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J. Joksimović: Expectations for the opening of at least one cluster

December 06 2021 | Budapest

J. Joksimović: Expectations for the opening of at least one cluster

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has attended the Conference on the Future of Europe in Budapest, where she has expressed her expectation that Serbia will open at least one out of two clusters recommended by the European Commission, by the end of the Slovenian EU presidency.

Joksimović has participated at one of the panels together with Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, Slovenian State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gašper Dovžan and the conference organiser, Hungarian Minister of Justice and EU Judit Varga, who have all expressed expectations that Serbia will open at least one cluster.

According to her, Cluster 4 is most likely to be opened, adding that it covers four chapters – Trans-European Networks, Environmental protection, Transport and Energy.

“These are all vital policies under this Cluster related to the Green Agenda and sustainable connectivity”, said Joksimović, adding that the EU has already become an important partner to Serbia in that sense, given that Serbia finances numerous and important projects of sustainable connectivity from EU grants and favourable loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

In that context, she has mentioned the part of the railway line on Corridor 10 related to the section Belgrade–Niš, which EC President Ursula von der Leyen and President Aleksandar Vučić visited on the occasion of marking the beginning of works. The Minister has also stressed the importance of the “Highway of Peace” which will connect Belgrade and Pristina, particularly section Niš–Merdare for which the funds have already been allocated.

Joksimović has stated that she was honoured to participate at this high-level conference organised by the Hungarian Minister of Justice and EU, Judit Varga, adding that it was a chance to discuss the future of Europe, at a venue such as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which shows that Hungary actively discusses the future of the Union through a dialogue with the academic and economic community at multiple levels.

“This was an excellent opportunity for us to talk about various aspects of the European integration process and enlargement policy, as the topic of the conference was the question of whether the enlargement policy is something that can empower the EU in the future. Positive opinions were expressed, at least by Hungarian and Slovenian representatives and Commissioner Várhelyi, although we are all aware of the problems the enlargement policy faces, which is the distrust of some EU members in whether enlargement brings a concrete benefit, either political or economic, and whether it improves democracy and EU’s competitiveness in general”, stated Joksimović.

According to her, the conclusion is that everyone – the EU, Member States and the Western Balkan countries, must work together on explaining to all societies why the enlargement policy is a crucial pillar of an empowered EU and its strengthening in terms of global competitiveness.

“The idea of framing the EU within its natural borders, as envisaged by the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe, saying that, for Europe to be united, peaceful and prosperous, it should be united from east to west and from north to south, should really remain in the focus of a strengthened and energised EU in the future”, said the Minister.

Joksimović has stressed that, in the two most difficult years for the entire humanity, Serbia has never complained about the new methodology, but that it has worked even harder on the reform processes.

“We haven’t made a single complaint about the change of the rules or about the introduction of the new methodology, which we immediately and actively accepted, and we have improved our negotiating structures and reform process, which was recognised in the latest EC Report that noted that Serbia promptly responded to all the requirements of the new methodology, and we have simultaneously worked on the reforms in the rule of law area, focusing on the constitutional amendments, to improve the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, which is now seen in the EU as the essential activity in the reform process”, added the Minister.

She has stressed that not only has Serbia not complained, but it has rather accelerated and improved the reform process in the two most difficult years of fighting against the pandemic, fighting to protect its citizens and provide them with the best healthcare and socio-economic recovery.

According to her, these are the reasons why it has been noted that Serbia, even as a country in the accession process, has shown that it has a lot of capacities to be a country that can contribute to the competitiveness and resilience of the EU.

She has added that Serbia has also interconnected its policies with the EU’s in various areas, and that it has already yielded results.

“It has further been concluded that the EU must also show that the new methodology has truly improved the predictability and credibility of the process, and that everything that Serbia has demonstrated and achieved – political will, readiness, and flexibility in conducting a demanding policy in difficult times, must now be rewarded by concrete steps as envisaged by the process and the new methodology”, said Joksimović.

Joksimović has thanked the organisers for the invitation to participate in this debate on the future of Europe and discuss they ways Serbia sees the process and identifies problems, offering the ways for improvement and contribution, with the aim of dissuading sceptical members of the public who think that the process does not benefit the EU. In this regard, she has said that the process is mutually beneficial, with a clear list of benefits both for the EU and the candidate country.

“This process will last for a while, there is a lot of work to be done, but the credibility of the process must be demonstrated – if we implement reforms and work on the European agenda, we must move forward, and that is why I expect that at least one cluster will be opened and that the EU will thus show the others in the region, which as things stand will not make any significant steps, that the process is still alive, that the new methodology is alive, and that we can progress with enthusiasm and incentives to continue the reforms, which we ultimately implement in the interest of our citizens”, concluded Joksimović.

Source: Tanjug