European Integration Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs, Deputy Chairperson Dusica Stojkovic and Committee member Enis Imamovic took part in the virtual meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), held under the auspices of the parliamentary dimension of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, on 30 November – 1 December 2020.
The meeting was chaired by the Chairman of the Committee on EU Affairs of the German Bundestag Gunther Krichbaum and Minister of Justice Baden-Württemberg and Chairman of the Committee on European Union Affairs of the German Bundesrat Guido Wolf. On day one the attending discussed the restart for the transatlantic relations, results of Germany’s Presidency of the EU and the lessons learned from the corona crisis – cooperation in the EU in the event of pandemics and in health care, and on day two the future of the European Union and Europe’s role in the world – a responsible partnership with Africa.
The participants of the COSAC meeting were addressed by German Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, President of the European Commission Dr Ursula von der Leyen and the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany Professor Horst Köhler. Dr Andrea Ammon, who has been the Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) since 2017, spoke on the first day, as part of the discussion on the lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis and cooperation in the EU in the event of a health pandemic. The participants discussed the greater competence of the ECDC recently requested by the European Parliament, while the European Commission presented proposals for its strengthening. The participants discussed improving predictive capacity, establishing comparability between Member States' databases and developing a digital early warning system.
German Chancellor Merkel analysed the results of the German Presidency of the EU and pointed out that it was largely marked by measures instated to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, she stressed the importance of the adopted comprehensive EU package worth 1,824.3 billion EUR, which combines the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and recovery efforts under the EU's Next Generation instrument. In addition, she pointed out that the European Council agreed on a general approach to the reform package for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020, with mandatory eco-schemes and increased conditioning. The Council also reached a partial general approach to European climate law, without being able to agree on the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The German Presidency supports the Commission's proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and seeks to reach an agreement in the Council on this target before the end of the year. Speaking about the Western Balkans, Merkel referred to the candidate countries and pointed out that she expects membership negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia to open, despite Bulgaria’s conditioning related to resolving the issues concerning Macedonia's national identity, and that it is evident that Serbia has made progress in reforms but still has a problem in relations with Pristina.
During the third session - analysis of the German Presidency of the EU, European Integration Committee Deputy Chairperson Stojkovic stressed that although we are facing the consequences of a global pandemic, we are working diligently and consistently to conduct the reforms needed to become a full member of the EU. Serbia has opened 18 and submitted negotiating positions for additional five negotiating chapters. We expect support from all the EU members and call on the German Presidency to open at least one of the chapters for which Serbia is ready at the Intergovernmental Conference by the end of this year. We believe that this would be a step forward and confirm the European Union's commitment to the enlargement policy. Stojkovic said that Serbia has accepted to continue with the negotiations in accordance with the new methodology, and that they are not an automatic process, but the result of the implemented reforms which our progress on the path to the EU depends on. She expressed the expectation that the EU will remain a credible partner that will, through various mechanisms of engagement and presence in the region, including financial support, enable the countries of the region to fulfil their obligations in the EU accession process faster and more efficiently.
At the fourth session entitled "The Future of the European Union", the President of the European Commission Dr Ursula von der Leyen, opened the debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe, with special emphasis on the role of national parliaments, which have repeatedly demanded equality with the European Parliament. She pointed out that it is necessary to involve the national parliaments, that the participation of parliamentarians as representatives of the citizens is essential. The discussion also focused on the European Green Deal as the engine of economic recovery, measures planned to recover and strengthen the EU's resilience, emphasizing the important role of the EU as a global leader. The president of the EC pointed out that the EU will provide vaccines for almost 700 million people, including those in the Western Balkans and Africa. Speaking about the Western Balkans, she emphasized that the enlargement policy is really important, that a new methodology has been adopted and that the candidate countries that make progress must be rewarded.
In her address, European Integration Committee Chairperson Kovacs highlighted the excellent work Serbia has done so far in the process of reforms for EU membership, which remains a strategic goal, and that in these difficult times the EU should show strength and readiness to continue with the enlargement policy. The challenges are numerous and great, not only because of the current corona virus pandemic, but also the issue of illegal migration and the ubiquitous threat of a new economic crisis. Kovacs said that we can overcome these challenges only by working together, and we, the candidate countries, are ready to cooperate with our partners in the EU on the realization of our common goals, Kovacs pointed out. Given the objectives and themes of the Conference on the Future of Europe, we believe that there is sufficient room for the participation and contribution of candidate countries in debates on topics such as climate change, environmental protection, sustainable growth, equality and social justice, regional development, public health, migration challenges, innovation, rights and freedoms and many more. Kovacs stressed the importance of involving the parliaments of the Western Balkans in the debate on the future of the EU.