Serbia is ready to open new cluster

July 03 2024 | Belgrade

Serbia is ready to open new cluster

Hungarian Ambassador to Serbia, József Magyar, said today that, during its presidency of the EU, Hungary would recommend holding of an informal EU - Western Balkans summit in order to take advantage of a good momentum in the enlargement politics, while Minister of European Integration, Tanja Miščević, said that Serbia was ready to open a new cluster.

At the European Policy Centre conference “From Belgium to Hungary” dedicated to succession in presidency of the Council of the European Union, she said that Serbia was working hard to keep up the pace in order to prove its readiness to open Cluster 3.

We were working on the Reform Agenda for Implementation of the Growth Plan, which should improve economic and social growth and development. Dialogue with Priština continued, and we were not the ones failing to show positive attitude, said Miščević.

In ten days, in Brussels, we would talk about the comments received regarding the self-assessment of the completion of implementation of chapters 23 and 24 related to the rule of law and fundamental rights, and then, with the friends from the National Convention on the EU, we would see how and under what terms we could improve key areas in order to put ourselves in the same position as Montenegro which received green light to start closing negotiating chapters, said Miščević.

We must take advantage of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, that is, the renewed interest within the EU for the enlargement policy, which came as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, said Miščević.

We would like to use this opportunity now in the best possible manner, and not abuse it, she said, and added that the support of the civil society for this reform agenda would be needed.

Miščević said that the reform agenda could not be disclosed to public until it received approval, not of the European Commission, but of the member states, and on the other hand, the Government would not adopt reform agenda without prior opinion of the National Convention on the EU and the European Integrations Committee. That process was postponed for all, not only for Serbia, until 20th of August, she said.

Miščević pointed out also that the money from the Growth Plan and IPA was not enough for Serbia to reach the EU average, which would from this point in time take 25 to 30 years.

Speaking about countries presiding over the EU, Miščević concluded that Belgium did an excellent job in spite of the process being accelerated due to European elections, that is, that Hungary would have to work in the conditions of establishment of new institutions.

Hungary decisively put enlargement on the agenda, as it was in their best interest, in the interest of the EU, and we were ready to contribute to this process and were already working on it, she noted.

Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia, Emanuele Giaufret, stated that the drafting and quick adoption of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans were sign of strong political will of the institutions and the member states in relation to enlargement policy.

Russian aggression on Ukraine changed perspective and enlargement to the Western Balkans was seen as strategic investment for the EU, said Giaufret.

We were approaching Hungarian presidency from the vantage point of now “having more fuel” to prepare for the enlargement, said Giaufret, underlining that during Belgian presidency negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova were opened and that BiH received candidate status.

Giaufret told the press, immediately before the conference, that the enlargement was again very high on the EU agenda and that the work in all areas was continuing.

In his words, on Tuesday, EUR 1.2 billion were approved for the Western Balkans, the construction of the railway line from Belgrade to Niš continued, as well as the preparation of the first tranche for Serbia under the framework of the Growth Plan.

Hungarian Ambassador, József Magyar, reminded that his country was presiding over the EU for the second time and that he would like to see the Competitiveness Pact adopted in the next six months.

Enlargement was one of the most important issues on the agenda, Belgium did a lot and we now wanted to use this momentum, said Magyar.

He said that the efforts Serbia invested in opening a new cluster in the upcoming period must be positively assessed.

It was not good that, for over three years there was no progress in the opening of new chapters, nor had there been an Intergovernmental Conference, said Magyar, announcing a summit or a top-level informal meeting between the EU and the Western Balkans leaders.

Magyar believes that it is necessary to continue the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština and the normalization of relations.

Speaking about the visit of Prime Minister, Viktor Orban to Kyiv, Magyar underlined that peace and security were priority issues and topics of the talks in Ukraine.

Ambassador of Belgium, Cathy Buggenhout, said that Belgium had fulfilled its agenda during presidency, which was presented through the slogan - protect, strengthen and prepare.

During our presidency, negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova were opened, BiH became a candidate, and the Interim Benchmark Assessment Report (IBAR) was adopted for Montenegro.

Chairman of the Governing Board of the European Policy Centre, Srđan Majstorović, underlined that the Council of the European Union adopted strategic document for 2024-2029 on Friday, as a preparation for the next mandate and one of the priorities in this document was the preparation for future enlargement.

Thus, the EU returned the ball to the court of the candidate countries, which should meet clear and well-known commitments, said Majstorović, adding that this meant refraining from nationalist tensions, solving problems and reaching heavy compromises.

Majstorović emphasised that numerous sources added that Montenegro was a favourite for EU membership, and that it would be good to select someone else from the region to join Podgorica in this role in view of restoring the credibility of the enlargement politics.
In the press statement, Minister Miščević stated that lithium mining was not an EU requirement for Serbia, but that the EU saw it as a potential and opportunity not only for Serbia, but for the entire region.

Miščević referred to the document of the European Commission, when proposing the Growth Plan, in which document it put critical raw materials as one of the areas of accelerated integration.

In addition to topics we dealt with - single payment area or green lane, that is, the accelerated customs procedure, the area mentioned in the document, which was published at the same time as the Progress Report for the entire region, was the area of critical raw materials, said Miščević.

In her words, the whole region can assist the procurement chains in Europe in production of electric vehicles.

It is not a requirement, but the EU saw it as potential and opportunity for the entire region, repeated Miščević.

Ambassador Buggenhout said that exploitation of lithium in Serbia was an exclusive question for the Government of Serbia, and no one else, but what pertains to all the countries in the world is that we must change our manner of transportation in order to preserve the environment. One of the solutions, however not the only one, was to switch to electric vehicles, for which we need lithium batteries. She added that this was the only thing that she could say.

Answering the question whether lithium mining was becoming part of the EU integration, Ambassador of Hungary, Joseph Magyar, said that the talks were held on the topic.
He said that they supported green deal, but in a way that the relevant requirements were respected by the electric vehicles and batteries industry, as well as that Serbia could contribute a great deal.

Source: FoNet