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J. Joksimović: Report – call for acceleration of reforms because Serbia is counted on

October 09 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Report – call for acceleration of reforms because Serbia is counted on

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović says that the European Commission’s report is a call for the acceleration of reforms because Serbia is counted on, and not a threat of suspension as could be heard these days, adding that it is also an acknowledgment of Serbia’s resilience that is based on a responsible political and economic route that has been established.

She has told RTS that it is good that the report is interpreted in various ways in Serbia, as it shows that Serbia has become a participatory and democratic society, adding, however, that what is written in that report is important.

“The European Commission’s Report is a strong call for Serbia to accelerate the reform process, particularly in some areas, because Serbia is counted on. The EU understands that Serbia is potential impetus to this part of south-eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, and that Serbia is part of the revitalised European concept and the EU itself sometime in the future,” said the Minister.

She has stressed that the report is important because it notes that Serbia has demonstrated a high level of resilience owing to its vital economy that has kept its momentum in these difficult times for the entire world such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is what is important, certainly along with the improvement of the investment environment, rule of law, judiciary reform, and media freedom, which are all legitimate topics that might be criticised. We acknowledge the areas where there have been certain delays, and this Government and the future Government will carefully analyse where there have been delays due to objective circumstances, particularly the pandemic, and where we have not shown sufficient enthusiasm,” emphasised Joksimović.

Asked whether the opening of chapter 2 on the freedom of movement for workers can be expected by the end of the year, as Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi also sent encouraging messages, Joksimović has said that there is certain vagueness regarding the application of the new methodology.

She has explained that if the new methodology that Serbia accepted starts to apply, it will no longer be a matter of individual chapters but clusters, such as the cluster of the rule of law, economy, energy, environment etc.

“In some of these clusters, Serbia has opened a lot of chapters. We will then strive to open entire clusters, because by opening clusters, you gain additional access to EU sector policies,” stated the Minister.

According to Joksimović, if the old methodology remains this year, Serbia has several chapters prepared for opening: chapter 2 – Freedom of movement for workers, chapter 27 – Environment and climate change, 14 – Transport, chapter 21 – Trans-European networks, and chapter 3 – Right of establishment and freedom to provide services, while chapter 28 – Consumer and health protection is in the final stage of preparation.

She has noted that the new Government will have stronger reform impetus, and that the parliament must adopt constitutional amendments, which are essential for the judiciary reform and for the changes of the way judicial office holders are elected, which, in turn, will strengthen the independence of judiciary.

Asked whether the EU will accelerate Serbia’s European integration through the Economic and Investment Plan and place the focus on economy rather than policy, Joksimović has said that policy and economy always go hand in hand.

“One is not conditioned by the other, they are a link between the negotiation process and the financial instruments through which the EU strives not only to aid the reform process, but also to connect the region, because that is favourable for the EU, as well,” explained Joksimović.

She has stressed that Serbia had multiple prepared projects, some of which were incorporated into the Economic and Investment Plan. These include projects for the construction of the Belgrade–Sarajevo motorway and railway, a railway to Šid providing connection with Croatia, numerous waste water treatment facilities, fast internet for rural areas etc.

Commenting on the request the opposition made during their meeting with the Commissioner that Serbia should not be given money unconditionally, Joksimović has said that the withdrawal of funds depends on the progress made in the negotiation process and in the reform of the rule of law.

She has recalled that this year was the first time the report on the state of the rule of law has been written for EU member states as well.

“Such interpretations are only stories of how ‘we would like policy towards Serbia to be conducted because we are not in power’ and because citizens do not have trust in them. They had a chance to do it in circumstances far more favourable, and they did nothing,” said Joksimović.

Source: Tanjug and RTS