The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic addressed the participants of the meeting of the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, held 16-17 May in Chania, Crete.
THE FOLLOWING IS THE SPEECH OF THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA IN ITS ENTIRETY:
Allow me to greet you on behalf of the Republic of Serbia and our National Assembly and take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the Republic of Serbia to the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and this Committee in achieving the common goals and values we share as members of our Pan-European organisation.
I am particularly pleased that the Parliamentary Assembly, through the work of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, is considering the European perspective of the Western Balkans and seeking to find mechanisms and ways to support a clear perspective for the region, as well as identify areas in which the Council of Europe can help the region on its European path.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our full support for Mr. George Papandreou in his work as rapporteur of this Committee, I am convinced that as a very experienced and responsible politician he will do a good job and make a comprehensive and objective report. Dear George, you can always count on the full support and cooperation of the Republic of Serbia and all our institutions in this important task.
As you know, full membership in the European Union remains the Republic of Serbia’s number one foreign policy goal, it has been that in all previous years and it will remain so in the period ahead. This commitment was confirmed by the recent elections, where the citizens gave very convincing support to those political forces that are working on European integration and have it at the very top of their political and social priorities.
Given that the process of constituting a new parliamentary legislature, as well as the new Government, is underway, I am convinced that immediately after these procedures are completed we will continue with even greater energy than before to work on our obligations stemming from pre-accession negotiations. First of all, the continuation of reforms aimed at strengthening the rule of law, protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as integration processes that strengthen our common economic and cultural space.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you, and I am convinced that this will find an important place in our further discussions, that the Republic of Serbia has successfully completed the process of Constitutional amendment earlier this year in the part concerning the election of judges and prosecutors. It was a process of capital importance not only for the harmonisation of our judicial system with European standards, but for strengthening the rule of law in general as well. Our National Assembly managed this complex process, as required by the Constitution itself, the result of which are new constitutional provisions that, after 15 years, create the conditions needed for the judiciary to be autonomous and independent of any political influence. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Venice Commission and its representatives with whom we closely cooperated in the different stages of the process and who provided solid suggestions and opinions, making sure our constitutional solutions are at the highest democratic level.
At the moment, Serbia has reached the second half of the road to full membership in the European Union, we have opened 22 out of a total of 35 negotiation chapters and we hope to open more this year. We cannot be satisfied with this dynamic - neither we in Serbia, nor the European Union. When I say that, we must keep in mind that our perspective of membership in the Union was opened full 19 years ago, also in Greece, at the European Union’s Thessaloniki Summit.
That is a very long period and it is quite understandable that during all that time, there have been hesitations and doubts among our citizens about whether the achievement of this goal is actually realistic. Just as the so-called "enlargement fatigue" has existed in the European Union for a long time, so has a kind of "fatigue from joining" the Union arisen in Serbia and the Western Balkans.
We want both sides to shake up and leave that fatigue behind. Serbia and the entire Western Balkans deserve their wishes and their efforts to join the European Union to be valorised much faster.
We are all worried about the crisis of Russia's armed intervention in Ukraine, which, in addition to all the terrible consequences for the citizens of Ukraine and the whole of Europe, is also having an impact on further slowing down the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU. That is why I am taking this opportunity to call on the Council of Europe and all of its members to support our efforts for European integration even stronger than before, because we are deeply convinced that this is the only way to achieve full stability and prosperity for our region and each of our countries in turn.
The Council of Europe has so far been a very important partner on that path and I am convinced that we will continue to have the full support of our joint organisation. In this regard, on behalf of the Republic of Serbia, I would like to convey our full openness to all of Council of Europe’s programmes and activities aimed at improving reform processes and speeding up the movement towards our strategic goal, which is membership in the European Union.