* The author is Axel Dittmann, German Ambassador to Serbia. The article was published in the daily newspaper Danas on the occasion of Europe Day.Let me first say, that Sunday’s election in France was a very important positive signal. People voted in favor of a strong Europe. France and Germany will work together for this.
Recent global challenges show more clearly than ever that Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands. And we have, despite all of the turbulence, a good point of departure. The European Union is a unique and remarkable project: twenty-seven countries, twenty-four languages and more than 500 million people. It originated from the desire for peace, stability and economic prosperity in Europe, and it has served this idea well. It is the biggest internal market and a major job market that allows free movement of workers and a great variety of opportunities for young Europeans to study in other member states. It is, in spite of all the cultural differences among the variety of countries, united by a common system of values and where human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are shared and respected.
The result of the British referendum is a watershed for the European family that signals that a far-reaching dialogue on critical issues of 27 member states is needed. The challenges the EU faces such as internal reform, the migrant crises and terrorism cannot be solved by any one country alone. Populists are playing with people’s fears, not giving them solid arguments or viable solutions. And viable solutions are only to be found in a united and strong European Union. Germany is therefore committed to enlargement and to a constant, vibrant dialogue.
Serbia has taken important steps since Serbia took the strategic decision to work to become member of the EU. The EU accession process is, in its essence, an offer to undertake a process of comprehensive transformation to a modern and prosperous model of state, judiciary and economy. The EU is a powerful market and legal system, but it is also a union of values. Serbia is adopting these values and reforms itself for its own sake and the sake of its people and is not subject to any demands from Brussel. The EU is there to offer its financial and technical support as well as its guidelines.
The EU has been and continues to be Serbia’s biggest donor and a vocal supporter of Serbia’s reform path. Germany has, since the year 2000, contributed some 1.6 billion euros to support the legal, administrative and educational development of Serbia. This makes Germany Serbia’s biggest bilateral donor.
Serbia has already opened eight chapters. Among these are also the key chapters concerning the rule of law: chapters 23 and 24. More important than opening further chapters is the implementation of reform. Elaborate action plans for chapters 23 and 24 still need to be implemented. The true transformation of Serbian society depends on this implementation. And the true beneficiaries of the transformation are the Serbian people.
Important is that the dialogue with Pristina continues. One must not forget why this process is being undertaken and what has already been achieved. At its core is the desire to normalize relations in such a way that citizens – Serbs and Kosovars – enjoy better living conditions.