The National Assembly House is hosting the ninth meeting of the European Union-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC), begun on 29 October, where the National Assembly members and MEPs are discussing the aspects of the EU-Serbia relations.
The ninth SAPC meeting was opened by co-chairs Dr Vladimir Orlic and Eduard Kukan, heads of the National Assembly and European Parliament delegations.
Opening the SAPC meeting, Dr Vladimir Orlic, head of the Serbian delegation, said he was very pleased by the fact the meeting is taking place in Belgrade where the representatives of the European Commission and the Serbian Government will be presenting the state-of-play of the negotiations to the European and Serbian parliamentarians.
Eduard Kukan, head of the European Parliament delegation, said he was sure this SAPC meeting will again advance Serbia’s European integration process. He stressed that the European Parliament continues to promote the enlargement policy and that European integration is the best was to ensure Serbia’s stability and prosperity. He said that we must see the bigger picture, a strong EU is only one with new members, ones adjusted to the EU acquis, democratic partners whose citizens have the right to their right being respected, to professional trials and free media. Kukan said that in its reform of the rule of law Serbia needs to be empowered as a country and its economy presented as attractive for investment.
“2018 was the year of opportunity for the Western Balkans, “golden opportunity” accompanied by a Strategy and Summit in Sofia. Though disappointed by the halt of the Belgrade-Pristina talks we hope both sides remain dedicated to dialogue leading to a legally binding document”, said Kukan.
The Serbian and European parliamentarians were also addressed by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic, EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi on behalf of the European Commission and Austrian Ambassador to Serbia Nikolaus Lutterotti on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
On behalf of the Serbian Government, Minister Joksimovic briefed the parliamentarians on all the issues of importance for the negotiation process. She stressed that in the course of the Bulgarian Presidency there was just one intergovernmental conference, adding that Serbia will have seven or more negotiating positions ready for December and expects to catch up in the “year of enlargement”. She said that Serbia has prepared positions for chapters 9 - Financial services, 18 – Statistics, 17 - Economic and monetary policy , 2 - Freedom of movement for workers, 4 - Free movement of capital, 21 - Trans-European networks and 14 - Transport policy, which are all important for Serbia’s European path, and hoped that at least three would be opened before the end of the year.
“The opening of chapters should not be an end unto itself. Rigidity in requiring special criteria for the opening of chapters should be lessened because real reform starts with the opening of chapters, and the end goal is their closure, with is in the interest of the EU and what is more the Serbian citizens”, said Joksimovic.
She presented the progress made as regards chapters 23 and 24, chiefly those concerning constitutional amendments, legislative activity, work on the media strategy, protection of national minority rights, migrations and visa policy and especially the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina i.e. Chapter 35. She spoke about the monitoring mechanism for the agreements made in the dialogue stressing that Pristina has not honoured its obligation under the Brussels Agreement – establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. Joksimovic said she hoped Romania and Austria would during their presidency of the EU Council keep enlargement on their agenda, which Serbia views as a partnership of two political wills and remains committed to its European in the interest of its citizens’ future.
On behalf of the European Commission, EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi said that the EU and the Western Balkans have had a very active relationship in 2018, especially Serbia, expecting that next year would be very much the same. He said that the progress of the rule of law and normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations would be the two chief elements of assessment in the coming reporting period. According to him, the biggest progress was achieved in the economy and economic reform is moving in a good direction. Fabrizi highlighted the work of the National Assembly hoping that Serbia would have a strong pluralist parliament which would protect the voice of the people, something the European Commission is ready to continue to cooperate with the National Assembly on. Speaking of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Fabrizi said that the EU would remain the mediator until an agreement is reached and continue to urge both sides to find a lasting solution.
Austrian Ambassador to Serbia Nikolaus Lutterotti said that enlargement is a key EU policy and the Council has been very active in the region of South-East Europe.
“We hope to achieve good progress in the Western Balkan’s accession process to the EU which cannot be complete without the countries of this region”, said the Austrian Ambassador.
He presented Austria’s activities during its Presidency of the EU Council as regards enlargement, stressing that it fully supports Serbia’s decision to become a member of the EU and that it would support the opening of new negotiation chapters. but that progress would hinge on chapters 23 and 24 and the dialogue with Pristina.
The parliamentarians and the representatives of the European institutions and the Serbian Government went on to discuss the state-of-play of the negotiations and the relations between the EU and Serbia, negotiation chapters 23 and 24 including the judiciary, constitutional reform, fundamental rights, media freedom, professionalism and economic growth.
The National Assembly and EU delegations continue tomorrow, 30 October, with a talk on the newest developments in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina with EU mediation, foreign, security and defence policy and cooperation, EU pre-accession aid to Serbia as well as presentation of EU benefits to the citizens, and are expected to adopt the Recommendations of the ninth meeting of SAPC.