Serbia progresses on its EU path with opening of Chapters 23 and 24

By bne IntelliNews July 19, 2016

Serbia opened its third and fourth accession negotiation chapters on July 18, a significant step on the country's path to EU entry. The opening of Chapters 23 on the judiciary and fundamental rights and 24 on justice, freedom and security was officially announced at the third meeting of the ministerial level accession conference with Serbia in Brussels.

Serbia now has four open negotiation chapters. It originally opened Chapter 32 on financial control and Chapter 35 on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo opening on December 14, 2015.

The opening of two more chapters is important for the political situation in Serbia and could bring multiple benefits. First, the country’s progress on its EU path is a positive sign for foreign investors. Secondly, it will increase support for the process among Serbian citizens, after many backed political parties which openly oppose EU integration in the April general election, when several anti-EU parties re-entered the parliament.

The opening of the chapters is also seen as victory for the Serbian government, as it had been blocked for several months by Croatia, which initially refused to approve the opening of Chapter 23.

“This is very good news for Serbia - we are opening two important and demanding chapters in the accession process. These chapters are tied to basic values and principles of the EU: democracy, rule of law, independent judiciary - areas crucial for the introduction of European standards and strengthening rights of the citizens,” said Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, on behalf of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union, who led the EU delegation at the July 18 meeting.

“Today's conference also represents a concrete delivery on one of the presidency´s priorities - to reinforce the credibility of the enlargement. Once the candidate country delivers on the necessary commitments, the EU moves it forward in the accession process,” he added.

“This is a very big and important day for Serbia, because it shows that this is our strategic path that demonstrates our commitment and dedication to fulfilling all the tasks set before us,” Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at a press conference in Brussels, the government reported.

“We are aware that we will have difficulties and obstacles on that path, especially in the implementation of these two important chapters, but we are determined to fulfil the expectations and show results.

“We want that type of society, and that is the most important reason why we remain firmly on the path towards the EU,” he said, adding that all of this has a direct connection with the improvement of living standards for people in Serbia.

“This means that the rule of law and the enactment of the right legislation will be a major incentive for foreign investment, which is the only thing that can guarantee a better standard of living of citizens and higher economic growth,” Vucic underlined.

According to Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, the opening of chapters 23 and 24 is a great moment for the EU and Serbia.

“The opening of the two chapters represents an important milestone in the accession negotiations with Serbia. Under the new approach, both chapters are tackled early in the enlargement process to allow Serbia to develop a solid track record of reform implementation. This will ensure sustainable and lasting reforms in the area of the rule of law,” the European Council press release reads.

 

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