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J. Joksimović: Serbia is not twiddling its thumbs waiting for EU negotiations under new methodology

February 08 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Serbia is not twiddling its thumbs waiting for EU negotiations under new methodology

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović speaks for Euractiv about Serbia’s preparations for the application of the new EU enlargement methodology.

Following a several-months long discussion about the future form of the EU enlargement policy, on 5 February 2020, the member states agreed on the content of the document ‘Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans’.

The new methodology primarily implies stronger political steering of the process and expectations from all Western Balkan countries to demonstrate greater commitment to the European path. In addition, this new procedure obliges the EU that, if a country makes greater progress on its own merit, it will have more access to EU funds and other instruments of common policies. Therefore, this is not a mechanical regrouping of previous chapters, but these clusters represent six leading EU policies that Serbia is aligning with and already gradually joining, with additional political liability of both sides in the negotiations.

I believe that this innovated system will suit Serbia, and that it will result in the acceleration of the accession process to the benefit of both Serbia and the European Union. In addition to strengthening the credibility of the process itself and acceleration of reforms in the entire Western Balkans, this was one of the reasons why the European Union proposed a change in the earlier way of negotiation. 

The details of this new methodology are still unknown to us and we expect them to be defined by March. As announced, the European Commission should present a roadmap, i.e. clearly defined criteria for cluster negotiations, and organize, during the Portuguese EU presidency by the end of June, the Intergovernmental Conference, as a political forum where we will fully define the application of the new methodology to Serbia with our European partners.

I believe that the answer to the question as to why those details about the way of negotiation have not been announced for countries that are well-advanced in the accession process lies in the fact that in the past year the European Union and the whole world have been focused on tackling the health, economic and social crisis of unprecedented proportions that affected all member states. In February, these circumstances almost entirely coincided with the presentation of the new EU enlargement methodology, and certainly slowed down the process of defining detailed principles and procedures under which countries that are well-advanced in the negotiation process will actually carry out accession negotiations.

What is important to stress is that we are not twiddling our thumbs waiting for the European Commission’s plan, but we have had intensive daily communication with EU member states for months now and we have been providing suggestions in our joint work with the European Commission on preparing a proposal for the application of the new cluster methodology. As stated by EU highest officials on multiple occasions, the European Union itself focuses on preserving the credibility of the entire accession process on the Western Balkans by advancing it in the direction of a clear European perspective. 

Given that the new way of negotiation requires the restructuring of the Ministry of European Integration and the negotiating structure, we are finalizing this task, and the procedure of adopting necessary documents for the establishment of this new organisation will also be completed soon. Therefore, Serbia will be ready to continue the negotiation process under the new methodology. The main idea behind all these changes is to be administratively and organisationally ready for the new way of negotiation, and thus to accelerate the entire negotiation process, with all ministers demonstrating a clear political commitment to implementing the established reform plans which are part of the Government’s European agenda.

We will see which direction the process will take when criteria for the opening of clusters are presented. What is important is that we are ready for the application of the new methodology and that we are simultaneously working on reforms related to all clusters.

Source: Euractiv