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J. Joksimović: Serbia's strategic goal is full EU membership

October 30 2019 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Serbia's strategic goal is full EU membership

Serbia's strategic goal is full membership in the European Union, not a privileged partnership status, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stated today, stressing that Serbia remains committed to the European path and will not change its policy, but expects the EU to clearly define its interests and enlargement policy.

Joksimović has emphasised that it is of utmost importance for Serbia that the continuation of accession negotiations with the EU “has its own pace”, assessing that Serbia has realistic grounds and arguments to open new chapters by the end of the year.

“Chapter 2 on freedom of movement for workers, Chapter 4 on freedom of movement of capital, Chapter 14 on transport policy and Chapter 21 on Trans-European networks are fully prepared at the technical level”, Joksimović said at the 11th Meeting of the EU-Serbia Parliamentary Committee for Stabilisation and Association (SAPC) held in the Serbian Assembly.

She has added that intensive work is being carried out to prepare the negotiating positions for Chapter 28 on consumer and health protection, Chapter 27 on environment, and on Chapter 3 concerning freedom to provide services and right of establishment.

She has recalled that the European Commission will draw up an unofficial document, which should be presented to the Member States in November, on Serbia's progress in implementing the Action Plans for chapters 23 and 24, concerning the rule of law, the fight against corruption, freedom of the media, the rights of national minorities, judicial reform, the fight against organised crime.

She has estimated that there are sufficient extremely convincing arguments for the Member States, given the range of activities Serbia has undertaken amid, according to her, “vague and undefined” turmoil over the survival and continuation of the EU enlargement policy.

“We have not waited, although we are very patient and will wait for the EU to agree on what the future of the enlargement policy is, but we will not fall behind in the reform process”.

She has rejected the report circulating in the public that Serbia is frustrated and turning to other global players such as China, Russia and Turkey, while she has also stressed that Serbia is highly motivated to do its best for its citizens and what benefits the concept also important for the EU - economy of well-being.

This is what we are committed to and we strive to open the door where it is possible at this stage of the negotiations, not for a moment neglecting our strategic goal that is not a privileged partnership with the EU, but full EU membership.

“We are understanding of different ideas and needs of the EU, which has a need to introduce institutional changes as well as to change the policy and concept. We show full understanding for this, we are not frustrated by it, but patient”, Joksimović said, adding that it is crucial that the message was repeated by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Brussels in a discussion with officials of the outgoing EU administration.

She has stressed that Serbia has shown that it is a reliable partner to the EU that does not change its policy overnight, even when the circumstances do not have a positive outlook regarding the enlargement policy, simultaneously raising the question of whether the EU is a reliable partner in terms of the honesty of the enlargement policy.

She has added that Serbia was the first country to undergo a rigid accession negotiation methodology, indicating that Serbia was the only one that had to start negotiations with the opening of chapters 23 and 24 as suspensive chapters, with the additional chapter 35 relating to the implementation of the Brussels Agreement.

According to her, none of the countries that has fairly recently become an EU member started with this new methodology, which implied that the most demanding chapters had to be opened at the earliest stage of negotiations and closed last.

“The methodology according to which Serbia is negotiating implies that, if there is no progress or there is a lot of backsliding in the areas under chapters 23 and 24, the negotiations on other chapters may be provisionally suspended. Therefore, Serbia has already survived one revision of the methodology and is successfully negotiating within it”, stated Joksimović.

The Minister has drawn attention to the fact that the EU integration process still has a positive transformative effect on everyone in the region, adding that she does not understand anyone wanting to forgo something that only the EU possesses – the power to integrate and transpose the highest standards and values, which makes the EU still the best place to live.

“It surprises me that there is any debate at all about whether the EU wants to forgo that advantage and that power. You can have privileged partnerships and contractual relations with everyone else, but there is no such integration as the EU.

She has reiterated that Serbia remains committed to the European path in order to become a better place to live, adding that it will show patience until the EU defines its interests, so that it would further expand its competitiveness and “soft power” in the global context by further enlargement to the Western Balkans.

“We are not only fighting for ourselves, we also genuinely advocate other countries in the region making that progress for the sake of the interests of all responsible governments, which is a better life for our citizens”, Joksimović emphasised.

She has stressed that Serbia is already in the accession process, unlike North Macedonia and Albania, and that it is important to note the difference, because, in the past several days, a number of unofficial reports and analyses have been circulating in the public on how the accession process will proceed.

“We are not in the association process but in the accession process and we should deal with it as stipulated by the credible enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans of February 2018 brought to Serbia by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The minister has pointed out that the strategy clearly states that Serbia and Montenegro are the favourites in the process and their clear perspective is noted.

“That strategy was given as a legacy to the new European Commission and its new President Ursula von der Leyen for execution, and we expect the enlargement policy to continue in that spirit and manner”, stated Joksimović, indicating that Von der Leyen, in her first address to the European Parliament, said that “there is no comprehensive, unified, united, solidary and peaceful EU without the Western Balkans”.

Source: Tanjug