Information News

J. Joksimović: I expect Serbia to make progress during the German presidency

July 01 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: I expect Serbia to make progress during the German presidency

Today, Germany is taking over the EU presidency, which comes at a specific, difficult and challenging moment for Europe, as assessed by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, who has added that she expects that the following six-month period will result in Serbia’s progress on the European path.

Joksimović has told Tanjug that the enlargement policy has not vanished even though it is currently less visible.

She has further said that Germany initially proclaimed that enlargement and the Western Balkans would be one of the priorities and included in the Agenda.

“But, with all the issues the EU itself has, enlargement is not as visible as it used to be. Nonetheless, I believe that, within the so-called troika which includes the currently presiding country and the two upcoming presidencies – in this case Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, Germany will certainly keep enlargement high on the agenda,” emphasised the Minister.

Joksimović has recalled that the economic package of incentives for the Western Balkans has been announced for autumn, and that it should define the ways to offer additional financial instruments for overcoming the economic effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

On the other hand, according to her, it is yet to be seen how the pre-accession funds, the so-called IPA 3 for the period 2021–2027, will be presented in the EU budget, what the allocations will be for the Western Balkans and which areas will be crucial.

Joksimović thinks that the crucial areas will include the Green Agenda, digitisation, connectivity, transport, and other areas that can increase growth and connect the region that will then become more attractive to the EU.

She has also recalled that the real Progress Report was supposed to be published in April or May, but that it was postponed for autumn due to the pandemic, adding that, in the meantime, the Non-paper was published, which was supposed to present an overview of the past year, but instead it gave an overview of the previous six months. 

“We could not do much in the past six months, given the fact that we experienced a period of pandemic that lasted for more than three months, which halted numerous reform processes,” said the Minister.

She believes that the real Report that will be presented in autumn, during the German presidency, will certainly give new elements and an overview of everything that Serbia has done.

Joksimović has emphasised that Serbia also completed the election process, which is another important matter.

Stating that there are great expectations from Germany, Joksimović has said that Germany’s capacities, both economic and political, are also great, which she also deems significant for Serbia.

“Germany is an important partner to Serbia, and I have to tell you, from the point of European integration, I know that many citizens think that it is Germany that is blocking us, but Germany is an open partner, I highly appreciate their positions because I know exactly what it is that we can expect and I know that when we agree on something it will be realised,” explained Joksimović.

She has added that Serbia has a continuous and open communication with Germany, because Germany invests in Serbia a lot and it is its largest bilateral partner. 

“I expect that the following six-month period will result in Serbia’s progress on the European path, and in an objective consideration of a possibility for Serbia to become part of that economic recovery. I think we have already done a lot in this regard, and it seems to me that will be doing even more, which for our citizens is the most important thing,” stressed the Minister.

According to her, Serbia continues its reform process, and now it will have a new Government, a new composition and a new agenda, which she believes will be strengthened in terms of placing additional focus on the European path.

She has stressed that the European path has been in focus so far as well, and that the entire Government has worked and has done a lot in the context of European integration, adding that they left a sound legacy to the new Government.

“We have done a lot in extremely difficult circumstances when enlargement was unpopular, particularly in the last two or three years. We have also done a lot with regard to the economic and political agenda, in terms of reforms in the area of the rule of law, where there is still work to be done, particularly regarding the judiciary reform,” said Joksimović.

According to her, even in these difficult circumstances, Serbia has been recognised as a reliable partner.

“We have brought the Serbian ship into European waters, and I think this can only be accelerated, and I believe that the German presidency will certainly support this acceleration,” concluded Joksimović.

In terms of expectations from the German presidency regarding Kosovo and Metohija, Joksimović has said that there are expectations that the Belgrade–Pristina dialogue will continue and that the achievement of a solution will somehow be accelerated.

She has stressed that there will be no artificial acceleration, recalling that, in terms of European integration, Serbia’s negotiation process clearly implies that a comprehensive agreement of the normalisation of relations should be reached prior to assuming full EU membership.

“There are no deadlines, but it is in our interest, and I believe in the EU’s interest as well, to stabilise this area additionally, and one of the challenging issues for security is the attempt to find a sustainable solution for Kosovo and Metohija,” said the Minister.

She has recalled that the Brussels Agreement clearly states that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities is an indisputable obligation of Pristina, which it has not fulfilled. 

“We will see, certainly Belgrade is not the party that created obstructions and President Vučić clearly stated it, and I also believe it is good that our interests have been recognised, because at one point it seemed we had nothing to negotiate on and that we did not have a say. Our interests have returned to the table, and I expect that this will certainly be one of the topics that will be initiated during the German presidency,” said Joksimović.

She has concluded that Serbia’s position regarding the matter is clear and that it has been constant.

“We have been a predictable participant in the process, we have not made additional problems; on the other hand, we have our expectations and interests that are recognised by everyone in the EU, including Germany,” added Joksimović.

According to her, not only the eyes of candidates, but also the eyes of the EU member states are on the German presidency, because, in the next six months, the EU will be addressing substantive issues.

Joksimović has said that the issues the Union will be addressing during the German presidency will not only concern the economic recovery from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also consolidation and cohesion which are necessary for the Union to become more resilient in the future, and consequently more functional for the candidate countries as well. 

“Germany is taking over the presidency in difficult circumstances, the level of trust in and expectations from the German presidency is high,” stated Joksimović, adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, through the joint initiative with French President Emmanuel Macron, has shown the direction the German presidency wants to take. 

According to her, it implies the achievement of a comprehensive agreement regarding the direction Europe should take, and particularly the resolution of several crucial issues, including reaching agreement on the financial package for recovery called “the next generation”, which envisages EUR 750 billion for the recovery of all European economies.

At the same time, a debate on the EU multiannual budget that started before the outbreak of the pandemic is being reinitiated, said Joksimović, noting that this debate is also expected to be completed during the German presidency.

“I think it is good that Germany is presiding at this moment, because if there is one advantage Germany as a presiding country holds, it is a responsible, relatively conservative but sufficiently flexible economic policy, because Germany is the largest economy and the largest contributor to the European budget,” emphasised the Minister.

Serbia’s EU membership achievable in 2026

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović believes that Serbia can become a full EU member state in 2026, assessing that it is “feasible and achievable” with a note that the EU accession date does not depend on accepting the new methodology which will neither bring Serbia back to the beginning nor will it lead it to membership overnight. 

Joksimović believes that it is possible for Serbia to become an EU member in the period 2025–2027, adding that it is sometimes forgotten the EU credible enlargement strategy of February 2018 clearly states that, if the EU is ready and if Serbia fulfils its obligations, 2025 is a potential year of accession.

“We were then saying that it was not a promise but a possibility, and whether it will be 2025, 2026 or 2027 is not that relevant. I am glad that, in Brussels, President (Aleksandar) Vučić got indications of 2026, which is good and coincides with what I have been saying for a long time, not because I am a Euro-enthusiast or overly optimistic, but because I am familiar with the processes in the EU and I know how important it is to the Union to have Serbia as its member,” said Joksimović in her interview for Tanjug.

She has recalled that prior to 2012, Serbian governments promised membership in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011, while the current government has not given false promises, but has pointed to the possibilities which depend, on one hand, on the EU and its capacity to receive new members, and on the other hand, on Serbia’s steps in the reform process.

She has emphasised that the EU accession process is not the same as it used to be 10 years ago, and that it is incomparably more difficult, which everyone is aware of.

“But, I have never considered it as a justification for whining and constant blaming of others. Serbia has its part of the job, as does the EU which has to consolidate itself, recover and become more unified and speak with a single voice about the enlargement and other policies,” stated Joksimović.

She believes that the date of EU accession should not be linked to the new enlargement methodology, stressing that no one in Serbia is against that model and that both President Vučić and Prime Minister Ana Brnabić immediately reacted in a positive manner, but that she was more careful and that she asked the EU partners how the new methodology would affect the negotiation process of Serbia which has so far opened 18 out of 35 chapters.

Responding to the argument of certain representatives of the opposition and analysts that Montenegro accepted the new methodology and opened a new chapter, Joksimović has said that Montenegro accepted the new model at a moment when it had 34 out of 35 opened chapters, where the last chapter was opened according to the old methodology, although Montenegro had already accepted the new one.

“Montenegro did not negotiate according to the same methodology as Serbia, which is the only country that had to open each chapter on condition that it had made progress in chapters 23 and 24, i.e. in the rule of law. Montenegro is opening chapters for which it is ready regardless of the progress in those chapters,” explained the Minister, noting that the new methodology envisages strong political steering in the rule of law process. 

She believes that the Non-paper, i.e. the informal European Commission report, which was ad hoc published in June and based on which the decision was made to not open a single chapter with Serbia during the Croatian EU presidency, was not entirely founded in facts. 

“This reports, which presented a six-month overview, has noted that we have adopted the Media Strategy that was one of the crucial parts for all countries in terms of chapter 23, that we have established numerous legal frameworks in the fight against corruption, while chapter 24, which addresses security, migration and fight against organised crime, has been positively assessed in almost all aspects,” stated Joksimović.

She has assessed that this was a political decision of certain EU member state, which Serbia understood but which she believes was unnecessary.

“The Progress Report will soon come during the German presidency, and there will certainly be a chance to open new chapters,” said Joksimović.

She has recalled that the new methodology envisages a cluster approach, i.e. six clusters, and that Serbia has several opened chapters in each of them, which begs the question of whether accepting this model will imply the immediate opening of all clusters or whether certain parts will have to be restarted from the beginning.

“It is important to know this, although it will not change anything essentially; this will not bring us back to the beginning or lead us to the door of the EU overnight. Maybe it is a matter of technicality, but everything is important is the accession process and it is conducted in a comprehensive and serious way. Everyone in Europe knows that and they highly appreciate that Serbia is implementing the European integration process in a professional, responsible and dedicated manner,” stressed Joksimović.

The Minister has expressed her expectation that the new Serbian Government will give new impetus to European integration and that there will be an intensive reform process which she has stressed will primarily be important for the citizens.

According to her, that does not mean that the previous Government did not work sufficiently on European integration and reforms, but that it is important that the message the Government sends to the citizens and partners in the region and the EU is unambiguous regarding Serbia’s commitment to the European path as a foreign policy priority, as well as a priority for its development plan. 

“I expect Serbia’s pro-European orientation to be further strengthened, and not in a declarative way. Until 2012, many had been saying that they were great pro-Europeans, but they had not been implementing any reforms,” stated Joksimović.

Commenting on the criticism regarding the fact that no new chapters have been opened, Joksimović has said that everyone is invited to offer criticism, reiterating that the European Commission did not make that decision because Serbia had not done anything, but because it was a political decision.

“Everyone making criticism should know why it happened, what the current relations in the region and the EU are, and what is expected of Serbia. Criticism is always welcome, but only if it is founded in facts,” concluded Joksimović.

Source: Tanjug