Minister Jadranka Joksimovic: Our plan is to be ready for the EU by 2021

08. July 2017. | Belgrade

Minister Jadranka Joksimovic: Our plan is to be ready for the EU by 2021

- Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimovic said that Serbia has a plan to be fully prepared for its membership in the European Union by the end of 2021. In an interview for the daily Politika today, she pointed out that Brussels needs to provide a more precise timeframe in order for Serbia to plan not only its own activities, but also the budget.

Asked about the chance of Serbia getting a definite date of accession to the European Union, Joksimovic answered that she expects a "clearer definition" and that a more precise timeframe from Brussels is needed, but not necessarily a precise date.

"We know what our job is with regard to what we have promised the citizens, and that is to implement reforms whose results are also reflected in the fulfilment of opening benchmarks for chapters. Many previous governments in the Republic of Serbia have promised dates and years of attaining the membership, only to be denied by the reality. Our plan is to be fully prepared by the end of 2020 − 2021. Because, when you close all chapters, the Member States must ratify the Treaty on Accession in their parliaments. Some even hold a referendum on the matter. We can also hold a referendum on which the citizens would voice their opinion once the time comes. This is why we are interested in what the EU is planning. That is a legitimate question", the minister noted.

Joksimovic also thinks that we should not talk about how we will earn the "goodwill" of Brussels with the reforms, stating that this is the wrong way of things.

"We promised the reforms and development to the citizens of Serbia, hence we should make them more satisfied. Much has been done, but there is still more work to do", Joksimovic said for Politika.

The minister also said that, from 2016 to 2020, Serbia will receive one billion euros in grants for development in various areas through the IPA funds. According to her, the European integration is a mechanism that forces the government to be faster and more efficient in changing Serbia for the better.

"The membership will be an added value to the whole process. Not even the former Prime Minister, now President Vucic and his government, nor the current government, have never used and will not use demands from Brussels to justify the unpopular measures, which many others before have done and thus have provoked Euroscepticism in Serbia. We are doing all of this for ourselves", Joksimovic pointed out.

With regard to President Vucic’s request to Brussels to provide us with deadlines and speculations that we want to exchange Kosovo in favour of Euro-integration, she stressed out that there are state and national interests that are not used as a currency for exchange.

"Vucic has shown that he perceives the reality in a sensible and statesmanly manner, as well as the changes we do not like and that have accumulated for decades, but also that our interests and demands are clear in regards to the sustainable survival and progress of our people in Kosovo and Metohija, in particular through Pristina's obligation to form the CSM. After all, the existence of the Brussels Agreement clearly shows that our position is respected, along with the position of several EU countries and beyond, on the non-recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo", Joksimovic stated.

Asked if there was a possibility for Brussels to appreciate her position that the dialogue with Pristina should not be closely linked to the EU integration process, she said that this position arose from the "the experience on the field".

"In the process of negotiations between a candidate country and the EU, there are only two sides - those of the candidate and the EU. It is not realistic, nor fair, to introduce a third party into the process of Euro-integration, Pristina, which can block us by its inactivity. I think that such a rigid and inflexible attitude is unsustainable in reality. However, the reforms and the Copenhagen criteria, the rule of law, good governance and the economic programme are the most important criteria, or they should be at least", the minister explained.

She recalled that, during the presidency of Malta from January to June, the Republic of Serbia opened four chapters, which is considered as a good result.

She also expects the opening of 3-4 more chapters by the end of the year, and that the opening of new chapters would take place at the Intergovernmental conferences of which Estonia took over presidency since 1 July.

"At this moment, we are fully prepared, in technical and procedural sense, for the opening of three negotiating chapters - Chapter 30. (External relations) that is already being discussed at EU working bodies, Chapter 6. (Company law) and Chapter 33. (Financial and budgetary provisions) for which we submitted our negotiating positions to the European Commission. We are working intensively on several more chapters", the minister said, adding that the pace will not depend only on us.

She believes that we can be satisfied with the results of the ten opened chapters, given all the circumstances in the EU itself, which do not particularly stand in favour of increasing support to the enlargement policy in the Member States themselves, bearing in mind the fact that our negotiating process is specific and sometimes made difficult by Chapter 35, i.e. by monitoring of the implementation of the Brussels Agreement through this chapter.

"Do not forget that we opened the official negotiations in January 2014, and that we are the first candidate for which the criteria to open the most demanding chapters 23 and 24, and in our case 35, at the beginning was applied, which was not the case with the previous candidates. We opened the first chapters in December 2015, so the score of ten chapters opened and two temporarily closed within a year and a half, is not bad at all. On the contrary", the minister concluded.

Answering the question of what the formation of the ministry could mean for the integration process, she said that there is no doubt that better coordination is achieved by introducing a permanent structure.

"This shows a clear and stable orientation of the country," Joksimovic said, adding that this is a practice that existed in a good number of countries that negotiated on the membership.

She also explained that the European Integration Office no longer exists, and that the employees and equipment have become the core of the ministry.

"The negotiating team is a national team composed mainly of civil servants, but also of some experts from the academic community, civil society, and experts per specific fields which are covered by various chapters - there are 35 of them. They are, of course, coordinated within the ministry, because the ministry and myself as the minister are politically responsible for their work", the minister responded.

She stated that she has started analysing and preparing a new classification of jobs, which should be completed by the end of the month. She added that she will personally work on this, that she strictly adheres to the procedure and expertise, but also takes account of results and responsibilities when working. She stated that there will be no greater expansion of the structure, but that some changes will be made.

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