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J. Joksimović: Change of negotiation structures brings stronger political steering

April 23 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: Change of negotiation structures brings stronger political steering

The change of negotiation structures in Serbia’s process of EU accession entails greater and stronger political steering of the accession process, as well as undertaking greater political responsibility for the implementation, as stated by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, who has also expressed her belief that this will bring a new pace and give new impetus to EU negotiations.

Joksimović has told Tanjug that, on her initiative, on 15 April, the Serbian Government adopted a document on the establishment of the Coordination for Conducting Negotiations on the Republic of Serbia’s Accession to the European Union and the formation of the Team for Support to Negotiations, explaining that this is not a completely new format, but that the existing structures have been reorganised according to the key requirements of the new methodology.

She has stressed that Serbia’s goal in changing negotiation structures is to have a more efficient and effective response to the increased criteria in the EU accession process and to the need to steer the process in a more political way and undertake greater political responsibility for the implementation of the agreed, as required by the new methodology.

“It is necessary to achieve clear coordination of all new thematic units, which are now grouped in six clusters instead of 35 chapters. These are significant changes that require everyone in the Government to shift their focus towards obligations in the accession process”, said Joksimović.

She has noted that the process of reorganising negotiation structures has begun several months ago, but that Serbia has been waiting for the final version of the new methodology, for which she expects to be mutually clarified in all aspects at the Intergovernmental Conference that should be held by the end of June, when the Portuguese EU presidency ends.

With regard to the Coordination for Conducting Accession Process, Joksimović has explained that the greatest change has happened in terms of the structure and better political coordination of all ministries, which have their responsibilities within the accession process, adding that, in this way, Serbia is responding to the key requirement of the new methodology – greater and stronger political steering of the accession process.

She has added that the “technocratic” part remains a vital segment of negotiations, but that it is important to follow the pace of the implementation and adoption of the agreed, and thus undertake greater political responsibility.

“I think this should be commended and not criticised. This is not about whether something was bad or good, but about the fact that requirements have changed, and we are adhering to them as the serious and responsible country in the accession negotiations that we are. Serbia has been the first country to initiate the process of changing and improving its structures according to the new EU enlargement methodology”, noted the Minister.

As regards the Team for Support to Negotiations, Joksimović has said that the concept has not changed significantly, but that, instead of the Head of the Negotiating Team and working negotiating groups for each chapter, there will be coordinators for each of the six clusters.

She has recalled that, according to the old methodology, there were 35 negotiation chapters and that working negotiating groups worked independently of each other, adding that now chapters are grouped in six clusters and that the opening of each of them requires intensified communication and alignment of reform activities in various areas and negotiating groups, through various chapters within a single cluster.

“For certain clusters, depending on the area, there will be several coordinators from different ministries. This means that assistant ministers and state secretaries from line ministries will be coordinators of thematic clusters, which will strengthen inter-sector coordination”, stated Joksimović.

On the other hand, she has emphasised that this also increases political commitment and political steering of the process, as well as the responsibility for the implementation.

“This is the essence of the new methodology. For instance, in cluster 4 which comprises the Green Deal, digitalisation and sustainable connectivity, the coordinators will come from the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. In this way, it is exactly known how negotiating groups are coordinated through all four chapters in cluster 4, how the obligation agenda is defined and how it is followed”, stated Joksimović.

She has added that the Minister of European Integration is the Chief Negotiator, but that the reforms are related to specific areas and that it is the reason why greater involvement and commitment was expected from everyone in the Government.

“I think that we have done that well in the structural sense, and that it will bring a new pace and give new impetus to the negotiations. We expect that the new methodology, though an increased pace and stronger interest, both on our part and on the part of the EU, will lead us to the main point, and that is the acceleration of the process and greater predictability and credibility of the process, which are the main elements of the new methodology”, said Joksimović.

She has stressed that Serbia has opened 18 out of 35 chapters and that it is well-advanced in the accession process, which is why, according to her, it was important to reinforce the rest of the road within the revised accession process.

“All the colleagues, including the Prime Minister and President of Serbia, have met this with understanding, which is important, because this is the matter of political synergy. I thought that we had to improve and establish clear lines of communication, and that we all should enter the process with greater commitment, and I believe this will bring good results”, said Joksimović.

Source: Tanjug