Is there a problem in communication between Serbia and the EU regarding the new methodology?

Visit of Commissioner Varhelyi to Serbia, with Minister Joksimović and President Vučić in the background; Photo: European Union

BELGRADE / BRUSSELS – In a conversation with Tanjug news agency on 1 July, Minister of European Integration of Serbia Jadranka Joksimović reiterated that she had asked the partners from the EU how the new methodology would apply to Serbia’s negotiation process. Joksimović stated back in May that she still had not received a clear answer to this question – however, the European Commission says for our portal that they understand that Serbia has not yet made a decision and that they are ready for further talks with the authorities.

The European Commission proposed the new methodology for EU enlargement on 5 February, while EU member states supported it on 26 March. The methodology was adopted on the occasion of the upcoming negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, while the countries that are already negotiating, Montenegro and Serbia, are free to choose whether they want to accept it or not.

While Montenegro announced in March that it would accept the new methodology, and confirmed this in May, Serbia has still not made up its mind on this topic. European integration experts have repeatedly assessed for our portal that Serbia would benefit from the acceptance of the new methodology and that it would be a positive signal in terms of its orientation towards EU accession.

In the meantime, Minister Joksimović emphasised on 18 May that Serbia expects a clear answer from the EU on what the new methodology would mean for Serbia, i.e. how the country’s progress on the EU path would be evaluated according to the new methodology. Then, in a conversation with Tanjug on 1 July, she reiterated that she had asked the European partners for the explanation and that she is expecting their answer.

Based on the statements of Minister Joksimović, it could be concluded that Serbia has sent a request for information on the application of the new methodology to Brussels and is still waiting for a response from the European institutions. However, this conclusion cannot be drawn from the answer that our portal received from the European Commission on 17 June.

When asked if the Government of Serbia had formally contacted the European Commission with the question of applying the new methodology to Serbia, EC Spokesperson Ana Pisonero said that the EU understands “understand that Serbia has not yet taken a final decision on the revised methodology”, and that the European Commission stand ready “to further discuss the matter with the authorities”.

The day after contacting the European Commission, on 18 June, European Western Balkans sent an inquiry to the Cabinet of Minister Jadranka Joksimović with the question of whether Serbia officially asked the European Commission for information on the new methodology, but so far we have not received any answer.

We remind that the European Commission announced a new methodology for accession negotiations at the end of last year, after Albania and North Macedonia failed to receive the green light to open negotiations in October. The drafting of the new methodology was part of an effort to change the attitude of skeptical EU members on this issue, which bore fruit in late March.

The most important aspects of the new methodology include grouping negotiation chapters into clusters according to thematic areas, the possibility of rewarding the reform process with more resources and gradual integration of candidates in individual EU policies, but also sanctioning the lack of progress by stopping negotiations in certain areas or, in the most serious cases, suspending them alltogether.

According to the new methodology, an even stronger focus will be on the so-called “fundamentals” (democracy, rule of law and market economy), with roadmaps for the rule of law and democratic institutions.

The political nature of the process will be put front and centre with mechanisms such as regular EU and Western Balkans summits, intergovernmental conferences for individual countries, as well as a greater focus on political issues by the Stabilisation and Association bodies.