European Western Balkans

Pisonero: Progress on the rule of law and the normalization of relations continues to determine Serbia’s overall pace in the accession negotiations

Ana Pisonero; Photo: European Union

 BRUSSELS – “Progress on the rule of law and the normalization of relations continues to determine Serbia’s overall pace in the accession negotiations”, spokeswoman for the European Commission, Ana Pisonero, told the European Western Balkans portal.

According to the European Commission negotiations on normalization with the mediation by the EU are an integral part of the negotiations, “and peace, reconciliation and economic development are key prerequisites for the accelerated progress of the Western Balkans region towards the EU”.

“As the HRVP stated in Ohrid, the agreement on normalisation of relations is first of all in the interest of the people of Serbia and Kosovo, for regional stability more widely and so that Kosovo and Serbia can advance on their respective European paths”, Pisonero said.

When asked how the negotiations could be accelerated, considering specific objections and delays in areas unrelated to Kosovo, Pisonero reminds that the enlargement process is based on “fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of merit”.

“This includes the expectation that candidate countries implement reforms across the different clusters and chapters, starting with “the fundamentals”, which includes the rule of law. These are the first chapters to be opened in the accession process and the last ones to be closed, in line with the enhanced methodology”, Pisonero said.

She assessed that Serbia took an important step towards strengthening the independence and accountability of its judiciary by adopting constitutional amendments last year, along with judicial laws.

“Now Serbia needs to proceed swiftly with effective implementation of the legislation  therefore to establish the High Judicial and High Prosecutorial Councils as soon as possible, through a swift election of the lay members. We also expect Serbia to deliver results on other key priorities in the area of rule of law, including on the fight against corruption and on media freedom. In this regard, the action plan of the media strategy needs to be implemented without further delays”, Pisonero said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, at a meeting in Ohrid, held on March 18, agreed on the implementation of the European proposal on the normalization of relations that was accepted at the meeting in Brussels earlier that month. Officials from the European Union have repeatedly been saying that one of the goals of accepting the European plan is to speed up the European integration process of Serbia and Kosovo.

Although Vučić and Kurti did not sign any document, everything that was agreed upon became an integral part of the process of Serbia’s accession to the European Union within the framework of Chapter 35, which refers to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Chapter 35 was created in 2015, as a result of the Brussels dialogue, and represents, in addition to Chapters 23 and 24, which refer to the rule of law, one of the blocking chapters in the accession process. In practice, this means that if there is no progress in these three chapters, there will be no progress in the others either.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Policy and Security Policy Josep Borell said last week that any attempt to question the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is futile.

“The agreement is determined, it has to be implemented and there is no room for choosing what’s to be done and what not”, said today the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, during the ministerial meeting in Brussels. According to the European External Action Service (EEAS), Borell said that the “agreement is a whole” and that all its parts should be implemented.

The heads of states and governments of the European Union member states welcomed the agreement reached by the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on March 18 in Ohrid.

The conclusions published on the EU website state that “EU leaders have welcomed the Agreement on the path to normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia and its Implementation Annex, reached in the EU-facilitated dialogue led by the High Representative, as an integral part of their respective European paths, and called on both parties to implement expediently and in good faith their respective obligations”.


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