J. Joksimović: The pace is solid, but it does not all depend on us

14. December 2017. | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: The pace is solid, but it does not all depend on us


On Monday, Serbia opened two more chapters in the accession negotiations with the European Union. Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović talked to Novi magazin about the pace of accession and tasks ahead of Serbia.

How do you assess the quality and pace as regards the opening of negotiation chapters, is Serbia ready for other areas besides the two chapters opened on Monday?

- As regards the pace of opening chapters, I would say that it is solid. We are working diligently, however, it does not all depend on us. The decision to open a chapter is made by consensus of EU Member States and it is not always easy to achieve it. Especially since there are different interests and motives that some EU Member States are guided by when voting or opposing the opening of a chapter.

Serbia was otherwise prepared to open at least one more chapter at the Seventh Intergovernmental Conference on Monday, in addition to the opening of chapters 6 and 30 - Company law and External relations, and that is Chapter 33 - Budgetary and financial provisions - but this, unfortunately did not happen due to procedural reasons and for other reasons known to the EU members who voted against. Negotiating positions for Chapter 9 - Financial services and Chapter 13 - Fisheries are also prepared. The negotiating position for Chapter 9 was adopted by the Government on 12 October, while the position for Chapter 13 was adopted on 9 November. Immediately after adoption, the negotiating positions were sent to Brussels and have since been taken into consideration in the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

How do you assess the quality and speed in meeting obligations under the opened chapters, especially as regards the most demanding - 23, 24 and 35?

- Chapter 23 - Judiciary and fundamental rights and Chapter 24 - Justice, freedom and security, were among the first to be opened and shall be the last to be closed, so a significant delay in those areas could affect the accession process as a whole. I want to highlight that there has been progress in those fields, although there is still a lot to be done. Some delays in certain activities have also been noted and a revision of action plans for the aforementioned chapters has been envisaged. We were ambitious in setting goals; however, ambition shows political will and a commitment to the process. We shall work even more, because this is primarily in the interest of our citizens. 

Chapter 35 - which, for candidate countries and those that have already become members, bears the title Other issues, is specific for Serbia’s accession process. Namely, it refers to monitoring the normalisation of relations with Priština. So far, we have many times, not by words by through concrete moves, manifested a clear commitment to resolving all controversial issues through dialogue. We expect this from Priština as well.

No more no less, but four years after the agreement was reached Priština has done nothing to begin with the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities, apart from obstruction. If your question insinuates the possibility of Priština slowing down the process of Serbia’s European integration through failure to take action and by refusing to implement what has been agreed upon, I must say that this would not be good, because that would therefore place Priština in the position of a third party in negotiations with the EU, outside of any negotiating framework. In the end, everyone chooses his own policy. Somebody chooses not to act. Serbia has selected initiative and the road towards progress.

There is a general belief that environmental protection will be one of the most difficult tasks for Serbia. When can the opening of this chapter be expected?

- Chapter 27, as an important part of EU policy, deals with the area of environment. The intention is to promote sustainable development and preserve the environment for the present generation and the ones to come. Some of the benefits of meeting the requirements of this chapter are as follows: better health of the population, preservation of natural resources, protection of water and air quality, competitive economy, improved quality of life. Therefore, the material resources that should be allocated to meet the requirements for Chapter 27 are extremely high, while the standards that should be met are complex and demanding. One of the fundamental principles that this chapter is based on is that polluter pays and bears the highest expenses.

A particular challenge, in this sense, is waste and waste-water management. In this segment in the coming decades, we expect the highest level of investment into highly demanding infrastructure, production and processing standards. The result shall be a healthier environment, a higher quality of production, and also the development of certain industrial branches that we have so far scarcely developed, such as recycling. I would also like to emphasise that investments into the environment should be constant - which will, in addition to the newly created value, primarily have positive impact on the quality of food and water that we consume, cleaner air ... and all of that is priceless.

Has Serbia established teams for each chapter and what else, in practical terms, has to be done in order for the negotiations to run smoothly?

- Teams for all chapters have been established. The Negotiating Team was practically formed in August 2015. Negotiations, as far as Serbia is concerned, are running smoothly.

How realistic is the estimation that Serbia could access the EU before 2025?

- I comprehend the opinion of President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker - that our country and Montenegro could be accepted in the EU even before 2025, above all, as a commendation to the countries that have made the most progress in the accession process. It is at the same time an indicator of the EU's leadership capacities in our region and that it counts on Serbia as part of its leadership capabilities both now and when we enter the EU. In addition, his assessment is both realistic and motivates us to provide an even better ambiance for an accelerated negotiation dynamics.

However, one should also bear in mind that we have the obligation to fulfil all the set criteria, because I am committed to the principle that results are the only measure of progress towards EU membership. This does not mean that Serbia is opposed to the region's progress towards the EU, but rather that we do not agree with the “package” principle that blurs the individual results of each candidate country. Otherwise, irrespective of the position of the President of the EC, Serbia continues with the implementation of reforms in the interest of all citizens of our country, guided by the belief that membership in the Union represents its strategic interest and that European integrations are the best mechanism for positive reforms of society as a whole. Anyway, we have promised them that - a better and regulated state and a higher living standard.

And when a country is reformed and a society suited for the citizens is established, EU membership comes as a logical consequence. In any case, the process of European integration is voluntary for Serbia and it provides benefits to us, the region we live in, but also to the European Union. 

Source: Novi magazin