“Serbia could present its negotiating position for 13 new chapters within EU negotiations in 2017,” said today Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport in an interview with Blic daily.
The chapters, as he put it, deal with the economy, finance, company law, customs union, etc.
“Serbia has chosen its path and the Government has set the EU accession as its main priority. In fact, the EU accession is a powerful tool for economic and political reform as well as the transformation and modernisation of the society,” said the Ambassador and reminded that Serbia had thus far opened six chapters and provisionally closed one.
“This constitutes a success and an achievement of the Government, the Parliament and the society. The EU strongly supports Serbia on it path not only by opening the negotiating chapters but also through programmes and projects in many areas,” Davenport said.
Asked whether the Brussels Agreement and its implementation were considered the main benchmark for the opening of chapters, he described the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue as very important, adding that progress had been made within it.
“There is a motivation to take the dialogue forward and it is certainly among the factors the EU Member States will be taking into consideration,” Davenport said.
Speaking about the chapter 23, he said that the rule of law was the top priority.
“The European Commission stressed the issues such as delays in court proceedings as they point to denial of justice. Also, it is necessary to meet the standards as regards the independence of judiciary, impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the freedom of expression,” said Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia.
Answering the question of why the “Savamala affair” did not make it to the EC Annual Report, Davenport said that the Report did not deal with individual cases but added that the Delegation was closely monitoring the events from 24 April 2016 onward.
“Any situation in which a building is demolished outside the usual procedure or citizens feel that the Government fails to protect them or they feel threatened is a cause for concern,” Davenport said.
He said that he was yet to receive an invitation to present the 2016 EC Annual Report on Serbia and adding that he would respond to such invitation once the necessary conditions for discussion are in place.
“I have already discussed the Report with the representatives of the Government, NGO sector, business community, not only in the capital but also in Nis and Novi Sad. I always stand ready to respond to the invitation of the Parliament to discuss EU-Serbia relations,” EU Ambassador said.
He said that he was in constant touch and fostered professional relations with Serbian Prime Minister and other ministers of the Government.
Answering the question of whether Serbia would eventually have to distance itself from Russia, Davenport said that all candidate countries should align their foreign and security policy with the EU before the accession.
“Once they join the Union, they become co-creators of such policy. It is an important part of accession process,” Davenport said.