J. Joksimović: With synergy between Belgrade and Brussels towards EU membership
June 25 2018 | Luxembourg
Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stressed tonight, after the eighth Intergovernmental Conference on the Accession Process of Serbia at which two new chapters have been opened, that Serbia is undoubtedly committed to a better future for the citizens and to the EU membership.
She has said at a press conference in Luxembourg that it is clear that, with all the difficulties that exist in the EU, which can also be observed in the region, where Serbia demonstrates that it wants to overcome the burden of the past as well as the difficult implementation of internal reforms, Serbia is dedicated to its strategic goal.
According to her, synergy is necessary, and it is also necessary that we cooperate as partners in fulfilling our part of the commitments, as well as to receive encouragement from the EU.
"The easiest thing to do is to send negative messages, have a negative attitude and receive short-term negative points. However, every small step, no matter how small, yet continuous, leads to a great goal," Minister Joksimović has said.
She has pointed out that circumstances, like those now in the EU, are sometimes such that other topics that are not focused on enlargement are on the agenda.
She has assessed that Serbia has made the best use of Bulgaria's efforts to bring the Western Balkans and enlargement back into the EU's focus, and that it is important to remain positive, diligent, and committed to reforms.
"Circumstances will sometimes be in our favour, and we will be able to open more chapters. It is important not to let the frustration prevail, but our strategic goal instead," Joksimović has stressed.
She has said that Serbia has opened two chapters today: 13 - Fisheries and 33 - Financial and budgetary provisions.
"These are two very important and concrete chapters, especially Chapter 33 which prepares us to properly participate in the European budget in the future, while also being a beneficiary of such funds when we become a Member State. Therefore, we are now working on strengthening the administrative capacities so that we can do this in the right way, to be a functional member of the EU," Joksimović has explained.
She has recalled the statement of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who stated that the chapter on fisheries was not so important for landlocked countries, adding that there are more and more people engaged in fisheries and that the number of fish ponds is on the rise in Serbia.
"It is important for us to properly regulate the quality and production in this area, to be competitive on the market in the region and on the EU market, and to be able to use the funds available for the restoration of aquacultures," she has added.
She has said that Serbia is working intensively on negotiating positions for additional chapters.
With regard to the rule of law, she has pointed out that the reforms in this area are substantial for the society, because they change the perception of everything.
Joksimović has said that the set of amendments Serbia sent to the Venice Commission has been positively assessed and that, when a formal response is received, the opinions, comments and suggestions will be acknowledged and implemented, as well as that the consultation process will be continued because it is important to involve the society.
She has said that the preparation of the Media Strategy has also been re-initiated, with active participation of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, which will provide added value to the process.
"I believe that in the next six months, during the Austrian Presidency over the EU, which has also placed the Western Balkans among its priorities, there will be enough elements for Serbia to open other chapters for which it is prepared at the technical level, by the end of the year," Joksimović has stressed.
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn has stressed that the opening of the next two chapters represents Serbia’s further progress towards the EU membership.
He has pointed out that, this year, the EU has invested much into bringing the Western Balkan countries closer, recalling the Enlargement Strategy and the Sofia Summit. He has further added that today's Intergovernmental Conference is another proof that the European perspective of Serbia is realistic.
"We were able to open additional chapters because we noted significant progress," Hahn has said.
Speaking about Chapter 13, he has said that he can confirm that Serbian fish is excellent, and has invited EU citizens to try it when they are visiting Serbia.
He has further added that Chapter 33 is also very important, noting that Serbian citizens will benefit from the progress.
He has said that three additional chapters were discussed, but that further progress depends on the progress achieved in the rule of law and in the normalization of relations with Pristina.
"Serbia must accelerate its reforms in the rule of law," Hahn has requested.
He has also invited Serbia to align its visa policy, which, according to him, is moving away from the EU visa policy.
"The opening of additional chapters can only be achieved if there is progress in the rule of law and in normalization of relations with Pristina. Serbia is committed to progress in the rule of law, and I am convinced that new chapters will be opened during the Austrian EU - Presidency this year," Hahn has said.
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Judicial Reform and Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zakharieva has said that, at today's Intergovernmental Conference, the EU has once again shown its commitment to enlargement based on merits and fair conditions.
She has recalled that Bulgaria has set the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans as a priority of its Presidency, adding that the renewed European perspective was presented 15 years ago in Thessaloniki.
According to her, the opening of two more chapters represents a big step forward in Serbia's accession process.
She has said that the EU will continue to monitor Serbia's progress in the rule of law and with regard to the normalization of relations with Pristina.
She has commended Minister Joksimović and her commitment to Serbia's EU path, expressing her belief that there is no doubt that the accession process will be continued in the right direction.