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Joksimović and Fabrizi: Progress Report and Economic Package come at a crucial moment

October 06 2020 | Belgrade

Joksimović and Fabrizi: Progress Report and Economic Package come at a crucial moment

Today, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi has delivered the European Commission’s annual report on Serbia for 2020 and the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, adopted today by the European Commission, to Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović at the Government of Serbia.

This year, the Progress Report is presented in parallel with the announced Economic and Investment Plan, which was prepared for the purpose of ensuring a sustainable and stable development of the region in the circumstances of the improved enlargement methodology and the crisis caused by the current coronavirus pandemic, so as to support its economic and social development, as stated in the press release issued by the Minister’s Cabinet.

The annual report is a key document assessing the implementation of fundamental reforms in Serbia and it contains clear and precise recommendations and guidelines on the future steps Serbia should make in order to advance on the road to EU accession, in accordance with the improved enlargement methodology.

The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans sets out a considerable investment package, ensuring EUR 9 billion in grants for the region. It will support connectivity, human capital, competitiveness and inclusive growth, as well as a green and digital transition.

Joksimović has stressed that the Government has the necessary political will to define the essential and overarching political issues stemming from the EU accession process in the context of the broadest social consensus, adding that the new Government will set a programme course on which it will continue to accelerate the process of reforms necessary for advancing on the road to EU membership.

She has emphasised that “the European values to which the majority of the Serbian society is committed clearly show that the European integration policy represents an umbrella policy of the Republic of Serbia, which the Government and the President of the Republic of Serbia are implementing coherently”.

“Such progress and commitment of citizens is the most important result of Serbia’s EU accession process so far, representing an achievement that the current Government bequeaths to the next one as a considerable accomplishment, because the political and economic criteria for EU accession have become standards and values according to which citizens assess the progress in the improvement of their living standard, personal well-being and increase in sustainable opportunities for everyone,” stated Minister Joksimović.

The Minister has added that the Report notes that Serbia remained committed to the EU accession process and that it is implementing the necessary reforms. “The speed of the reforms differs among individual areas, which is expected given their complexity, but the important fact is that there is no backsliding in any area. We will carefully analyse every criticism and recommendation, and we will accelerate reforms where there are objective delays,” said Joksimović. 

“The Report notes progress in most areas, and the achieved level of progress enables further opening of the negotiation chapters, on the understanding that the application of the new methodology on Serbia’s negotiation process has not yet been fully defined,” stated Joksimović.

At the meeting, Ambassador Fabrizi emphasised that “this year, the European Union has delivered a comprehensive package confirming the importance of the Western Balkans”.

In the annual report, Serbia will find clear and precise recommendations for addressing key reforms so that it would accelerate its pace on the road to EU accession and make the country more competitive and environmentally sustainable. The Report put a strong emphasis on deepening and accelerating the reforms regarding political criteria and the rule of law, more specifically – the implementation of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations regarding elections and the continuation of the inter-party dialogue, the implementation of the new Media Strategy, constitutional reform of the judiciary, public administration transformation and the fight against corruption and organised crime. 

The report also notes positive developments in the economic sector given that Serbia has been developing a fully functional market economy and that it had a quick response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) for the Western Balkans, which is worth more than EUR 9 billion in IPA grants and which represents an instrument of guarantee for the Western Balkans that has the potential to mobilise up to EUR 20 billion in investments, Serbia will find an unprecedented financial package aimed at spurring the long-term socio-economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating the economic convergence with the EU. The EIP will promote connectivity and infrastructure, support a green and digital transition, and invest in new jobs and human capital.

“This comprehensive package comes at a crucial time for Serbia that is currently forming a new government. The report should serve as a guideline and a stepping stone to the acceleration of policy reforms. The Economic and Investment Plan should offer support to the economic recovery and convergence with the EU. Together, they represent a strong policy and financial tool of Serbia for faster progress on the EU path. I am sure that Serbia will use this great opportunity,” said Fabrizi.

The interlocutors have agreed with the fact that, in this reporting period, Serbia again achieved significant economic progress and that it had a timely response to the COVID-19 crisis, adding that a positive momentum of economic development has been kept at a time when the whole world is battling against the greatest crisis of this generation. 

The Enlargement Package and the Progress Report come at a right time, because they will be an important guideline on further reforms for the new Government of Serbia, as emphasised in the press release.

Source: Tanjug