EC: Serbia remains actively committed to EU accession

The European Commission's progress report on Serbia states that the country "remains actively committed to the strategic goal of EU accession."

Source: B92
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Serbia "completed comprehensive action plans required for the opening of rule of law chapters 23 and 24 and has reached key agreements with Kosovo as part of the normalization process, dealt with under chapter 35," the document, a part of EC's "enlargement package," stated.

Serbia played a constructive role in the region, and remained committed to the normalization of relations with Kosovo, reaching key agreements in that process, and also had a constructive role in the migrant crisis, according to the report published on Tuesday in Brussels.

Unlike last year's report, the one for 2015 dedicates a separate chapter to the topic of "normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo" where it is stressed that the steps taken "gave fresh momentum in the normalization of relations and should have a positive and concrete impact on the everyday life of citizens in both Kosovo and Serbia."

"Further progress in this area remains essential for advancing the European future of both Serbia and Kosovo," said the report. The topic of normalization of relations will be covered in chapter 35 of Serbia's EU accession negotiations.

As for economic criteria, "Serbia is moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy," the document said, noting that the country's economy is recovering from a recession, and added:

"Good progress was made to address some of the policy weaknesses, in particular with regard to the budget deficit, labor market and the business environment. However, fiscal imbalances are still high and major sector s of the economy are in need of reform. Credit activity is weak, also constrained by very high level of non-performing loans. The private sector is underdeveloped and hampered by weaknesses with the rule of law."

The report said that in 2016, Serbia should "pay particular attention to sustaining efforts to reduce the budget deficit and the high public debt level, advancing private sector development through the restructuring and privatization of state-owned enterprises and addressing the challenges of stagnating credit growth and non-performing loans, and implementing public administration reform."

The document stresses that Serbia is moderately prepared for public sector reforms, but that good progress has been made in that area.

The report further said that Serbia’s judicial system "has some level of preparation," and that "some progress has been made in the last year." In this context, Serbia should establish and implement "a fair and transparent merit-based recruitment system and career management to better guarantee the operational independence of the justice system, adopt a new law on free legal aid and enable smooth implementation in cooperation with main stakeholders, and reduce the case backlog and harmonize case law."

The EC today also published reports about the progress made by Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Turkey, and Kosovo, which has an asterisk added to its name pointing to the following footnote: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence."

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Tuesday he was "very confident" the first chapters in the EU membership negotiations can be opened this year.

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