EP official unaware that Serbia was given "date"

BELGRADE -- Parliament and independent regulatory bodies are ensuring respect for civil rights, a vital issue in the process of EU accession negotiations.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

This was stressed on Thursday by head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert and European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin.

For the EU, the citizens and their position in both the EU and the countries that aspire to EU membership is an issue of immense importance, and is therefore given much focus in the process of EU membership negotiations, Degert said at the conference on civil rights in Serbia and the role of the national parliament and independent state Institutions, held in the Serbian parliament on Thursday.

Degert stressed the importance of independent regulatory bodies such as the Protector of Citizens and the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, pointing out that they should be sufficiently financed.

Observing that progress has been made in the work of the Serbian Parliament, Degert said that the institution's role is vital in ensuring that adopted documents are implemented in practice to improve the quality of life of the citizens.

Kacin said that Serbia used to be a problem, but now, it seems it has finally become a solution and a driving force bringing the entire Western Balkans closer to the EU.

As the biggest country in the region, a successful Serbia will pull the entire Western Balkans inside the EU, Kacin said, pointing out that the membership of the Union is not a goal in itself, and the political context of the EU membership negotiations should be used to implement reforms and the rule of law and to create a strong and competitive economy.

The role of the parliament and its visibility in the public sphere and in political process needs to be strengthened, Kacin said.

"I know nothing about a date"

European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin said Thursday that Serbia will choose a date for starting accession talks with the EU with the steps it takes.

"I would say that Serbia has been given a green light, even though everyone here is saying it got a date. I know nothing about a date, because the date will be chosen by Serbia itself, with the next steps it takes which will show how committed it is to turning words into action," Kacin told reporters at the Serbian parliament.

He said no one should be surprised if the talks begin even sooner than the expected January date.

Kacin added Serbia will decide about its priorities with the commitment it shows in real time, while European institutions and the European Parliament have settled on a draft plan of action for Serbia.

"EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele will visit Serbia soon. We have harmonized draft plans of action in European institutions, including the European parliament, we have organized ourselves to monitor Serbia," said Kacin.

Conceding that he does not have the right to speak on behalf of Serbia, he nevertheless encouraged the state to prove itself before its citizens and be a de facto driving force.

Everything is on Serbia's side and all of this can happen very quickly, said Kacin.

The European rapporteur said "everyone in Serbia is talking about chapters 23 and 24 which deal with the rule of law and the judiciary, and that everyone in Europe is encouraging the country to make fast progress in these most challenging chapters." He noted that Montenegro has already closed two chapters, but not chapters 23 and 24.

Kacin also recalled that "Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić will meet once again with his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci in Brussels on Monday to discuss implementation of everything that is needed," and stressed that a lot depends on the enactment of the Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Priština.