Information News

J. Joksimović: Cooperation between Serbia and the Council of Europe – intensive

October 30 2019 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Cooperation between Serbia and the Council of Europe – intensive

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stated today that cooperation between Serbia and the Council of Europe (CoE) is good and intensive, adding that it is best reflected and applied in chapters 23 and 24 related to the rule of law.

“You know that the Government of Serbia has been intensively cooperating with the Council of Europe for several years, precisely on the matter that is the essence of chapters 23 and 24 – the rule of law in the broadest sense. Everyone knows that the Copenhagen criteria are the basis for adhering to the rule of law. The Council of Europe is undoubtedly the most competent to help a candidate country in its accession process to meet the criteria from all areas in the best possible way”, stated Joksimović at the conference on presenting the second stage of the Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey Programme, organized by the CoE and the EU.

As regards the topic unofficially circulating the media regarding the restructuring of the negotiation process, Joksimović has noted that Serbia has already successfully overcome one revision of the accession process methodology.

“Serbia is the first country that had to start its accession negotiations with a new EU approach at the time, which implied the obligation to begin the early stage of negotiations with the opening of chapters 23 and 24, and in our case – additionally with chapter 35, as one of the suspensive chapters. Other countries did not have this type of requirements – which we often forget – but they opened chapters they had prepared at the technical level”, stated the Minister.

She has further said that Serbia benefited from it and that it is not bad to start with the most demanding chapters.

“Only the less responsible and the less ambitious would be against such principle. We certainly benefited from it. We have successfully approached it and we are still in that process”, said Joksimović

Joksimović has explained that chapters 23 and 24 are still suspensive and that if the EU member states note that there is insufficient progress and certain backsliding in that area, they can agree on the decision to provisionally suspend the negotiations in other chapters.

“The process is strict and clear. We are acting according to the existing methodology. Chapters 23 and 24 are demanding, they are the first to be opened and the last to be closed, as determined in the negotiating framework with Serbia. There are numerous interim benchmarks, action plans adjusted to the obligations under chapter 23”, added the Minister, assessing that the Council of Europe’s support through the project has been extremely useful.

She has also recalled the role of the CoE Venice Commission in the process of defining constitutional amendments, where the Commission gave its opinion and certain recommendations regarding the text of the amendments.

“Focus was placed on the independence of judiciary and the amended provisions referring to this matter, which were amended in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. Taking into account our institutional structures and political culture, the Venice Commission tried to help us act in accordance with the best European practices, so that everything would be functional and could be implemented, and become an efficient part of our legal and overall political and social process”, said Joksimović.

According to her, GRECO recommendations on the Anti-Corruption Law were included in the Draft Law that was adopted in the Assembly. She has added that GRECO report from May 2019 assessed that Serbia achieved good progress in the implementation of GRECO recommendations.

“The Council of Europe has supported the preparation of amendments to the Law on National Councils of National Minorities and the Law on the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities. That was adopted in June 2018. The elections were held in accordance with the new laws”, stated the Minister.

She has said that there is a whole series of examples of CoE support, such as the concept of democratic culture in schools, creation of democratic environment, financial reports of the Councils of National Minorities, education in minority languages etc.

Joksimović has said that Serbia has so far ratified 82 and signed 7 Council of Europe conventions out of the total of 200 conventions and protocols, adding that there are important partial agreements that Serbia has signed and in which it participates.

“We are member of 12 partial agreements of the Council of Europe, which represent a facultative way of gathering the countries that express special interest in a certain area and activity of the Council of Europe”, emphasised Joksimović, giving as an example the Group of States against Corruption – GRECO, the Council of Europe Development Bank, the European Commission for Democracy through Law – the Venice Commission etc.

Source: Tanjug