Information News

J. Joksimović: The most important message - reaffirmation of full EU membership

April 21 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: The most important message - reaffirmation of full EU membership

Yesterday, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted the recommendations concerning the Western Balkans with the majority vote, while Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has expressed her belief that the reaffirmation of full EU membership is the most important message for candidate countries.

In a written statement to Tanjug, Joksimović has stated that the reaffirmation of the message on full EU membership particularly stands out, given that the circumstances in which the topics of the pandemic, its health and particularly socio-economic consequences, have occupied the attention and focus of all EU Member States, as well as the entire world.

"The most important message is the reaffirmation of full EU membership for candidate countries, as the ultimate goal of the EU accession and enlargement process, which can and must be realised in parallel with internal reforms, primarily in the context of restoring the credibility of the process itself," said Joksimović.  

According to her, the message is also special given the earlier statements that there will be no admission of new members until the completion of EU internal reforms and consolidation. 

As she has said, another significant recommendation concerns the reaffirmation of incentive measures for candidate countries, their gradual integration into sectoral policies and programmes prior to attaining full membership, as well as the establishment of a strategic economic and investment plan for acceding countries.

"This is now additionally important in terms of our expectations to be included in recovery measures during the post-pandemic period. This is also an important message, given that the new enlargement methodology announced this as a future concept, but was nevertheless deprived of a clearer overview of incentive measures,” added the Minister. 

She has stressed that this issue is of particular importance for Serbia, since it is well-advanced in the accession process, adding that the commitment to the new enlargement methodology will mostly depend on the support which the EU is ready to provide to future members. 

Asked whether she thinks that the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which was supposed to take place in May but was subsequently postponed until the end of June, will actually be held on schedule, Joksimović has said that it would certainly be good to hold the Summit, expressing her hopes that the necessary conditions for its holding will be met in June. 

"It is important that the practice of holding the Summit in vivo be preserved, because such events are crucial in terms of exchanging the views and ideas of top officials both in the formal session and outside the formal context, given the role and importance that the countries from our region receive in this field." she has said.

She has stressed that she is certain that everyone in the EU cares to show that there is credible interest in the region, for both candidate and potential candidate countries, adding that the pandemic crisis has shown that without effective solidarity, constantly open lines of communication, and coordinated management of processes of all countries on the European continent, be they EU members or not, there can be no functional and sustainable response.

"This is why integrating the rest of the European continent is essential, and I am sure that this is much clearer to everyone today – both to sceptical Member States and to us who are in the negotiation process," stated the Minister. 

According to her, the general "Euro-scepticism and disillusionment that appeared during the pandemic crisis" has just made it clear how great the urgent need and expectations of EU citizens are regarding the survival of the united continent. 

"We will witness this in the forthcoming period, which will require combined efforts of everyone in Europe and the EU in order to restore the economy and society. We cannot do this without each other. Those who say otherwise should think twice. That is why it is important to hold the EU–WB Summit," said the Minister.

Commenting on yesterday's announcement by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, that the EU would provide aid to the Western Balkans, Joksimović has stressed that the EU's multiannual assistance that Serbia has so far received for the implementation of broad political, economic and institutional reforms, but also the additional support for effectively dealing with the unforeseen challenges such as floods, migration and, currently, the COVID-19 pandemic, is indeed of great importance to Serbia. 

"Had we not had investments of this kind over the previous years, we would hardly be able to tackle the challenges of this magnitude, which have bested even those who were far more prepared than us. The virus affects all European countries, regardless of whether they are EU Member States or not – therefore, this is a matter of joint responsibility, but also of efficient solidarity towards one another," said Joksimović.  

She has added that a joint problem is addressed with combined forces and capacities, while the day after involves discussing with European neighbours how to recover the economy, since everyone is economically dependent on each other.  

Joksimović has thanked EU Commissioner Várhelyi who, in his response to her letter and request for the reallocation of unspent IPA funds, promptly reaffirmed the EU's readiness to allow the use of EUR 15 million for emergency purposes, as well as EUR 78.4 million for socio-economic recovery. 

"In terms of urgent needs, the EU has already allocated EUR 4.9 million for the emergency procurement of medical equipment, namely the purchase of respirators, ventilators, monitors, protective masks, test equipment and test kits, triage containers, oxygen concentrators etc," said Joksimović, adding that EUR 4.9 million have been allocated for covering the cost of 12 cargo flights, ensuring a smooth delivery of several hundred tonnes of medical equipment and supplies. 

Additional support has been provided for the procurement and delivery of foodstuffs and hygiene packages for the most vulnerable groups of population, Joksimović has said, stressing that consultations with the EU continue regarding the best ways to utilise the available EU funds for overall social and economic recovery, taking into consideration the Economic Recovery Programme adopted by the Government with the aim of reducing the negative effects of the pandemic and of freezing of the global economic flows on the economy and competitiveness of the Serbian economy.  

Joksimović has said that Serbia, as a candidate country for EU membership, can also count on support from the EU Solidarity Fund, in addition to grants under IPA funds.

"In this regard, we have started preparing the application that we will submit in accordance with the procedures and deadlines provided for under the relevant EU legal framework," said Joksimović.

According to her, the funds from the said Fund should cover one part of the public expenditure, which, as she has recalled, amounts to hundreds of millions of euros incurred so far for the purpose of strengthening the healthcare system and preventing the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.  

Joksimović has said that Serbia is also grateful for the opportunity to participate in joint procurements with EU Member States, which can influence the quality, price and availability of the medical products, adding that this can also have a positive effect on the quality of services provided by the healthcare system.

"We are grateful for the fact that Serbia will be exempted from the application of the regulation on the temporary restriction of exports of protective medical equipment from the territory of the EU," said Joksimović. 

She has added that she is constantly in contact with the representatives of the EU Delegation to Belgrade in order to ensure that this assistance arrives at the right address, to provide appropriate care for patients, protect doctors and medical professionals within healthcare facilities, as well as to ensure that the said assistance reaches the most vulnerable groups of citizens. 

Source: Tanjug