This and next year to be "crucial for Serbia's EU bid"
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic met on Tuesday with Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi.Source: srbija.gov.rs
Fabrizi presented her with the Report of the European Commission on Serbia’s progress in the process of EU accession, the Serbian government announced on its website.
Brnabic told a joint press conference that this annual report is good and positive for Serbia, that it reflects to a large extent what Serbia is like today with all its advantages and disadvantages and lists the jobs that are still to be done.
She said that she is satisfied with the current situation and stated that Serbia will do everything to fulfill the recommendations of the European Commission in order to open as many chapters as possible in the negotiations with the EU.
The prime minister pointed out that Serbia has made the biggest progress in the field of economy, that the report notes some progress in the field of the rule of law, in the fight against corruption and organized crime.
Brnabic expressed her satisfaction with the fact that the European Commission recognized the constructive role of Serbia in regional cooperation.
She also pointed out that Serbia has made better progress in the field of rule of law than it is stated in the report.
She added that she is surprised that in the report the European Commission recognized the progress of Pristina in the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities, and at the same time it did not recognize that Serbia had adopted a prosecutorial war crime strategy and amendments to the Constitution.
This progress of Serbia is not recognized because it was done after the reporting period covered by the European Commission, from the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2018, whereas the efforts of Pristina, which also took place months after the reporting period, on April 4were recognized. Serbia is asked to adopt and implementing the laws, whereas Pristina has only to express an intention to do something and that it is immediately recognized as progress, the prime minister said.
Brnabic stressed that Serbia is seeking the same standards regarding European values and will ask why they are not included in the report and the jobs that Serbia did outside the reporting period.
Speaking about regional cooperation, she said that Serbia has made a huge effort to keep a cool head in difficult circumstances, among which the most serious was the arrest and kidnapping of Director of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo-Metohija Marko Djuric and the brutal violence against the Serbian population in that province.
"I am pleased that this has been recognized in the report, that Serbia is committed to regional stability and will do everything to preserve it despite all the negative things and messages sent to Serbia, we will remain calm and open to dialogue, she noted.
The prime minister assessed that it is important for Serbia to continue reforms for its own sake and of its citizens, and not because of the EU.
The Serbian government will adhere to these principles, we will go as fast as possible, but not in a way that speed can jeopardize the quality of reforms, the Prime Minister pointed out.
Speaking of progress in the field of economy, Brnabic said that the most has been done in the fiscal consolidation and maintenance of fiscal discipline, that the Serbian market is better regulated and that it is a better investment environment.
She agreed with the assessment from the report that Serbia needs to carry out some structural reforms, and that, therefore, there will be another arrangement with the IMF to address the reforms that need to be continued.
According to her, it is good that the report finds that the conditions in the labour market have improved and pointed out that by reducing unemployment we are slowly reaching the goal, which is the creation of new jobs.
Fabrizi said that this and next year will be crucial if Serbia wants to fulfill its goal of joining the EU, adding that it is important that the government put reforms in the center of its activity.
Speaking about the report, he stressed that it was noted that the government was committed to the European path of Serbia, and that some progress was made in the improvement of the judiciary, and that the political influence on the judiciary is an issue that has not yet been solved.
Certain progress has been made in the fight against corruption and organized crime, and the report recommends that there be a permanent record of the investigation of the indictments and the judgments that are being implemented, he said, adding that no progress was reported on freedom of expression.
Also, as Fabrizi pointed out, Serbia had a positive role in regional cooperation, especially in dialogue with Pristina, and a positive role of the internal dialogue initiated by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was also noted.
Serbia must make efforts to implement the existing agreements with Pristina in order to achieve a full normalization of relations, which will be transferred into a legally binding agreement, Fabrizi underlined.
The head of the EU Delegation stated that good progress has been made in the economic criteria, especially in the field of fiscal policy, where Serbia has recorded a budget surplus.
He underlined that GDP growth is a positive thing, as well as an increase in exports and foreign investments, and an improvement in the business climate was noted.
The report encourages further efforts in the reform of tax administration, public administration, state-owned enterprises and advancement in the area of granting state aid and in the suppression of the gray economy, he said, adding that Serbia has achieved important results in the economic sphere.
Fabrizi said that the EU is Serbia’s number one trading partner and the largest donor.
Serbia and the EU are getting closer and closer, and I encourage Serbia to pursue its path to the EU, not because it is something that the EU demands, but because it is in the interest of the country itself and its citizens, Fabrizi concluded.