EWB interviews: Aleksandar Senic, Serbian MP

European Western Balkans is presenting a series of interviews with key people from Western Balkans countries which are involved in European integration process of their countries. Mr. Aleksandar Senić (@AlexandarSenic) is a member of National Assembly of Republic of Serbia and member of New Democratic Party. Senić is a current Chairman of European Integration Committee of National Assembly of Republic of Serbia and also member of Committee on Spatial Planning, Transport, Infrastructure and Telecommunications and Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management. He graduated civil engineer and economics. He works as an assistant at Faculty of Civil Engineering in University of Belgrade, on the Department of Management, Technology and IT in civil engineering. He is MP form 2012.

European Western Balkans: What is your personal opinion about the European Union and about importance of integration of the Republic of Serbia in the EU?

Aleksandar Senić: The European Union is a union of sovereign countries with the highest values ​​of human civilization. In my opinion, Serbia’s prosperity can only be achieved by accepting such a model of functioning of society. For Serbia this would mean modernization of institutions, stability of state and great development opportunities. I include the security of each individual, both trough financial terms and to the rule of law and respect of human and minority rights.

EWB: The role of the European Integration Committee of National Assembly of Republic of Serbia in the coordination of harmonization of Serbian legislation with the EU has a role to play. Can you explain in what ways the European Integration Committee contributes this integration process?

AS: European Integration Committee reviews drafts of laws and other actsfrom the point of their compliance with the EU acquis, in addition to considering applications, reports, and other acts of executive power concerning the accession to the EU.

The Committee established a working group which drafted The Resolution on the role of the National Assembly and the principles of the negotiations on the accession of Serbia to the European Union. This resolution was passed in December last year and it predicted the obligation of the Government to, before determine the negotiating positions, submitthe proposals of the negotiating positions to the European Integration Committee, a special decision of the Committee shall regulate the procedure of considering the bargaining positions of the meetings of the European Integration Committee under whose purview the issue of appropriate negotiating positions.

The Committee shall exercise its supervisory role by reviewing reports from members of the Government in charge of European integration on the state of the process of European integration, the situation in the negotiations and in the implementation of the National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA) and other reports on a quarterly basis.

In addition, the Committee maintains and develops bilateral and multilateral cooperation with EU institutions (especially the European Parliament), with parliamentary committeesof EU member states and the countries of Southeast Europe.

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Aleksandar Senić, Photo: B92, Serbia

EWB: How is the adoption of European standards, regardless of the integration of Serbia into the EU, important for the citizens of Serbia?

AS: In our society, the prevailing consensus was demonstrated in the last elections when the citizens voted for the political parties that were in favor of Serbia’s membership in the EU. As a result, in our Parliament we have a general consensus on the issue of European integration, which will certainly facilitate the work of the adoption of the necessary reform of the law, as well as the process of harmonization of legislation with the EU acquis. Citizens showed awareness that reforms need to be implemented in order to improve the social, political and economic development of Serbia, not only because of the formal membership of the EU.

EWB: When do you expect the next meeting of the joint Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the Committee of European Parliament?

AS: The first meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Stabilization and Association was held on November 15th2013 in Belgrade. It was announced that the next meeting would be held in April in Strasbourg. Because of the early parliamentary elections in Serbia and the European elections, the meeting was adjourned for September/October this year.

EWB: The Assembly of Montenegro and the Macedonian Sobranie have already developed a relationship with the European Parliament. Do you have consultation with your counterparts from other WB parliaments in the process of joining EU? If you do consult, which are areas in which you cooperate?

AS: The European Parliament has developed cooperation with all the parliaments of the WB, trough the various forms in which the members of the European Parliament and the parliaments of the WB countries participate. I would emphasize that the National Assembly of Republic of Serbia has a developed cooperation with the European Parliament. From 2006 to 2013 seven inter-parliamentary meetings of the National Assembly and the European Parliament were held. After the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (September 1st 2013) inter-parliamentary meetings are held in the form of meetings of the Parliamentary Committee for Stabilization and Association (also known as the Joint Committee, as it is composed of an equal number of members of the European Parliament and members of the National Assembly). This committee meets twice a year (once in Belgrade and once in Brussels/Strasbourg), to discuss issues related to the process of stabilization and association.

We expect that cooperation will be continued with the EP after Europeanelections 2014, and we will continue to have the support and help from our colleagues, European parliamentarians, in the process of European integration of Republic of Serbia.

The National Assembly, i.e.the European Integration Committee, is actively involved interregional parliamentary cooperation. The regional parliamentary cooperation is achieved through the participation of the delegation of the Committee of the Parliamentary dimension of the process of cooperation in South East Europe and the Conference Committee for the European integration of the countries participating in the Stabilization and Association Process (COSAP). At these meetings, parliamentarians of WB discuss topics of importance to the process of European integration of the countries of the region, as well as all issues of importance to regional cooperation.

EWB: Do you think that, in addition to the harmonization of the laws and policies with the EU, should lead to changes in the ratio of members of National Assembly to their responsibilities? In which direction these changes should be directed?

AS: I believe that every MP should be, in the area of his/her expertize, to contribute, primarily through the work of parliamentary committees in which he/her is a  member, but also at all the forums where represents the National Assembly, its committees, or the Republic of Serbia.

It’s also needed for the deputies to establish a closer relationship with the citizens who elect them, and to explain to the citizens the benefits of the membership of the Republic of Serbia in the EU and the need for the adoption of European standards in order to improve people’s lives.

EWB: What do you consider to be especially important for further integration of the Republic of Serbia in the EU?

AS: I think it is the most important that the consensus on the continuation of Serbia’s European integration was achieved on the elections. Since negotiations started, currently the most important is to complete the formation of the Republic of Serbia’s negotiating team for the dialogue with the EU. From the start of negotiations, in January this year, several screening meetings were held by negotiation chapters which were both explanatory and bilateral. The administration of the Republic of Serbia has shown that it has a good capacity to maintain the negotiation process, as pointed out by the representatives of the EU in the current meetings. It needs strengthen administrative capacity in order to prepare better for the opening of the negotiations, particularly in chapters 23 and 24 of the Community acquis. It is necessary to strengthen the facilities for the use of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), which is available to us as a candidate country.

Authors: Nemanja Todorović Štiplija and Nikola Ristić