Impetus to the European perspective and important steps on the European path

05. February 2018. | Belgrade

Impetus to the European perspective and important steps on the European path

- I expect that the European Commission's Enlargement Strategy will correspond to the positive and, I would say, leadership message of EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, and that it will, as such, recognize Serbia and Montenegro as front-runners in the European integration process while also giving an opportunity to potential candidates, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said for Dnevnik answering to the question on what kind of position Serbia expects within the EC Enlargement Strategy, which should be presented on 6 February in Brussels.

Our interlocutor has pointed out that European Commissioner Johannes Hahn has also stated that the next two years will be "good years for enlargement", bearing in mind that Bulgaria, which is currently presiding over the Council of the EU, but also Austria and Romania, whose EU presidencies are to follow, advocate the enlargement policy.

- I will remind you that, after the adoption of the Enlargement Strategy, the Progress Report will follow in April, as will the EU-Western Balkans Summit scheduled for May, and I believe that this event will give further impetus to the European perspective of the region and will undoubtedly contribute to accelerating the dynamics of EU accession. I expect a number of important steps on Serbia’s path in the EU accession process in the coming period.

You are not an advocate of the position that the region should enter into the EU as a ‘package’ - Do you have any like-minded peers among the European partners regarding this issue?

- Serbia supports the region's progress towards the EU, and we welcome every positive step and progress on this path, but, at the same time, we believe that each country should progress in accordance with its individual results achieved in the reform process and in meeting the membership criteria. In that sense, the principle of the so-called ‘package’ for the region, which would either not recognise or not take into account concrete individual progress, may have an opposite effect. It is important that the EU maintains its existing credibility and that encouraging messages are not relativised.

Furthermore, the willingness of Serbia as a candidate country to help the potential candidates for EU membership by sharing its experiences, expertise and in all other ways is not only declarative − it is clear and principled. This is confirmed by the fact that we have prepared the Agreement on Cooperation in the process of European integration with Macedonia, and signed one with Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as the Final Agreement on the normalisation of relations, are constantly in the focus of European officials, as we have witnessed these days. Do you still believe that Chapter 35 will be closed without painful cuts for Serbia, in terms of choosing "Kosovo or the EU"? 

- Serbia understands what is written in the negotiation framework with the EU - comprehensive normalisation of relations is before us, which does not imply an obligation to recognise Kosovo, because that would make the dialogue redundant. The success of the dialogue and the implementation of what has been agreed will positively reflect on both the life of citizens and the stability. It is because of these reasons that we are clearly committed to the dialogue, no matter how unpopular or painful it may be.

In addition to commendations for the reforms, we are constantly receiving warnings from the EU that more needs to be done in the field of the rule of law. What do these objections relate to specifically?

- Chapters 23 and 24, to which your question relates, are among the first to be opened and the last ones to be closed, and a significant delay therein can affect the accession process as a whole. I would like to point out that there is progress in both chapters, although there is still much to be done. There are also some delays in certain activities, while the revision of the Action Plans for those chapters is also planned.

The reforms in these chapters are comprehensive and long-term, so there are no quick and easy solutions. It is true that we may have been too ambitious in setting the goals, but that shows our political will and commitment to the process.

Speculations are beyond discussion

The media speculate that the EU requests that the relations between Belgrade and Pristina be normalised by the end of 2019: Is such a scenario mentioned in Brussels?

- According to the EU Negotiation Framework, Chapter 35 is planned to be closed at the very end of the negotiations and, therefore, the possible media speculation is not relevant for us. As a matter of fact, no official information has been provided. Besides, expressing an opinion on a topic without a concrete reason is not wise. I believe that the fact that each agreement requires at least two parties is much more important.

In addition, for four whole years since the agreement was reached, Pristina has done nothing to contribute to the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. I would like to stress that, for Serbia, the key topic of the dialogue is the full implementation of the Brussels Agreement. Our responsible position on this issue stems from what we have done so far. This is why an internal dialogue with all structures of our society is being conducted. We are clearly committed to the dialogue, as we have demonstrated many times so far not only with words, but with concrete moves as well.

How do you see the EU's request that new members must resolve all border disputes with their neighbours, while it turned a blind eye to the same situation in case of Slovenia and Croatia?

- Negotiations on Croatia's EU membership were once, if you recall, blocked precisely because of the border dispute with Slovenia. Croatia and Slovenia agreed that the dispute, which they had failed to resolve bilaterally, would be resolved through international arbitration.

It would be best to resolve outstanding issues bilaterally, but I do not see why the arbitration instrument, as a manner of resolving bilateral disputes, would be questioned. The enforcement of the Arbitration Council's decision, which one side (Slovenia) accepts and the other (Croatia) does not, is another issue. Decisions of international institutions must be respected, and Serbia certainly deems that the international law should be respected, because if you do not respect it, you bring your credibility into question.

(source: Dnevnik)