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Fourth Meeting of EU - Serbia Stabilisation and Association Committee

27. April 2017. | Belgrade

The Stabilisation and Association Committee (SA Committee) held its fourth meeting following the entry into force of the SAA between the EU and Serbia on 1 September 2013.The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Catherine Wendt, Head of Unit at Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission, and by Ms. Ksenija Milenkovic, acting Director of the Serbian European Integration Office (SEIO).

The SA Committee welcomed the progress made by Serbia in the accession negotiations over the last year. The EU's unequivocal commitment to Serbia's European perspective was stressed once again.

The SA Committee reviewed the developments related to the fulfilment of the political criteria by Serbia. It stressed the importance of inclusive consultation of stakeholders in the legislative and accession process and the role of the Parliament in the oversight of the executive. It underlined the role of the Independent Regulatory Bodies and stressed the importance of the effective follow-up of their findings. It encouraged Serbia to continue making progress on its public administration reform. It also stressed the importance of strengthening regional cooperation and Serbia's progressive alignment with the EU's foreign policy positions.

In the area of the judiciary and rule of law, the SA Committee recalled that progress on Chapters 23 and 24 is central to determining the overall pace of the accession negotiations. It acknowledged some progress in the reform of the judiciary, such as a reduction of backlog of cases, while underlining that further efforts were needed. The SA Committee reiterated the particular importance of a proactive approach in the fight against corruption, organised crime and terrorism. It also  recalled the importance of the protection of fundamental rights.

The SA Committee commended Serbia for its efforts in addressing the Europe-wide migration crisis. It underlined the importance of regional cooperation in the area of migration management and border controls. It acknowledged Serbia's efforts to fight irregular migration and highlighted the need for Serbia to align its asylum procedure with the European Union.                                      

The SA Committee also reviewed the economic criteria and noted the solid performance of the Serbian economy in 2016, with higher GDP growth and lower than expected public deficit. It underlined the need to cement the efforts on budget consolidation, and to step up structural reforms, in particular to improve the business environment and stimulate investment. The European Commission stressed that it will continue assisting Serbia in improving its economic governance.

The Committee noted that the SAA implementation had been overall satisfactory. The liberalisation of trade brought about by the agreement has contributed to the large increase of Serbian exports to the EU: over 70% between 2010 and 2016.

The SA Committee reviewed the state of play of the various areas covered by the SAA, and took note of the recent developments in the areas of trade, industry, customs and taxation, agriculture, internal market and competition, innovation, information society and social policy, transport, environment and energy. The SA Committee highlighted the areas where specific efforts were needed to improve compliance with the SAA, such as the improvement of the control of state aid, but noted positively that the safeguard measures imposed by Serbia on certain agricultural products had been lifted.

Finally, the SA Committee reviewed the extensive financial assistance provided by the EU to Serbia. The EU is committed to continue supporting Serbia's EU accession process, including financially. Since 2007, close to € 1.8 billion has been granted to support Serbia's accession. The EU has also supported the Western Balkans in dealing with the migration crisis; in particular Serbia received more than €50 million since August 2015. Since 2000 the EU, together with its member states, has been by far the biggest donor with a contribution amounting to 75% of all donations received by Serbia.

Both parties agreed that the SA Committee will continue to play an important role in ensuring continuity of the stabilisation and association process. The Committee concluded that the proper implementation of the SAA commitments is important for the assessment of Serbia’s accession process in general.