J. Joksimović: The Balkans incorporable into the EU, Serbia’s place is within it
June 10 2019 | Belgrade
Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said today that this year's European Commission Progress Report is not any worse than the previous one and has explained that the report measures what was done during the previous year, i.e. since the last report, adding that this year's report notes progress in most of the areas, that there are areas in which progress has not been recorded, but that no backsliding has been recorded either.
"Even logically, this year's report cannot be worse than the previous one. If someone thinks that all recommendations from one reporting period will be implemented, then our process is advancing very slowly, since we are not opening chapters by which this progress could be tracked. The reporting period is relevant, as it measures what has been done in the past year, while this report notes that, compared to the previous year, progress has been made in most of the areas, as well as that there are areas in which progress was not recorded, but that no backsliding was recorded either" Joksimović has said at the opening of the Seventh Plenary Session of the National Convention on the EU.
According to her, the report may contain critical reviews of certain parts of commitments undertaken by Serbia, in terms of the pace and the lack of sufficient visible results, but to say that the report is negative or worse overall – that does not stick.
"What matters is that, after receiving the report and after the meetings, we have given our opinion where we believe that what we have done so far was not fully recorded, and where we believe political assessments were given. This is immediately interpreted as us arguing with someone and hindering our European path, but on the contrary - we are doing this in favour of the credibility of Serbia as a serious candidate for membership," Joksimović has said.
As she has said, this is because the process of European integration represents a meeting of two political wills: that of the EU and the Member States on one side, and of the candidate country on the other, which entered the process voluntarily and accepted to be supervised, evaluated, and guided in terms of giving instructions on what should be done better and faster.
Joksimović has added that this does not mean that the other side, i.e. the candidate country, cannot express its views on anything, because it is a partner in the process, and the essence of the EU is consensus.
"Even when there are differences of opinion, the essence of European integration is to reach a common platform that can acknowledge differences of opinion, but that will not block the joint work and partner relationship that is the foundation of the EU," Joksimović has stressed, adding that she believes that Serbia has proven to be a most responsible and serious candidate.
She has stressed that the main message of the report is that there is progress and that we faster pace is needed in some areas, which, according to her, Serbia will properly acknowledge.
"We have received all the recommendations from this report with utmost commitment," Joksimović has said, and added: "We will strive to implement all the recommendations that we find to be justified, but we will always provide comments on everything we think was not sufficiently noted or well interpreted."
Stating that everyone from the EU, the civil sector, and the government are saying that the reforms are the most important to implement for the citizens and that this is the motto of European integration, Joksimović has said that she partly agrees with this, given that reforms can be implemented even without the EU integration.
According to her, the reforms would, in that case, progress at a slower pace and would be more difficult, but they could be implemented nevertheless.
"The point of the candidate status and the whole negotiation process are reforms, but the essential logic is full membership. A new platform of responsibility is on both the candidate countries and the EU; the candidate countries need to show full commitment, without falling behind and backsliding, but with steps that show progress. The EU should properly valorise this through concrete progress, which implies getting closer to the EU – through closing and opening the chapters and, ultimately, achieving membership," the Minister has said.
According to her, the reforms are important primarily for the sake of citizens, but also for the sake of membership, which is the goal.
Stating that the talks about the Balkan Union were initiated several days before, Joksimović has said that some Balkan countries are already in the Union, while adding that there is no need for anyone to think that Scandinavia is historically or culturally more European than the Balkans.
She believes that the Balkans, with all the reforms, is fully incorporable into the EU system, and that Serbia’s place is within it.
"In order to maintain a credible enlargement policy, I think that there is a lot of work ahead of us, but also ahead of the EU, to strengthen itself, reform its policies, find and start speaking with one voice about its common policies," Joksimović has said, adding that the elections for the European Parliament have shown that the pro-European majority will exist, and that the citizens have shown that the EU is the mode through which they want to solve problems, in the same way the founders wanted the EU to be a model for solving the challenges of their time.
"Our commitment on the European path and the perseverance in European integration should give impetus to the EU to understand that it is still a model that possesses integrative power, that has the power to transfer its substance – peace, security, and prosperity," Joksimović has said.
She believes that this year's Report has received the deserved and significant attention that was lacking in the previous fifteen years, especially bearing in mind that Serbia was receiving reports even before the negotiations with the EU started.
"If there is an open debate somewhere, then it is in this year's report, which shows the openness of the Government and the entire society, because we are all the bearers of the process, so the implementation of the Media Strategy or the constitutional amendments are not only the obligation of the Government - it is the obligation of the society as a whole, and the biggest responsibility of the Government is to create an environment and efficiently establish a legal framework, so that everyone else may implement it properly, including the civil society," the Minister has said.