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J. Joksimović: EC Report objective in presenting state in Serbia

October 25 2021 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović: EC Report objective in presenting state in Serbia

“Overall, the 2021 EC Report on Serbia objectively discusses what has been done, notes the achievements and points the delays, and shows the direction we should take”, stated Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović on the occasion of presenting the Report to the business community at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PKS).

She has emphasised that it is very important for the business community gathered around PKS to be involved in the negotiation process, as well as in the analysis of the Report.

She has noted that the enlargement process has changed a lot in the previous five, six, and even ten years, given that the circumstances in the EU have changed as well, adding that further changes have been brought on by the pandemic, and that, given the aforementioned, Serbia has firmly remained on course and accepted the new rules of the game introduced by the new methodology in the middle of the pandemic.

“After the Report was published, I heard a lot of interpretations by various regular critics that the Report, although being positive, is not objective, because, according to them, it was done by a commissioner who favours Serbia. However, I must say that this Report was the first to be made according to the requirements and criteria of the new methodology, which provides for a far greater involvement of the Member States in its preparation, giving key contributions for all relevant criteria which then go through the EC consultation procedure”, said Jadranka Joksimović.

As regards economic criteria, she has stressed the importance of Cluster 2, which covers nine chapters, including competition policy, free movement of goods, capital and workers, and consumer and health protection, adding that Cluster 4, which covers the Green Agenda, digitalisation, transport, environmental protection, climate change and energy, is becoming increasingly more important.

According to her, a lot has been done within Cluster 4, which is ready for opening.

The Head of the EU Delegation, Emanuele Giaufret, has noted that European integration has an impact on economy, trade and direct investments, which is why it is important for the business community to be involved in the European integration process.

“The European Commission has confirmed its support to the European perspective of Serbia and remains committed to it, and it is your job to work and achieve results”, said Giaufret, commending the fact that Serbia immediately accepted the new methodology last year.

He has stated that the EC supports the opening of clusters 3 and 4, but that the Member States will decide on it at the following conference, which, according to him, may be held in December, depending on the Member States’ decision.

Andrea Hochhuber, the Head of European Integration, Economic and Trade Section at the EU Delegation to Serbia, has noted that in some areas there was more progress, while in others there was less, stating, for example, that, as regards public procurement, the number of exemptions from the application of the public procurement law increased, which should change, adding that greater attention should be given to the areas of environment and climate change.

As positive aspects, she has stressed that the European Union is the most loyal trading partner of Serbia and that most foreign direct investments come to Serbia from the EU, around 68 %.

Milun Trivunac, Advisor to the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has emphasised that, in addition to the political criteria, the economic dimension of the European integration process is vital, as well as building a strong economy capable of being competitive on the single and large EU market.

“The Report assesses that Serbia has achieved some progress and is moderately prepared for the development of market economy. In light of the last year’s challenges brought on by COVID-19, the Report assessment stating that domestic economy recorded a slight drop in GDP in 2020 is particularly important, as it is the result of timely fiscal measures intended for supporting domestic economy”, said Trivunac.

He has added that another important assessment is that the last year recorded a further decline in unemployment, which can be considered as an accomplishment of domestic companies.

He has said that the Report confirms that Serbia has been recording a continuous improvement of the operating conditions rank with international institutions, which, according to him, is a result of regulatory operating conditions, owing to which easier issuance of building permits, property registration, taxation payment, and protection of minority shareholders in companies have also been recorded.

“The report shows that we will have to work more on facilitating access to financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, invest in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, and further adjust education and training to the needs of the labour market. PKS is actively working on it as a promoter and participant in dual education in Serbia”, stressed Trivunac.

He has noted that the EC Report recorded progress in legislative alignment in the areas of company law, freedom of movement for workers, simplified issuance of work permits to third country nationals, as well as in the area of the right of establishment and freedom to provide services.

He has said that four chapters have been opened within Cluster 2, including free movement of capital, public procurement, intellectual property and financial services, while opening benchmarks are yet to be met in the chapters on free movement of goods and competition policy.

He has emphasised that PKS is ready to make all its capacities available and provide additional support for further progress in these areas.

Source: Tanjug