BRUSSELS – The Council welcomes the major steps Serbia has taken in the past year which led to the opening of the first chapters of the EU accession negotiations at the Accession Conference on 14 December 2015. The Council takes positive note of Serbia’s submission of its Action Plans for chapters 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights, and 24 – Justice, freedom and security, which should provide clear guidance for future reforms and for developing a solid trackrecord in these areas. The Council recalls that progress under these chapters will need to be made in parallel with progress in negotiations overall.
The Council encourages Serbia to take this positive momentum forward and to intensify legislative reforms and their effective implementation in the key areas of judicial reform, fight against corruption and organised crime, and freedom of expression and the media. Particular attention needs to be paid to the full respect of fundamental rights, including protection of the most vulnerable groups, particularly the Roma, as well as to the effective implementation of legislation on the protection of minorities, the non-discriminatory treatment of national minorities throughout Serbia, including in the areas of education, use of minority languages, access to media and religious services in minority languages, and tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Council looks forward to Serbia’s submission of the already foreseen strategic documents. Further progress is also required in the areas of independence of democratic institutions, public administration, as well as in developing a functioning market economy and improving the business environment.
The Council welcomes the significant progress in the EU facilitated Dialogue, in particular with the 25 August agreements. The Council urges Serbia to swiftly implement its part of these agreements and to engage constructively with Kosovo in formulating and implementing future agreements. Serbia needs to maintain its active and constructive engagement in the normalisation process with Kosovo, which has seen significant progress, in particular with the agreements reached on 25 August 2015. The Council will continue to monitor closely Serbia’s continued engagement towards visible and sustainable progress in the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, including the implementation in good faith of all agreements reached so far, so that Serbia and Kosovo can continue on their respective European paths, while avoiding that either can block the other in these efforts and with the prospect of both being able to fully exercise their rights and fulfil their responsibilities. The Council recalls that progress in the process of normalisation of relations with Kosovo under chapter 35 needs to be made in parallel with progress in Serbia’s accession negotiations, in line with the Negotiating Framework.
The Council notes with satisfaction Serbia’s increasingly constructive engagement in regional cooperation. Serbia should continue strengthening good neighbourly relations. The Council calls on Serbia to progressively align with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy in line with the Negotiating Framework.