Last year’s Progress Report recognised Serbia’s readiness for reforms, as well as serious efforts related to the “Fundamentals first” approach, which already showed visible progress. Two areas in which particular progress was noted here in Serbia are economic and public administration reform. In addition to the quality of the rule of law, these reforms will be among the most important measures of our success during negotiations.
In December last year we opened two chapters, one of which was chapter 32 on Financial Control, which deals with internal and external monitoring of budget spending. There can be no successful fight against corruption without sound control, no financial consolidation and no respect for the rule of law. That’s why we thought this was a very important Chapter to be opened, and the EU and its Member States understood those arguments.
We currently expect to open chapters related to the rule of law – 23 and 24 – during the Netherlands presidency of the EU. There is awareness that these chapters are the backbone of a country’s reform process, as well as the foundation for our private and business security, as well as the safety of all those who invest. Two years ago we received the Screening Report for Chapter 23, with recommendations on how to improve the situation in the area of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and the protection of human rights, as well as one additional requirement to compile a dedicated plan for improving the position of national minorities, but not as part of the criteria for the opening of the chapter. All the recommendations were taken into account and activities were envisaged to materialise them, which duly became part of the Action Plan for Chapter 23. Inclusiveness in preparing this document meant that it was not only prepared by the Government of Serbia and its bodies, but also civic society, as well as representatives of national minorities. Its contents and measures have been approved by the European Commission and adopted by 27 Member States, with the exception being Croatia.
For both citizens and businesses it is important to establish stable institutions, clear standards and rules, and that is why we insist on the inclusion of all in the negotiating process and the achieving of a broad consensus
The Chapters are also important in the context of playing an active role in dealing with the migrant and refugee crisis. Our actions and behaviour in the crisis are esteemed by all, not only in the EU, as an example of coping well and finding a response to a very difficult question. The EU is confronted with three main challenges related to the migrant crisis – how to resolve the status of those who are already in Europe, how to help Turkey to be the first place of triage and how to find solutions for the root cause of the crisis. Serbia is very interested in being part of the solution to such an important problem as this. There can be no successful EU foreign, security and defence policy if all Balkan countries are not part of the dialogue. An additional element is a common approach and a solution that have to be based on the fundamental values of the EU: solidarity and responsibility, especially bearing in mind that the migratory crisis is primarily humanitarian.
Regardless of the parliamentary elections, which haven’t slowed down the integration process at all, we work very actively on the preparation of documents for several more chapters, which we plan to open by the end of this year.
For both citizens and businesses it is important to establish stable institutions, clear standards and rules, and that is why we insist on the inclusion of all in the negotiating process and the achieving of a broad consensus. We have an ambitious but realistic and feasible agenda for this year. There can be many challenges, but, to quote last year’s Progress Report, Serbia is “…unstoppable in the process of reforms, guided by and supported within the European integration process.”