President, Honourable Members,
I would like to congratulate David McAllister for his resolution on the 2015 Report on Serbia. This is a balanced and comprehensive assessment of Serbia’s progress on its path to the European Union, overall in line with the findings of our own 2015 report.
Serbia has taken major steps on its EU path
I share your view that Serbia has taken major steps towards its strategic objective of EU membership. It has made concrete progress in implementing an ambitious economic and structural reform programme. Serbia remained committed to improving regional and bilateral ties, in a spirit of reconciliation and good neighbourly relations.
Serbia is also making progress in the reform of its public administration and strengthening the rule of law, by adopting comprehensive action plans, and further normalised its relations with Kosovo, with key agreements reached in August last year.
I am also impressed by the very positive and humane manner in which Serbia and Serbian citizens are handling the unprecedented numbers of refugee and migrant flows, under very difficult circumstances, and in full respect of EU core values.
All these efforts required courage and commitment and the opening of the first two negotiating chapters (chapters 32 and 35) in December last year is a well-deserved acknowledgment.
Time for a renewed commitment on key areas
Serbia should now build on this progress with a renewed commitment tomove decisively forward with reforms, in particular in the areas of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime, freedom of expression, public administration, anti-discrimination, the protection of the most vulnerable groups and minorities, and the economy.
Of equal importance for Serbia is continuing its constructive approach and continue making further progress in normalising its relations withKosovo. This should run in parallel with the accession process, with a view to reaching the “comprehensive normalisation” of their relations targeted as the ultimate goal in our negotiating framework.
Next step: opening of chapters 23 and 24
I also look forward to the next step, namely the opening of the rule of law chapters 23 and 24. I hope, together with rapporteur McAllister, that this can happen in the first half of 2016. This will of course depend on Serbia‘s ability to deliver on its commitments.
But this will also depend on Member States moving quickly to agree the next steps. On this, we should be careful not to add requirements not provided for under the EU acquis or the negotiating framework. It is important that bilateral disputes do not hamper the overall accession process.
Finally, we have taken note of the Serbian government’s announcement to hold national elections. We are confident that, during the run up to the elections and after the establishment of a new government, Serbia will remain committed to its reform agenda and the dialogue with Kosovo.
President, Honourable Members,
The Commission remains firmly committed to support and guide Serbia on its European path. I appreciate that the European Parliament is on the same page.
Thank you for your attention!
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