The 11th meeting of the European Union-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), an exchange of views between the members of the National Assembly and the European Parliament on the relationship between the EU and Serbia, began on 30 October at the National Assembly House.
The 11th SAPC meeting was opened by co-chairs Dr Vladimir Orlic and Tanja Fajon of the National Assembly and European Parliament delegations.
The Chair of the National Assembly delegation Dr Vladimir Orlic congratulated the newly-elected MEPs, saying he was glad to see the SAPC continue with its work in the new EP legislature and hoping that it would continue is the spirit of good cooperation as evidenced in the consolidated text of the recommendations.
“The new EP rapporteur of Serbia remarked that this is an important time for EU enlargement, a time that calls for joint efforts to reach a desired solution, which requires that we work together”, said Orlic.
The reform process in Serbia will continue and intensify in the coming period because EU accession is a strategic goal for Serbia that has to be based on merit. Serbia is not asking for any special treatment but certainty, just as it is up to Serbia to complete its part of the job, the EU enlargement dilemma has to be resolved as soon as possible. He hopes that the technically ready negotiation chapters will be opened during Finland’s Presidency of the EU Council.
11th SAPC meeting co-chair Tanja Fajon said the expected the members of the National Assembly and the European Parliament to have a successful dialogue that will help Serbia on its path to the EU. The EC report on Serbia will be presented in the coming period, she said, and non-paper on the rule of law will be presented in the Council.
“The European Parliament supports the EU enlargement policy. We should not hesitate to open our doors to the Western Balkans despite the challenges of Brexit and migrations”, Fajon said.
Despite two consecutive recommendations, the heads of state and governments failed to launch accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in Brussels which Fajon believes to be a strategic mistake and missed opportunity that affects the EU’s credibility as well as the region that will be destabilized.
The members of the National Assembly and the European Parliament were also addressed by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, Finnish Ambassador to Serbia Kimmo Lähdevirta on behalf of the official Presidency of the EU Council and Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Mateja Norcic-Stamcar on behalf of the EU.
On behalf of the Serbian Government, Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic said that Jean-Claude Juncker’s strategy identifies Serbia and Montenegro as favourites, leaders of the accession process. Serbia was satisfied with how the European Commission understood the enlargement process in terms of a clear perspective. The strategy was given to Urusla von der Leyen for realization and Serbia expects it to be fulfilled, said Joksimovic.
Maintaining a certain dynamics of accession negotiations is very important for Serbia, she said adding that four more chapters are fully prepared to be opened. The European Commission will draw up an unofficial document on Serbia’s progress that will be distributed to the member states and Serbia will wait for the EU and the member states to come to an agreement on the future enlargement policy, without delaying its reform process.
Speaking of other global players, Joksimovic said that Serbia is striving to act in its citizens’ best interest, but never neglects its strategic goal which is full EU membership.
“We understand that there are other ideas and needs, the EU has institutional needs to change policies, but we are not frustrated and are very patient because our goal is full EU membership. Serbia has proved that it is a reliable partner even when circumstances do not favour the enlargement policy, but we can also ask is the EU a reliable partner in terms of sincerity of its enlargement policy? Serbia is a serious country that will not change its policy, but we also expect the EU to define its interests”, said Minister Joksimovic.
Finnish Ambassador to Serbia Kimmo Lähdevirta addressed the parliamentarians on behalf of the official Presidency of the EU Council, praising the progress of the accession talks and hoping that Serbia would soon open new negotiation chapters. The rule of law and dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina are vital for the dynamics of the negotiations, he said, adding that constitutional reform, judicial independence, functioning of democratic institutions and freedom of expression are areas that require further attention. Ambassador Lähdevirta praised Serbia’s efforts on regional cooperation, development of good-neighbourly relations and migration, as well as the SAPC’s efforts and the parliament’s support of the EU accession process.
On behalf of the EU, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Mateja Norcic-Stamcar said that the EU is committed to the integration of the Western Balkans which is why it is vital that Serbia continues with the negotiations and reforms. The EU wants Serbia to open new chapters by the end of the year, which is why the reform should pick up speed. Speaking of progress, Norcic-Stamcar said that Serbia has to reduce the levels of corruption and strengthen its democratic institutions, speed up the constitutional reform and judicial independence and ensure freedom of expression. Speaking of economic reform she opined that Serbia has made considerable progress, but still needs to improve fiscal planning, reconstruction of public enterprises and work on a constructive engagement in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia said that the EU would support Serbia’s reform and integration in any way it can.
The MPs went on to exchange views with the representatives of European institutions and Serbian Government in attendance on the state of play of the accession negotiations and EU-Serbia relations, assessment of progress in negotiating Chapters 23 and 24, and the electoral framework and processes: state of play and future steps.
The delegations of the National Assembly and the European Parliament will continue the meeting tomorrow, 31 October, with a talk on the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, EU institutional renewal and the enlargement perspective, to be followed by the adoption of the recommendations of the 11th SAPC meeting and scheduling of the new one. The completion of the 11th SAPC will be followed by a press conference of co-chairs Orlic and Fajon.