Co-Chair of the European Union - Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) Dr Vladimir Orlic expressed satisfaction with the 12th meeting stressing that it was clear evidence that the European Parliament recognized the legitimacy of the new National Assembly, despite some messages from the EP after the 2020 parliamentary elections which called the legitimacy of the Serbian Parliament into question. "This meeting is clear evidence that such reckless statements were a complete failure. In the democratic world and in Europe, the will of the citizens of Serbia expressed in the elections is recognized, and it is good that it is so."
Dr Vladimir Orlic said that the National Assembly has been working at full capacity for months and expressed hope that the pandemic conditions will allow the European Parliament to soon start working in the same manner.
He said that the turnout of the Serbian elections, held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, was very good. That turnout was higher than in the elections in Croatia, held soon after the ones in Serbia. He also stated that 21 electoral lists participated in the parliamentary elections, 18 of them opposition, comprising more than 40 opposition political parties, movements and other organizations. The report of the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Media (REM) showed that the media representation of the participants in the elections was uniform, Orlic said, adding that the ODIHR report stated that the elections were conducted efficiently, despite the pandemic, and that there were opportunities to conduct election campaigns for all participants, respecting the fundamental freedom of expression and assembly. After the constitution of the new legislature, the National Assembly continued to work efficiently, he stressed, eliminated the use of urgent procedure almost completely, considered all reports of independent institutions and for the first time discussed the Progress Report on Serbia, which noted the country’s overall progress, in the plenum. "That is proof that our commitment to EU membership is not only declarative, but that we give concrete results."
Speaking of the fight against COVID-19, we are proud of the fact that Serbia ended 2020 with the best annual GDP indicators in the whole of Europe, and that we are currently second in Europe in terms of vaccination efficiency. “All of this shows that the state’s economy and healthcare measures were not only good but extraordinary. These measures have ensured that Serbia today is among the most successful in Europe."
Speaking of the situation in the media, Orlic informed the members of the European Parliament about Serbia’s progress on the Fraser Institute’s Human Freedom Index list, ranking better than in the previous year and significantly better than in 2010 and 2011 which were critically bad for the country according to the Human Freedom Index.
He also briefed the MEPs on the new report of the London Economist, according to which Serbia is still in the same group of democratic states as the USA. In addition, Orlic said that based on the NUNS database on attacks on journalists, the number of physical attacks in 2020 was significantly lower than in 2008, which was particularly worrying. "The number of physical attacks on journalists in 2020 would certainly have been significantly lower if we had not had violent demonstrations when hooligans led mass attacks against journalists. The same people who used violence bigger than the one we see in the Netherlands today, violently broke into this parliament where we stand today and tried to set it on fire. Fortunately, we managed to preserve our institutions, the citizens' property, human lives and protect journalists. The political inspirers of this violence, the same people who boycotted the elections, boycotted every dialogue and boycotted the European Parliament are no longer in the National Assembly and therefore there is no hate speech in it today."
Orlic added that there is no substantial progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina due to Pristina's ignoring its most important obligation, and that is the final establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. "The credibility of the European Union as a mediator in this dialogue has been seriously shaken due its tolerating Pristina's behaviour. And everyone should be aware of that."
Dr Vladimir Orlic, as well as the other members of the National Assembly’s delegation to SAPC, emphasized Serbia's commitment to EU membership and expressed confidence that the new enlargement methodology would accelerate the negotiation process and Serbia's progress in European integration.
In her address, Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic said that the enlargement policy had taken a back seat in the previous year, but she expected it would be revitalized this year and understood in the context of revitalization of the European Union itself. She stressed that Serbia is ready to apply the new methodology in the pre-accession negotiations and would continue to responsibly conduct the reform processes.
The participants of the meeting exchanged views on the state-of-play of the pre-accession talks and relations between the EU and Serbia. They talked about the National Assembly’s work after the parliamentary elections, praising the reduction in number of draft acts considered by urgent procedure and the discussion of Serbia’s Progress Report in the plenum at a National Assembly session for the first time. The MEPs also welcomed the adoption of the Decision on the adoption of the Code of Conduct for MPs.
The effects of the implemented economic reforms, judicial reforms, rule of law and media freedoms were also discussed, as well as the need to continue the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and the importance of regional cooperation, which all has an impact on Serbia’s progress in European integration.
The 12th meeting of the European Union-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) was held in video conference format.
The meeting was co-chaired by Dr Vladimir Orlic, Head of the National Assembly delegation to SAPC, and Tanja Fajon, Head of the European Parliament delegation to SAPC, with speeches delivered by Jadranka Joksimovic, Minister for European Integration of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs on behalf of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council, Catherine Wendt, Head of the Unit for Serbia, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations on behalf of the European Commission, and Elsa Fenet, Head of the Western Balkans Division, on behalf of the European External Action Service.
In addition to Dr Vlarimir Orlic, the meeting was also attended by Deputy Head of the National Assembly delegation to the SAPC, Elvira Kovacs, by delegation members Veroljub Arsic, Sandra Bozic, Marijan Risticevic, Dragan Sormaz, Nemanja Joksimovic, Prof. Dr Vladimir Marinkovic, Dr Aleksandra Tomic, Milos Terzic, Haji Milorad Stosic, Djordje Milicevic, Jasmina Karanac, Shaip Kamberi and delegation deputy member Dusica Stojkovic.