J. Joksimović: It would have been fair if we had opened three chapters
December 06 2017 | Belgrade
We were ready to open at least three chapters and I believe that that would have been fair - said Minister of European Integration in the Government of the Republic of Serbia Jadranka Joksimović in an interview for Politika. On the occasion of yesterday's news that two instead of three chapters would be opened on 11 December in our country’s negotiations with the EU, our interlocutor pointed out:
- It is important that there is no delay in the dynamics of the negotiation process, which I still believe can and must be expeditious. I hope and I believe that this is not a slowdown for Serbia on its European path, because that would not contribute to pro-European enthusiasm - emphasised the Minister of European Integration.
She said that she had always provided realistic assessments and had never raised “expectations of the public and of our citizens in relation to the negotiations”.
- Having regard to the announcement made by President Juncker on the acceleration of the enlargement process, the recent statement by High Representative Mogherini on Serbia's exceptional progress and the views of individual member states that Serbia should open all chapters for which it was ready, it was natural to expect the opening of three chapters - stated Jadranka Joksimović.
How realistic is the plan included in the new EU strategy for the region that envisages Serbia and Kosovo signing a legally binding agreement by the end of 2019?
Deadlines for finalising the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, or for signing a legally binding agreement, are not the subject. For us, the key issue in the dialogue is the full implementation of the Brussels Agreement, primarily the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. I remind that, according to the EU negotiating framework, the closing of Chapter 35 in our accession negotiations has been planned for the very end of the negotiations, and in that sense, media speculations are of no relevance to us.
In that case, do you expect that Serbia may be accepted to EU membership even before 2025?
I think that the time-frame given by President Juncker is realistic and that it provides room for speeding up the dynamics of the accession negotiations. That also represents a positive political message to the countries that have made the most progress in the negotiations, primarily Serbia and Montenegro. Of course, it is implied that we must fulfil criteria for membership, but only according to the principle that each country is evaluated according to its progress. We have nothing against the progress of the entire region on the European path and we support the progress of all candidate countries, but we do not agree with the principle of the so-called Western Balkan package that blurs the results of each country individually. Political levelling is not beneficial in the process of negotiations with the EU.
According to Johannes Hahn's earlier announcement, the strategy shall be presented in February, followed by a Western Balkans summit in May, similar to the one in Thessaloniki in 2003. Can and will Belgrade try to exert its influence on some segments of this strategy by then?
I recall that the initiative for the drafting of the 2025 Enlargement Strategy came from the President of the European Commission Juncker during his regular annual address to the European Parliament on the state of the European Union. Therefore, the strategy shall be drafted by the European Commission at the direct order of President Juncker, who has demonstrated leadership vision and understood the need to speed up the EU enlargement process. Juncker clearly distinguished Serbia and Montenegro as leading countries in the process and we expect this fact to be reflected in the strategy. Furthermore, we expect the establishment of a clear time-frame for accession, especially for Serbia and Montenegro.
When will you be able to examine the entire document?
Indicatively, there has been a recent trend of relativisation and attempts to dilute the strategy, which has not even been written yet. The text is only in the first drafting phase, we are monitoring the text drafting and the strategy shall be published, as planned, in February 2018.