Ukraine.
European Integration Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs pointed out that in the latest report the European Commission recognized Serbia's step forward in the alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, which has reached 51% compared to last year’s 46%. She said that though Serbia has not aligned itself as regards all restrictive measures towards Russia, the political measures implemented so far confirm that Serbia's position is in line with the EU's positions.
"Serbia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and provides a wide range of humanitarian aid to the vulnerable citizens of Ukraine. In March 2022, the Government adopted the Decision on the provision of temporary protection in the Republic of Serbia to displaced persons coming from Ukraine, which facilitates access to its territory and provides temporary protection to all people who fled the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine", said Elvira Kovacs.
She noted that the Decision was amended in March 2023 and that the duration of the temporary protection was extended for another year. She said that the Decision enables access to the right of residence, personal documentation, the right to education, access to the labour market and healthcare in accordance with the regulations governing the rights of foreigners.
She pointed out that all of the abovementioned confirms that Serbia remains united in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Session V: "Open Strategic Autonomy and relations with Latin America", was opened by Juan Fernandez Trigo, Secretary of State for Ibero-America and the Caribbean and for Spanish around the World, and Carlos Malamud Rikles, Senior Analyst at Elcano Real Institute.
At the end of the plenary meeting, the attending adopted the Contribution and Conclusions of LXX COSAC.
On the sidelines of the COSAC Plenary Meeting, the European Integration Committee Chairperson met with Hans Wallmark, Chair of the Committee on EU Affairs of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sweden. On that occasion, she invited Swedish Parliamentary Committee on EU Affairs to visit the National Assembly’s European Integration Committee, at the beginning of 2024, after the constitution of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.
The Committee Chairperson also met with the delegation of the Italian Parliamentary Committee on EU Policies whom she informed about the course of the European integration of the Republic of Serbia.