BRUSSELS – The fourth meeting of the Accession Conference with Serbia at ministerial level was held yesterday in Brussels to open negotiations on Chapter 5 – Public procurement, and to open and provisionally close Chapter 25 – Science and research.
The European Union delegation was led by Mr Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, on behalf of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The European Commission was represented by Mr Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. The Serbian delegation was led by Ms Jadranka Joksimović, Minister without portfolio responsible for European integration.
With yesterday’s Conference, out of a total of 35 negotiation chapters, 6 chapters have now been opened for negotiations of which 1 chapter has already been provisionally closed. Further Accession Conferences will be planned, as appropriate, in order to take the process forward in the first half of 2017. The accession negotiations were launched in January 2014.
Regarding the chapters on the agenda, the Union has closely examined Serbia’s present state of preparations.
Chapter 5 – Public procurement
On the understanding that Serbia has to continue to make progress in the alignment with and implementation of the acquis in Chapter 5 – Public procurement, the EU noted that there are benchmarks that need to be met for provisional closure of this chapter. The benchmarks are as follows:
– Serbia fully aligns its national legal framework with the EU acquis with regard to all areas of public procurement, including its legislation on concessions and international agreements exempting certain works from public procurement rules.
– Serbia puts in place adequate administrative and institutional capacity at all levels and takes appropriate measures to ensure the proper implementation and enforcement of national legislation in this area in good time before accession. This includes, in particular:
a) the implementation of Serbia’s public procurement development strategy 2014-2018 to improve its administrative capacity, in particular by reinforcing the public procurement Office’s staff and by ensuring proper training at all levels for all stakeholders;
b) the preparation of practical implementing and monitoring tools (including administrative rules, instruction manuals and standard contract documents);
c) the strengthening of control mechanisms, including close monitoring and enhanced transparency of the execution phase of public contracts and systematic risk assessments with prioritisation of controls in vulnerable sectors and procedures;
d) the effective functioning of the remedies system;
e) measures related to the prevention of and fight against corruption and conflicts of interests in the area of public procurement at both central and local level.
– Serbia demonstrates a track record of a fair and transparent public procurement system, which provides value for money, competition, and strong safeguards against corruption.
Chapter 25 – Science and Research
Regarding negotiations on Chapter 25 – Science and Research, the EU considered that, exceptionally, benchmarks for the provisional closure of this chapter were not required, given the general good level of Serbia’s state of preparedness in the area of Science and research, and the limited scope and particular nature of acquis obligations in this chapter. The EU therefore noted that, at this stage, this chapter does not require further negotiations.
For both chapters on the agenda, monitoring of progress in the alignment with and implementation of the acquis will continue throughout the negotiations. The EU underlined that it would devote particular attention to monitoring all specific issues mentioned in its common positions. The EU will, if necessary, return to these chapters at an appropriate moment.