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J. Joksimović: Open and constructive discussion regarding all aspects of European integration

March 03 2020 | Paris

J. Joksimović: Open and constructive discussion regarding all aspects of European integration

France sincerely appreciates Serbia's role in the region and as a country negotiating with the EU, as well as their bilateral partnership, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has said in Paris today after meeting with French Minister of State for European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin.

Joksimović has added that the “channels of communication” between France and Serbia have further opened after last year's visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Belgrade.
“France is showing interest in increasing its presence in both Serbia and the region”, she indicated.

Joksimović has held discussions with Minister Montchalin today on topics she exchanged views on with numerous European colleagues in Berlin, Munich, as well as in Prague at the meeting of the Visegrad Group past month, and these were, in her words, topics that have been raised not only in Serbia, but also in the EU and in the rest of the Western Balkans.
“These included the topics on how France perceives the future of enlargement, what the methodology they initially proposed means for them – the methodology the European Commission later used, among other proposals provided by other member states, to prepare a second and revised proposal for the methodology, what the motives are, how long France expects the debate within the EU to last and how they view Serbia's future within the EU and on its way to the EU”, said Joksimović.

She has pointed out that the conversation with Montchalin was meaningful and open, primarily at the political level, namely, that it did not concern only the technical aspects of the process and methodology.

They discussed, as stated by Joksimović, substantive views concerning the future and the EU, as well as France’s perception of the Union and its role in the Western Balkans.
“Minister Montchalin made it clear that France really wanted to actively return to the Western Balkans, bearing in mind that Serbia is truly one of the most politically and economically important countries in the region, France's interest in being present in Serbia, both politically and economically, has greatly increased”, stated Joksimović. 

Over the course of the meeting, they talked about a number of strategic investments and the contribution of the French economy to major projects in Serbia, including the French concession at the airport in Belgrade, as well as projects that are still being intensively negotiated, in particular regarding the Belgrade metro.
“The interest in furthering economic presence in Serbia has also been expressed, which I think is good, because it shows that France appreciates the reforms carried out in Serbia and recognises the progress achieved in the area of the rule of law and reforms, with an emphasis on the fact that progress should be even faster as the most is expected from us, whereby it also recognises the economic potential of both Serbia and the countries in the region”, continued the Minister.

She has also said that they talked about the proposed enlargement methodology, which should be adopted by all EU Member States, and which was primarily drafted as a consequence of what happened due to the delay in starting negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, adding that they also conferred about the fact that the methodology was also offered to others. 

Joksimović has expressed the generally positive attitude of Serbia, saying that Serbia has no problem discussing changes and amendments.

She has also pointed out that she clearly asked how the proposed methodology would apply to the progress made so far in the open chapters, not only in terms of the number of chapters, but also in terms of the areas themselves. 
“I do not want the difficult mission our society has had in the last six years to be diminished in any way. Montchalin told me that this is not France’s idea and that France does not in any way want to artificially slow down and diminish the importance of what Serbia has achieved so far in the negotiations, and in that sense we agreed that certain more detailed elaboration concerning the application of this methodology on our negotiation process could be a topic of future talks in the coming months”, said Joksimović.

She has stated that the French Minister emphasised that the idea behind the methodology was well-intentioned, with France having the best intentions towards the region and enlargement, but also towards an open, honest policy, since they had also perceived problems in the process, just as, on the other hand, negotiating countries had acknowledged certain shortcomings in that regard.

Adding that Montchalin also said that the new methodology was designed with the idea of establishing stronger and empowered political control over the process, Joksimović has noted that she stressed that Serbia was still the only country that had negotiated under a very strict and rigorous methodology and that it had never complained about that.
“We have never lamented over the fact that we have had more difficult conditions than the countries that negotiated before us. We are not afraid to enter a new cycle, with new requirements, but we want the progress so far to be appropriately and consistently valorised”, said Joksimović.

Joksimović has added that it was crucial for Minister Montchalin to hear how Serbia perceived certain things, take note of its questions and take into consideration Serbia's expectations and proposals.

Stating that they also discussed how France viewed the future of the EU and what it considered important, Joksimović has said that these topics are important as well, since France, along with Germany, is one of the drivers of European integration development.
“With their reconciliation, France and Germany succeeded in creating the EU project, which has brought peace and prosperity to all European nations, and we hope that Serbia and our citizens as a European nation will have the same opportunity, because it has been recognised that we have a lot to offer. The French are aware that Serbia has potential in various fields, therefore this also represents a common interest”, said the Minister. 

She has noted that she is grateful for France's sincerity and willingness to hear Serbia's views, to raise the issue of shortcomings in a constructive way, but also discuss what can be constructive for everyone.

She has assessed that the visit has so far been very useful and that it is happening at the right time, because it is crucial for Serbia to hear from everyone how they perceive both the proposal of the new methodology and the proposal of the future enlargement policy.
“Only when you acquire the right information, and when you have direct contacts and become confident that someone is talking to you openly can you make the right decisions, and our interest is to make the right decision and take certain steps that can make the process even better”, noted Joksimović. 

She has added that the new methodology will have to be analysed a while longer to obtain some answers and also examine the new investment plan for the Western Balkans, which European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Oliver Várhelyi should present at the Zagreb Summit.
“We need to see what these financial instruments are, whether there will be an increase in pre-accession funds, whether there will be new investment instruments. Montchalin informed me about the current debate in the EU regarding the budget and allocations to individual Member States, which will also influence the decision on how much funding will be available to us who are in the negotiation process”, stated the Minister.

Noting that they discussed existing problems in the EU and the need for reforms in the Union itself, Joksimović has said that, at today's meeting, Montchalin conveyed that there was no need to think that enlargement would be stopped and suspended if the criteria that still existed and that might be innovated continued to be fulfilled.

Minister Jadranka Joksimović has also held a meeting today with representatives of the France-Serbia Parliamentary Friendship Group chaired by Živka Park, which was also attended by senators.

Joksimović has stated that they showed great interest in Serbia, as a country with which they saw the possibility of parliamentary cooperation, as well as cooperation at the level of civil society and various other projects that could be launched between the two countries.
“They are very interested in contributing to a better image of Serbia in France and France in Serbia. The fact that a lady of our descent, Živka Park, is the chair of that friendship group and speaks Serbian, also symbolically shows that our people here represent Serbia in the right manner”, continued Joksimović.

She has added that they discussed topics raised at the level of inter-parliamentary cooperation, explaining that the aforementioned is extremely important because they are the creators of public opinion who can significantly contribute to improving Serbia’s image in France, but also France’s image in Serbia and the region.

Over the course of the day, Minister Jadranka Joksimović will also meet with Macron’s Special Adviser for European Affairs Clément Beaune.

Source: Tanjug