The sixth meeting of the European Union-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), held on 13 and 14 September 2017 at the European Parliament HQ in Strasbourg, was co-chaired by Eduard Kukan, Chairman of the European Parliament delegation, and Dr Vladimir Orlic, Chairman of the delegation of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.
In the course of the two-day talks at the European Parliament the members of the National Assembly and the European Parliament exchanged opinions on the state-of-play of the pre-accession talks and relations between the European Union sand Serbia, Serbia’s preparations to open new chapters, dialogue on the normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina, refugee crisis troubling Serbia and the EU member states, implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, basic human rights and freedoms, gender equality, domestic violence, economic development and reform.
The representatives of the European Commission, Parliamentary Committee co-chair Eduard Kukan and a large number of MEPs, talked about the speech of the President of the European Commission at yesterday’s European Parliament session stating that it is essential to provide more substantial support for the enlargement prospects of the Western Balkan countries, especially those most consistent in their reforms and harmonization with the EU acquis, such as Serbia. They stressed that, as far as the talks with Serbia are concerned, two more intergovernmental conferences are expected to be held by the end of the year to open talks on technically prepared and harmonized chapters.
Estonia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union underlined their support for the continuation of the enlargement process, commending the efforts invested by all the Serbian institutions, the country’s commitment to the talks with the European Union and the maintenance of peace, stability, security and economic progress through regional cooperation.
Orlic said that Serbia and all of its institutions will have to tackle a great many tasks, adding that the challenges on the path to harmonization are significant and require the concentrated efforts of all the social elements, but as far as Serbia is concerned its priorities are clear – comprehensive reform and full EU membership. He informed the MEPs that support for Serbia’s EU accession process stands at 50%, while the support for the reform is very high – 66%. He stressed that this is a heartening fact as well as a great responsibility for Serbia’s policy makers. He added that this is a goal set with a clear economic, legal and political framework by the Serbian side, supported by a series of national strategies and action plans, the National Programme for the Adoption of the EU Acquis and the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. He said he was pleased by the clear political support, financial and technical assistance provided by the European Union in the last 15 years. He also hoped that the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo-Metohija would not be long coming.
Speaking of EU’s internal challenges, the European officials said that there is cause for joy because the economic indicators are good, employment is on the rise and a consensus has been reached on the implementation of a common migrant policy. The future of the European Union is being discussed in many a well-argued debates and the expected stabilization is within reach. Since the EU and its member states constantly urge for stability in its immediate neighbourhood, it is necessary to offer the Western Balkans a clear accession perspective, they concluded.
EP Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister said that the Union is ready to accept new members after 2019, just like the President of the European Commission had said. He affirmed that the Union is ready for Serbia’s accession, the heads of state and governments also supported the enlargement process, and Bulgaria, which is next in line for EU Council presidency, stated that enlargement would be one of its priorities. McAllister said that there is no deadline for the completion of the talks, it depends on the country’s progress and added that he believed that three new chapters would be opened by the end of the year, which would be a reward for the efforts Serbia has invested in the process.
The representatives of the National Assembly and the European Parliament agreed that the European Union is Serbia’s most important trade partner as well as the biggest donor in the last 15 years and that the citizens need to be kept appraised of it. The representatives of the Serbian Government and the MPs thanked the EU for the assistance, especially since it is channelled for the essential reforms and Serbia’s activities toward resolving the migrant crisis. They stressed that one of the priorities of the Ministry for European Integration would be to enhance the visibility of the European integration process and the support Serbia is receiving from the EU through communication with the citizens.
The officials also exchanged views about the dialogue on the normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina, where Belgrade’s constructive approach was commended and the Serbian delegation’s request for an urgent establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo-Metohija, which is the only part of the Brussels Agreement whose realization has not begun, was endorsed. Speaking with the members of the National Assembly, the MEPs highlighted the visible and considerable progress Serbia has made in the EU accession talks, regional cooperation and the last round of negotiations and agreements reached in the dialogue on the normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Co-chairs Kukan and Orlic agreed that the meeting was characterized by a friendly atmosphere, constructive debate and excellent conclusions. The Committee completed the meeting by adopting a Declaration and Recommendations
which highlight Serbia’s achievements, the challenges both sides have to tackle in the course of the accession talks and EU enlargement. The two partners are committed to send a clear message to the EU Council and member states to open the prepared negotiation chapters with Serbia by the end of the year. The co-chairs concluded that the establishment of a system of values based on principles cherished by both sides is the primary common goal.