European Integration

The Republic of Serbia in the Process of Association and Accession to the European Union

Association and accession to the European Union is a strategic commitment of the Republic of Serbia, which is based on broad political and social consensus. The path to the European Union is a path towards a modern society of stable democracy and developed economy, where the political and economic requirements represent a means and not the objective of development. In that way accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union entails acquiring the prerequisites of own development and stability, accompanied by broadening of the European area, peace and democracy.

Chronological overview

The process of stabilization and association of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union was formally launched in 2001. Negotiations on Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and the Republic of Serbia began in November 2005. SAA and the accompanying Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related issues were signed in April 2008. As of 1 February 2009 the Republic of Serbia unilaterally implemented the Interim Trade Agreement, which in December of the same year was unfrozen by the European Union and on 14 June 2010 the Council of Ministers decided to unfreeze the SAA ratification process as well. The European parliament ratified SAA on 19 January 2011, and the ratification process in the European Union member states was completed on 18 June 2013. National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia ratified SAA on 9 September 2008, prior to which the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Resolution on association to the European Union on 13 October 2004. SAA came into force on 1 September 2013, whereby the Republic of Serbia acquired the EU associated state. The two most important commitments undertaken by our country by signing SAA related to the introduction of free trade zone and harmonization of the national legislation with the European Union acquis.

On 19 December 2009 visa-free regime with the EU came into force providing the Serbian citizens with the possibility of visa-free travel to 25 European Union countries and to three EU non-member states, which are part of the Schengen area. Serbia was granted the EU candidate state status on 1 March 2012.

The first intergovernmental conference between Republic of Serbia and the European Union, held on 21 January 2014 in Brussels, marked the beginning of accession negotiations on the political level.

In December 2015 the first negotiating chapters were opened – Chapter 32 – Financial control and Chapter 35 – Other issues, dealing with normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Priština.

The screening process was launched on 25 September 2013, in Brussels, when the Chapter 23 screening was held -Judiciary and fundamental rights, and on 24 March 2015 by bilateral screening of the Chapter 33 - Financial and budgetary provisions the overall screening process was completed.

New (revised) accession negotiation methodology

The new accession negotiation methodology was formally adopted at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 25 March 2020. It is based on the following principles:

  1. More credibility;
  2. A stronger political steer;
  3. A more dynamic process and
  4. Predictability, positive and negative conditionality.
The negotiating chapters are grouped into six thematic clusters, which is also the key novelty. The first cluster of chapters deals with the rule of law, while the rest deal with the internal market, competitiveness and inclusive growth, green agenda and sustainable connectivity, resources, agriculture and cohesion, and external relations. Chapters 34 (Institutions) and 35 (Other issues) will continue to be handled separately.

The new methodology, as before, retains the institute of a suspensive clause. In addition, at the insistence of some Member States, the principle of reversibility was proposed, if it is assessed that there has been a significant setback in a particular area. In order to provide incentives, it is envisaged that the countries that have sufficiently progressed in their reforms would be gradually integrated into EU policies, programs and markets, with greater financial support and investment.

The Republic of Serbia formally accepted the new methodology in September 2020. After discussions and consultations, the document on the application of the revised enlargement methodology to the accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia was adopted at the meeting of the EU Council on 6 May 2021, and the first Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia, according to the new methodology, was held on 22 June 2021. On that occasion, it was noted that Cluster 1 was open as all the chapters that make it up had already been open in the previous period. The Intergovernmental Conference, at which Cluster 4 (Green agenda and sustainable connectivity) was opened, was held on 14 December 2021.

Clusters (groups of negotiating chapters)

Name of clusterNegotiating chapters within clusterOpen clusters/chapters
1. Fundamentals23 - Judiciary and fundamental rights
24 - Justice, Freedom and Security

Economic criteria

Functioning of democratic institutions

Public administration reform

  5 - Public procurement
18 - Statistics
32 - Financial control
Open cluster / all chapters opened
Open cluster / all chapters opened   1 - Free movement of goods
  2 - Freedom of movement for workers
  3 - Right of establishment and freedom to provide services
  4 - Free movement of capital
  6 - Company law
  7 - Intellectual property law
  8 - Competition policy
  9 - Financial services
28 - Consumer and health protection
Cluster not opened / chapters 4, 6, 7 and 9 opened
3. Competitiveness and inclusive growth 10 - Information society and media
16 - Taxation
17 - Economic and monetary policy
19 - Social policy and employment
20 - Enterprise and industrial policy
25 - Science and research
26 - Education and culture
29 - Customs union
Cluster not opened / chapters 17, 20, 25, 26 and 29 opened
4. Green agenda and sustainable connectivity 14 - Transport policy
15 - Energy
21 - Trans-European networks
27 - Environment and climate change
Opened cluster / all chapters opened
5. Resources, agriculture and cohesion 11 - Agriculture and rural development
12 - Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy
13 - Fisheries
22 - Regional policy & coordination of structural instruments
33 - Financial & budgetary provisions
Cluster not opened / chapters 13 and 33 opened
6. External relations 30 - External relations
31 - Foreign, security and defence policy
Cluster not opened / chapter 30 opened
The current situation per negotiation chapter is as follows: The Republic of Serbia has so far opened 22 negotiation chapters: 4 (Free movement of capital), 5 (Public procurement), 6 (Company law), 7 (Intellectual property law), 9 (Financial services) , 13 (Fisheries), 14 (Transport policy), 15 (Energy), 17 (Economic and monetary policy), 18 (Statistics), 20 (Enterprise and industrial policy), 21 (Trans-European networks), 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) ), 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security), 25 (Science and research), 26 (Education and culture), 27 (Environment and climate change), 29 (Customs union), 30 (External relations), 32 (Financial control), 33 (Financial and budgetary provisions) and 35 (Other issues). Chapters 25 (Science and research) and 26 (Education and culture) are temporarily closed.

The Republic of Serbia has submitted positions to the EU Council for the following negotiating chapters: 2 (Freedom of movement for workers), 3 (Right of establishment and freedom to provide services), 10 (Information society and media), 16 (Taxation) and 19 (Social policy and employment).

Chapter 34 – Institutions
Chapter 34 - (Institutions) is discussed at the end of the negotiation process, when it is certain that the candidate country will become a member state of the European Union. This chapter covers the participation of the future member state in the work of the institutions of the European Union, which means specifying the number of representatives in the EU institutions, as well as determining the manner of voting in certain bodies and how the number of votes the new member of the European Union would have would be counted.

Chapter 35 - Other issues - open chapter
Chapter 35 - (Other issues) includes all issues that cannot be classified under any other negotiating chapter or issues that arise after a certain chapter is temporarily closed, in order to avoid the need to renegotiate those chapters. That is why there is no pre-defined acquis communautaire in this chapter. In the case of the negotiations with Serbia, Chapter 35 is specific and contains a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the agreements reached within the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and this is determined by the EU Negotiating Framework for Accession Negotiations with Serbia. The European Union Common Position on Chapter 35 - Other Issues states that the advancement of Serbia's EU accession negotiations will be guided by Serbia’s progress in preparing for accession, which will be measured in particular against Serbia's continued engagement towards a visible and sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo, as well as the other requirements contained in point 23 of the Negotiating Framework.