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J. Joksimović: Important that the Summit has not been cancelled in these circumstances

May 03 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Important that the Summit has not been cancelled in these circumstances

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stressed today that is important that the EU–WB Summit has not been cancelled in the situation where all European countries face enormous consequences caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Appearing at TV B92, Joksimović has stated that she expects the EU’s positive political messages to the region to be reinforced at the Summit, and that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić will raise the question of Serbia’s European future and the accession process, as well as the issue of increasing grants.It has been announced that the EU will allocate EUR 3.3 billion for this part of Europe, while Joksimović has said that this is the most important matter, and that it shows that the EU is aware that it has to help the Western Balkans and support the recovery of that part of Europe, as that is significant for the EU itself.

“It is so because we are inextricably connected through our markets”, stated the Minister, recalling that 65–70% of Serbia’s total foreign trade is with the EU, while, for the entire region, that share reaches 85%.

“The sooner they recover, the faster Serbia and our economy will recover”, stated Joksimović.

She has added that grants will be increased, which was Commissioner Várhelyi’s idea, stressing another important fact that an investment framework for the Western Balkans will be developed and be intended for regional projects that are strategically important for the area of trans-European networks – regional energy infrastructure, transport, digitisation, green corridors and everything else connecting the region.

“We will also be interested in presenting projects that have a regional component and that are of national interest, and we will ask for additional funds,” said Joksimović.

According to Joksimović, the political importance of the Summit lies in the EU showing interest in joint recovery of economies, and a clear intention to include the Western Balkans in numerous sector policies and instruments, including financial ones.

“This is actually the beginning of regular holding of meetings between highest representatives of the EU and the Western Balkans”, stated the Minister.

According to her, during the pandemic, all countries have had their moments of truth on two levels, the first being the EU’s relation towards the Western Balkans.

“There were talks about the lack of solidarity, the lack of timely response, there were delays, but this was all caused by the second moment of truth – how much we, as nation states, were ready to face the crisis”, state Joksimović.

She has also said some countries had their moment of truth that they were not ready to face this crisis.Joksimović has specified that healthcare has never been a topic of the EU common policy, and has never been part of the EU common policy.

“This moment of truth led to the second moment of truth – the relation towards the Western Balkans. All things considered, I think we all together passed the test, both the EU with regard to the Western Balkans, and we with regard to ourselves. This is the basis for this Summit,” stressed the Minister.

Asked if she thinks the holding of the Summit can be interpreted as a positive signal the EU is sending to the Western Balkans, Joksimović has said that it is a clear and strong signal, which comes at a time after the countries have faced their internal problems and when they partially tackled the crisis.

“No one has completely tackled the crisis, but we have reached a moment when we can deal with other topics, and they have immediately focused on the Western Balkans and Serbia, which shows that they believe that there is no recovery after the pandemic if we do not work together”, said the Minister.

Source: Tanjug