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Minister Jadranka Joksimović: Our plan is to be ready for the EU by 2021

08. July 2017. | Belgrade

Minister Jadranka Joksimović: Our plan is to be ready for the EU by 2021

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said that Serbia has a plan to be fully prepared for its membership in the European Union by the end of 2021. In an interview for today’s issue of the daily Politika, she has pointed out that Brussels needs to provide a more precise timeframe in order for Serbia to plan not only its own activities, but also the budget.

Asked about the chance of Serbia getting a definite date of accession to the European Union, Joksimović has answered that she expects a "clearer indication" and that a more precise timeframe from Brussels is needed, but not necessarily a precise date.

"We know what our job is with regard to what we have promised the citizens, and that is to implement reforms whose results are also reflected in the fulfilment of benchmarks for opening the chapters. Many previous governments in the Republic of Serbia have promised dates and years when the membership will be attained, only to be proved wrong by the reality. Our plan is to be fully prepared by the end of 2020 − 2021. Because, when you close all chapters, the Member States must ratify the Treaty of Accession in their parliaments. Some even hold a referendum on the matter. We can also hold a referendum on which the citizens would voice their opinion once the time comes. This is why we are interested in what the EU is planning. That is a legitimate question", the minister noted.

Joksimović also thinks that we should not talk about how we will earn the "goodwill" of Brussels with the reforms, stating that this is the wrong way of looking at things.

"We promised the reforms and development to the citizens of Serbia, and it is the citizens who we should make more satisfied. Much has been done, but there is still more work to do", Joksimović has noted for Politika.

The minister has also said that, from 2016 to 2020, Serbia will receive one billion euros in grants for development in various areas through the IPA funds. According to her, the European integration is a mechanism that forces the government to be faster and more efficient in changing Serbia for the better.

"The membership will be an added value to the whole process.  Neither the former Prime Minister, now President Vučić and his government, nor the current government, have ever used and will not use demands from Brussels to justify unpopular measures, which is something many others have done and thus have provoked Euroscepticism in Serbia. We are doing all of this for our own sake", Joksimović has pointed out.

With regard to President Vučić’s request to Brussels to provide us with deadlines and the speculations that we want to exchange Kosovo in favour of Euro-integration, she has stressed that there are state and national interests that one does not use as a currency for exchange.

"Vučić has shown that he perceives the reality in a sensible and statesmanly manner, as well as the changes we do not like and whose causes have accumulated for decades, but also that our interests and demands are clear in regards to the sustainable survival and progress of our people in Kosovo and Metohija, in particular through Priština's obligation to form the CSM. After all, the existence of the Brussels Agreement clearly shows that our position, which is also the position of several EU countries and beyond, on the non-recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo is respected", Joksimović has stated.

Asked if there was a possibility for Brussels to appreciate her position that the dialogue with Priština should not be closely linked to the EU integration process, she has said that this position arose from the "the experience on the field".

"In the process of negotiations between a candidate country and the EU, there are only two sides - the one of the candidate and that the EU. It is not realistic, nor fair, to introduce a third party into the process of Euro-integration, Priština, which can block us by its inactivity. I think that such a rigid and inflexible attitude is unsustainable in reality. However, the reforms and the Copenhagen criteria, the rule of law, good governance and the economic programme are the most important criteria, or they should be at least", the minister explained.

She has recalled that, during the presidency of Malta from January to June, the Republic of Serbia opened four chapters, which is something she considers as a good result.

She also expects the opening of 3-4 more chapters by the end of the year, and that the opening of new chapters will take place at the Intergovernmental conferences over which Estonia took presidency as of July 1st.

"At this moment, we are fully prepared, in technical and procedural sense, for the opening of three negotiating chapters - Chapter 30. (External relations) that is already being discussed at EU working bodies, Chapter 6. (Company law) and Chapter 33. (Financial and budgetary provisions) for which we submitted our negotiating positions to the European Commission. We are working intensively on several more chapters", the minister said, adding that the pace will not depend only on us.

She believes that we can be satisfied with the results of the ten opened chapters, given all the circumstances in the EU itself, which do not particularly stand in favour of increasing support to the enlargement policy in the Member States themselves, bearing in mind the fact that our negotiating process is specific and sometimes made difficult by Chapter 35, i.e. by the monitoring of the implementation of the Brussels Agreement through this chapter.

"Do not forget that we opened the official negotiations in January 2014, and that we are the first candidate for which the criteria to open the most demanding chapters 23 and 24, and in our case 35, at the beginning was applied, which was not the case with the previous candidates. We opened the first chapters in December 2015, so the result of ten chapters opened and two temporarily closed within a year and a half, is not bad at all. On the contrary", the minister concluded.

Answering the question of what the formation of the ministry could mean for the integration process, she has said that there is no doubt that better coordination is achieved by introducing a permanent structure.

"This shows a clear and stable orientation of the country," Joksimović has said, adding that this is a practice that existed in a good number of countries that negotiated on the membership.

She has also explained that the European Integration Office no longer exists, and that the employees and equipment are becoming the core of the ministry.

"The negotiating team is a state team composed mainly of civil servants, but also of experts from the academic community, civil society and experts in specific fields covered by various chapters -35 in total. They are, of course, coordinated within the ministry, because the ministry and myself as the minister are politically responsible for their work," the minister has responded.

She has stated that she has started analysing and preparing a new systematisation of posts, which should be completed by the end of the month. She has added that she will personally work on this, that she strictly adheres to the procedure and expertise, but also takes account of results and responsibilities when working. She has stated that there will not be a major expansion of the structure, but that some changes will be made.