Information News

J. Joksimović: Enlargement process suffered, it should be revitalised

February 01 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Enlargement process suffered, it should be revitalised

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has assessed today that, in 2020, Serbia faced the same or similar problems as most of the EU member states due to the coronavirus, and that it demonstrated a high level of resilience, adding that the process of European integration of the Western Balkans suffered serious blows, and that she believes that, this year on, it should be revitalised.    

Speaking at the online meeting between the parliamentary committees of the EU and Serbia, Joksimović has stressed that the enlargement process suffered the blows of a neglected enlargement policy. She has also noted that there were some internal delays in the Western Balkan countries, some of which were justified, while others were not.  

“I believe that, this year on, the enlargement policy will be revitalised towards the entire Western Balkans, taking account of our interest as a country that is well-advanced in the accession process, and that the enlargement process will be finally understood in the right way – as a common policy that can significantly support the renewed revitalisation of the EU and the European space, and of the European economic and sustainable growth”, said Joksimović. 

She has recalled that Serbia has accepted the new negotiation methodology, stating that the process will include negotiations under clusters, and that there will be no more talk about individual chapters, but about six leading EU common policies which should lead to a partnership for sustainability and resilience.    

She is certain that the majority of member states will recognise Serbia as an important element and as a country that has shown results and that has the capacity and the possibility to contribute, particularly bearing in mind the way the new methodology is set up.    

Joksimović has said that the new methodology has not yet been officially fully elaborated and presented in terms of a roadmap for application, adding that she and the members of the Ministry she is heading are also consulting with Commissioner Várhelyi, together trying to find the best models that will lead to the possibility of accelerating the process.    

“This was the main motive and aim of introducing the new methods and elements of the new methodology which Serbia unambiguously accepted”, said Joksimović.    

She has added that, several months ago, Serbia actively engaged in a double mission: talking to all EU partners, while introducing a restructured organisation of the Ministry of European Integration and all negotiating structures, adapting them to the new cluster approach. 

According to her, special focus is placed on a new approach to coordinating national reforms that should merge and move towards the achievement of the goals of the Green Agenda, digitisation, sustainable Green Deal and sustainable development, and all other clusters.    Joksimović has stressed that cluster 1 is and will be key for measuring Serbia’s progress, because Serbia has already negotiated under strict rules before.    

She has nonetheless noted that the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans cannot be fully implemented if the four key clusters for that plan and sustainable transformation and convergence of Western Balkan economies with the EU economies are not seen as the main means and instrument for its realisation.    

She has added that this refers to cluster 2 – internal market, cluster 3 – competitiveness and inclusive growth, cluster 4 – Green Deal, digitisation and infrastructural connectivity, and cluster 5 – resources, cohesion and agricultural policy.    Cluster 1 comprises political criteria, while cluster 6 is related to external relations, added Joksimović.    

“We are completely prepared to begin applying the new methodology, we are soon expecting a political Intergovernmental Conference to be held, as provided for in the paper on enhanced negotiation methodology of 5 February and the subsequently defined roadmap in 2020, in terms of which we should reach an agreement and understanding regarding the application of the new methodology, so that we would accelerate the accession process”, emphasised the Minister. 

Joksimović has stated that the reforms implemented in Serbia are visible, adding that the new Government has actively initiated the reform process, particularly in regard to some of the missing elements of activities in the area of the rule of law.    

She believes that all those activities are a clear sign of the new Government’s and Serbia’s approach, noting that there have been some delays, but that 2020 also brought many delays in the EU member states and the EU itself.    

“Candidates are sometimes too harshly assessed, sometimes the criteria are too strict compared to the challenges we all share, but there has never been a dilemma about whether Serbia will actively continue the European integration process”, said Joksimović, adding that, this year, Serbia will show that it is serious in its reforms in the area of the rule of law.    

As regards the judiciary reform, adhering to mandatory procedures, the new Government had to re-submit an entire set of amendments to the parliament for debate and adoption, while all other reforms within the economic package, which Serbia has been implementing for years, will be adopted by the end of the month.    

It will be the same with many other activities defined within the six clusters.  

 “We have developed a plan, all ministries are included; new methodology entails greater political engagement and commitment of everyone in the Government, all ministries and institutions, including the National Assembly and other parts of the state system. This is a process for all, where everyone has their part, obligations and responsibilities, and also where everyone benefits. I believe we are serious in this and that this year will show it”, stated the Minister.    

On the other hand, Joksimović has said the Serbia expects the EU and EC to show seriousness in terms of a more credible enlargement process, along with an improved elaboration and application of the new methodology.    

As regards the inter-party dialogue, Joksimović has said that the parliament is the place for that type of dialogue, and that the ruling party has demonstrated readiness and involvement in the process.  

In terms of the Investment Plan and IPA programmes, Joksimović has stated that, on 31 July and in August, Serbia submitted 12 large infrastructural projects related to the Green Deal, transport, social inclusion, digitisation and energy, adding that they have all been positively assessed by the European Commission.    

“Serbia is in no way falling behind, on the contrary – we are showing a high level of proactivity in certain segments, and I believe that this will result in this year’s acceleration of the accession process”, emphasised Joksimović.    

With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, Joksimović has recalled that Serbia was one of the first countries to financially participate in the process of vaccine development, having made two financial donations – first worth EUR 2 million, and second worth EUR 100,000.    

“We believed that the needs of Serbia and citizens of the region would be additionally acknowledged through the COVAX mechanism. Unfortunately, due to the known problems with suppliers and problems in EU countries, Serbia has not yet managed to procure the vaccines through this mechanism”, said the Minister.    

Joksimović has said that EUR 70 million of assistance has been allocated, but that the funds have not yet been distributed, and that, even if they were, Serbia would not be able to purchase the vaccines with that money.  

 “We as a responsible Government and President Aleksandar Vučić have worked on procuring the vaccines”, said Joksimović, proudly emphasising that Serbia is currently the second country in Europe by the number of the inoculated per 100,000 people.    

“We wish and we hope that an improved mechanism of vaccine procurement and joint procurements through some mechanisms will be available to the Western Balkans as well”, said Joksimović, noting that, unfortunately, some countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have not yet entered the process.    

“I believe that it is the EU and EC’s huge responsibility to help our neighbours as well”, said Joksimović, adding that Serbia will help as much as it can.    

“We have already reserved one batch of vaccines for North Macedonia, and thus shown that we are organised and resilient, and that we truly and properly care not only for our citizens but also for the health of EU citizens”, said the Minister.

Source: Tanjug