Ambassador Michael Davenport, Head Of The Delegation Of The European Union To The Republic Of Serbia:

Making Serbia Better For Business

2017 promises to be a busy year for Serbia on its path towards the European Union. The EU has opened six chapters in the negotiations on accession, including some of the most important, notably those dealing with the rule of law

Serbia is now poised to set out its negotiation position for a raft of other chapters, mostly dealing with economic aspects of accession: freedom of movement of labour and capital, company law and intellectual property, financial services, enterprise and industrial policy. Work is also underway to prepare the ground for opening the chapter devoted to Serbia becoming part of the EU’s Customs Union.

Last year Serbia elected a new government, which has again placed EU accession as its top strategic priority. Citizens therefore have a legitimate expectation that the path towards accession will be accelerated. This means building on the momentum that has now been created behind Serbia’s economic and political reforms and focusing more and more on the standards that need to be met in order to close chapters in the negotiations and complete the accession process. It also means moving forward towards a genuine normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

The EU Delegation in Serbia has a mandate from the European Union and its Member States to support Serbia in every possible way to get itself ready for membership. Our key partners in this are Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimović and the Serbian European Integration Office. But we are working with all parts of the Serbian government to help ensure that progress is sustained. The Commission’s 2016 report on Serbia set out key recommendations for action in the year ahead. We are backing this up with concrete support in areas agreed with the Serbian government, but also working with the civil sector.

The Commission’s 2016 report on Serbia set out key recommendations for action in the year ahead. We are backing this up with concrete support in areas agreed with the Serbian government, but also working with the civil sector

Over the last two years, Serbia has become a better place in which to do business. The government has taken courageous steps to tackle longstanding economic challenges, reducing the deficit, boosting investment, bringing down unemployment and streamlining planning procedures. The European Union has supported Serbia in this through the Economic Reform Programme endorsed by Member States. But much still remains to be done. Getting on with the privatisation or restructuring of state-owned enterprises is becoming an ever higher priority. So too is pressing ahead with plans to make Serbia’s public administration more service-oriented, extending e-government to more public services, pushing forward with judicial reform and taking steps to create a genuinely independent judiciary.

I have been most impressed by the determination with which the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry have worked together efficiently to tackle the backlog of cases clogging the courts, especially in Belgrade, where hundreds of thousands of cases have been dealt with over the last six months alone. The Delegation has been proud to support this work. This is just one example of effective delivery of commitments under the Action Plan that Serbia adopted for Chapter 23 in the negotiations. Making similar progress in other areas, including fighting corruption and fostering independent media, not to mention improving the environment and supporting Serbian farmers, will further contribute to making Serbia not only a more attractive place for doing business, but also to improving the quality of life of Serbian citizens.