On December 10th, Serbia will open new chapters in negotiations with the EU at the intergovernmental conference in Brussels, and the exact number of chapters will depend on the report on the rule of law in the country that will be delivered to the Member States at the beginning of November by the European Commission – RTS sources in Brussels learn.
Austria, which currently presides over the EU, initially intended to organize, as a sign of goodwill towards Serbia, an intergovernmental conference in October, at which the EU would open chapter 9 (financial services). This idea was abandoned because several member states asked to get acquainted with the report on the rule of law first.
This report, which is submitted twice a year by the European Commission, will serve as a basis for the Member States to make a political assessment of how many chapters should be opened for Serbia in December. Currently, there are five chapters that are being considered by the working bodies of the European Council. Belgrade expects at least three of them to be opened before the end of the year – chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy, chapter 18 on statistics and chapter 9 on financial services.
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Some of these chapters will certainly be opened in December, but for Serbia and other Balkan candidates, the EU integration process has not so far experienced the momentum expected when the European Commission’s Strategy for the Western Balkans was published. The Strategy stated the year 2025 as the framework year for membership. A member of the European Parliament, Eduard Kukan says that citing the year 2025 as the framework-date for membership was an incentive for Serbia and others in the Balkans.
At the current pace of Serbia opening 2 chapters during one EU presidency, or 4 new chapters a year, it will take another five years to open all the remaining chapters. So far, only “lighter” chapters have been opened, for which the EU has not generally set the opening criteria. One of the problems is the action plan for Chapters 23 and 24, with the set deadlines for the implementation of reforms in the rule of law being too ambitious, hence Serbia often finds itself in a position that it cannot meet the deadlines it has set for itself.
“Any such delay gives an additional excuse to sceptical member states to stall with the opening of new chapters,” diplomats in Brussels say. The European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia, David McAlister believes that in many political areas there is room for progress, primarily in the area of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and crime and media freedom.
He points out that the Government of Serbia is aware that EU accession is a very difficult and demanding job. “I am confident that the government is ready to continue this job so that Serbia can join the EU at some point,” McAlister said.
December this year will pose a new test for Serbia to prove how well it has performed in reforms, but also for the EU member states to show the political will to proceed with the EU enlargement to include Balkan states. The EU’s readiness to receive new members, the state of the rule of law in Serbia and the solution for the Kosovo issue will be decisive factors in the process.
This post is also available in: Italiano