No new conditions
There are no new conditions for opening the negotiations on Serbia’s EU membership, says Vincent Degert, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia in an interview with FoNet. He pointed out that it was necessary to continue the reform process, the dialogue with Priština and the implementation of the agreements reached to date in the dialogue.
We expect the implementation of the agreements, and tackling the issues of electricity cooperation, telecommunications and the cooperation with EULEX, Degert said.
EULEX still does not have an unconditional and complete capacity to execute its mandate, Degert said, and remarked that it was in everyone’s interest for EULEX to have this capacity, in order to be able to conduct investigations in Kosovo.
If we want EULEX presence and investigation of organ trafficking and other issues, we need to have freedom of movement, in order to investigate all over Kosovo, Degert explained.
Already in October 2011, the Commission has said in its opinion that it was necessary to continue the reform process, improve the judiciary, public administration, fight against corruption, reform the media sector and continue the dialogue with Priština, Degert reminded.
Replying to the question whether the end of the year was a realistic timing for Serbia to get the date for the opening of the accession negotiations, Degert said that a lot depended on Serbia’s own ability to fulfil all the requirements for this.
We know that we are entering the election period in a few days, but the administration should continue to work hard on the reforms, in order not to lose time in the election period, and that, once the new government is nominated, we can move on, Degert said.
He also says that Brussels expects the implementation of the agreements reached so far with Priština, on the Civil Registry, cadastre, freedom of movement, insurance, and points out that there is no reason to wait with solutions to these problems because of the elections.
The European Commission will publish it regular progress report on Serbia for this year in October, Degert said, and remarked that it was the next “big date”.
This report will lead to decisions, to be made by the Council in November, and then in December by the heads of state or government.
According to Degert, recognition of Kosovo’s independence is not a condition for Serbia’s EU membership, but the EU wants to see a normalisation of relations and solutions to everyday problems of the citizens.
I am happy that we have recently found several solutions to the issues of IBM, freedom of movement of people and goods and regional representation, Degert said.
Serbia is not conducting the judicial reform because of the EU, but chiefly because of its citizens, who expect to have fair processes in the courts, Degert added.
When you look at the polls in this context, the trust of the citizens in judiciary is not as high as it should be, so the authorities should work on these issues, Degert stated.
It is necessary to tackle these issues, Degert explained, in order to ensure the independence and efficiency of the justice system.
Degert also reminded of the critical views on the election of judges – lack of clear criteria, lack of transparency and the legitimacy of the High Judicial Council which conducts this process.
In his words, the High Judicial Council has a problem, as 3 out of 11 members of the body are in a “difficult” position, which has to be solved.
We are demanding from the authorities in Serbia to increase the legitimacy of this body and then to continue the nomination process, Degert highlighted.
The competitiveness of the economy is a key issue in the reform process, Degert added. He considers that it is necessary to implement a number of structural reforms and complete the restructuring of the economy and privatization process.
He also remarked that the Serbian Government recently gave bank guarantees for a number of big publicly owned companies, which will, maybe, have to be paid by the tax payers.
The question is, Degert says, whether the tax payers want to subsidise these companies.
In his words, cutting red tape and facilitating the work of administration is also a big challenge, as Serbia’s rating in these matters is not so good, if we look at the indicators of the World Bank and other organisations.
Degert also highlighted the problems related to issuing of permits and delays of payments, and said that investors expect secure conditions for investments.
As he specified, they want to be sure that the rules will not change, or, if changed, that it will be done in a consultative process.
With the candidate status we are on the good track and it is also a strong message to investors that Serbia is committed to reforms, Degert pointed out.
Speaking about EU enlargement amidst the global crisis and the eurozone crisis, Degert reminded of the statement by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who said that the Union, 55 years after, still remains quite attractive, probably the most attractive destination for living worldwide.
He pointed out that Brussels has adopted many measures aimed at consolidating the financial situation, which is important, not only for the EU, but also for the other big players.
The enlargement process is moving ahead, Degert said, and reminded that Croatia has signed the accession agreement, that Iceland is also interested to join, as well as all of the countries of the Western Balkans.
“We hope to open the membership negotiations soon with Montenegro,” Degert said, “and clearly, we believe that Serbia should be part of this process as soon as possible, because it is the biggest country in the region”.
If Serbia is moving forward, it will give a new energy to the others to make movements as well, Degert concluded.