The National Assembly House is hosting the seventh meeting of the European Union-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), which started on 20 December, where the National Assembly members and MEPs will be discussing the state of play of the EU-Serbia accession talks.
The seventh SAPC meeting was opened by co-chairs Dr Vladimir Orlic and Eduard Kukan, heads of the National Assembly and European Parliament delegations.
Opening the SAPC meeting, Dr Vladimir Orlic, head of the Serbian delegation, said he was both very pleased by the fact the meeting was taking place in Belgrade and with the results achieved so far. He opined that the credibility of the mutual relations is confirmed by the fulfilment of the assumed obligations, timely reaction to crisis and creation of a region of peace and cooperation.
“I believe that the European Parliament and SAPC are the right place to discuss any open issues, possible dilemmas, different opinions, our views of Serbia’s future EU membership. The practice has so far shown that we have always had strong support and allies among you and there is no reason not to strengthen the alliance even further in the future”, said Orlic.
Eduard Kukan, head of the European Parliament delegation, said that Serbia is making good progress through the EU negotiation process and applauded the recent opening of two new negotiation chapters.
“Many had hopes there would be more as apparently more are technically ready to be opened, however in the entire enlargement process we need to remember the big picture. The big picture is that we want a strong fair union with new countries which are as close to a member state as possible. This means not only formal legislative build-up of the legal system based on acquis communautaire, it means letting into the family of democratic states a new partner who functions on strong principles of the rule of law. The chapters are only important if they go together with these basics. The negotiation process is about building a state which functions in the EU legal machinery, but more importantly which is recognized by the citizens as a European state”, said Kukan.
He went on to say that what should also be discussed is the future of the EU, which is to be Serbia’s new home, as well as all other open issues such as the legislative framework in Serbia, the future of Kosovo-Metohija, media freedom, and other topics of interest to both sides.
The Serbian and European parliamentarians also heard opening statements from the Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, Estonian Ambassador to Serbia Daniel Erik Schaer and EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi.
On the behalf of the Serbian Government Minister Joksimovic said that today is a good moment to sum up Serbia’s EU accession process, marked by highs and lows, as well as ambition, which all leads to the same goal – creation of an ordered state and to EU membership. She said she believes the meeting of two political wills should result in membership, accompanied by the reform process, which is essential. She opined that the statement of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has demonstrated leadership, which had marked the accession process and readiness to recognize Serbia as the leader of said process in the region.
“In this stage of the negotiations and everything that is happening in the EU and the Western Balkans, deadlines are important. If the candidates are expected to stick to deadlines, then the candidate can expect more certain ones in this partnership of political wills”, said Joksimovic.
She said that there has been some disillusionment with the fact that only two chapters were opened during the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council, opining that accelerating the process of opening chapters could lend impetus to the reform process because an open chapter is the best monitoring mechanism for the reform process in the course of negotiations. Minister Joksimovic said that six chapters had been opened in 2017 and she hopes that Serbia would open the three fully ready chapters – 33, 9 and 13, as well as at least three of for more currently being prepared, during the Bulgarian and Austrian Presidency of the EU Council which have enlargement of their agenda.
Speaking of the reactivated regional approach to EU enlargement, the Minister of European Integration opined that the policy of “levelling” in the European integration process, on one side overestimates the leaders in the process while underestimating the others.
“Acknowledging the progress of the region, we believe that individual evaluation is the only appropriate criterion which guarantees the credibility of the accession process”, Joksimovic concluded.
Daniel Erik Schaer, Ambassador of Estonia, currently presiding over the EU Council, said that the chapters opened during Estonia’s Presidency demonstrate Serbia’s progress in meeting the EU membership criteria. He reminded the attending of the European Commission’s reports on chapters 23 and 24 which speak of progress, as well as the need to work on judiciary reform, media freedom, combating corruption and crime and the status of minorities. He commended the economic reform and the coming public administration reform, opining that though the cooperation with the EU is good Serbia needs to harmonize its foreign policy with the EU’s. Regional cooperation is a key part of the enlargement process and Serbia’s activities in the area have been recognized, said Schaer. He also commended the participation of Serbian judges in the judiciary in Kosovo-Metohija and the opening of the internal dialogue on Kosovo-Metohija in Serbia. Ambassador Schaer commended Serbia’s progress during the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council and urged it to speed up the reform process to be able to become a full EU member as soon as possible.
EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi addressed the assembly on the behalf of the European Parliament, stressing that in 2017 the attention of the EU and its members states had been directed to the integration of the region. Fabrizi opined that the opening of six chapters is a good result, but what is even more important are the accompanying reforms. The EU Ambassador to Serbia said that improving the rule of law is something which warrants more attention, as does the normalization of relations with Pristina, in which Belgrade has been constructive. He applauded the internal dialogue on Kosovo-Metohija, as well as regional cooperation and Serbia’s participation in EU missions, noting that the country’s foreign policy should be harmonized with the EU’s by the accession. He also commended the results of the economic reform and the role Serbia has had and will continue to have in the migration process, adding that the EU would continue to be its biggest economic partner and donor via the pre-accession funds.
The MPs went on to discuss the progress of the reform process, media freedom, National Assembly’s mode of operation and other topics broached in the reports with the representatives of the European institutions and the Serbian Government.
The meeting will continue on Thursday, 21 December, when the two delegations are also expected to adopt the Declaration and Recommendations of the seventh meeting of SAPC.