Milica Vuksanović,

University Singidunum, Faculty of health, legal and business sciences , Serbia

 

The European Union is a community of 28 countries in Europe with a population of 508.2 million. Serbia is in Europe but not a member of the European Union. To all governments since 2000, one of the biggest priorities was to get membership in the European Union.

Why the EU?

In 2013, the average life expectancy in the EU was 80 years, while in Serbia in 2012 it was 75 years old. The gross domestic product of the EU was 27,400 per capita in 2014, while it was almost three times smaller in Serbia a year earlier. The EU creates a single market through laws that apply in all member states and guarantees free flow of workers, goods, services and capital to its citizens.

What are membership negotiations?

Accession negotiations are the final phase of the process of EU candidate integration. Accession to the EU does not exclude the independence and sovereignty of a Member State, but it brings with it certain rules that must be respected. But it is not just a state that is committed to entering this integration. In this process, a number of conditions are imposed, where each country is a special case. If each country is a specific entity with economic, political, cultural, social characteristics, it seems that Serbia is the most specific case of the region, for which special rules are laid down. Consider some of them. In the area of democracy and the rule of law, the following issues need to be addressed: public administration reform, war crimes prosecutors, efficiency and modernization of the independent judicial system, media legislation, NGO development (NGOs) and civil society, conflict of interest law and fight against corruption, Office of the Ombudsman. Political conditions include: obligations from membership in the Council of Europe, protection of refugees and displaced persons, protection of minority rights, reform of the army and strategies from the defense, full cooperation with the ICTY (Hague Tribunal), regional cooperation. The economic area includes the following: macroeconomic stability, price liberalization, abolition of administrative control measures, acceleration of restructuring, privatization and liquidation, strategy for combating unemployment, definition of gray economy, tax reforms.

In order to start these negotiations, Serbia concluded the Stabilization and Association Agreement and met the requirements for candidate status. On April 29, 2008, the Republic of Serbia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union, which came into force on 1 September 2013. This Agreement, the beginning of the stage of relations regulated by a comprehensive agreement between Serbia and the EU, confirms the perspective of Serbia’s membership in the European Union.Serbia’s application for membership was submitted on December 22, 2009. The status of candidate for EU membership was granted to the European Council on March 1, 2012, while the decision to open accession negotiations with Serbia was made on June 28, 2013.

The flow of accession negotiations The general position of the European Union (EU) on Serbia’s accession negotiations consists of two documents: an introductory presentation of the EU at the First Intergovernmental Conference of Serbia and the EU and the Negotiating Framework for Serbia’s Accession to the EU.The negotiating framework contains the principles, essence and procedures of the entire negotiation process. The focus is on the conditions under which the candidate country will adopt and enforce the acquis communautaire (EU acquis), divided into 35 thematic chapters. The EU expects the Republic of Serbia to ensure full implementation of key reforms and legislation, in particular in the field of judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime, public administration reform, independenceinstitutions, media reform, anti-discrimination and minority protection. Particular importance is attached to the harmonization of the dynamics of the negotiation process, ie the uniform progress in all chapters. This applies in particular to chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) whose progress must follow the dynamics of other chapters. The procedure referred to in the preceding paragraph will also address issues within Chapter 35.The opening of the chapters in the negotiations is preceded by a screening – an analytical overview of the applicable legislation in a particular area in Serbia and the one in the EU for each of the 35 chapters, with the exception of Chapter 34 (institutions) for which, as a rule, it is not maintained.The phase of the analytical review of legislation begins with the so-called Explanatory screening, within which the European Commission represents the candidate country of the EU acquis in the negotiating chapters, while through the so-called ” bilateral screening assesses the level of alignment of the legal system of the candidate country with the EU legal system. Thereafter, the differences between the two legislations and the measures for overcoming these differences are determined, based on which an action plan for the implementation of these measures is drawn up and a timeframe is defined.

After the completion of the bilateral screening, the European Commission presents Member States a Screening Report containing recommendations on opening negotiations for a particular chapter and, possibly, opening benchmarks. The screening process for Serbia began in September 2013 and ended at the end of March 2015. Representatives of the EC point out that they are satisfied with the screening because it showed a high level of readiness and commitment of the Serbian administration throughout the process, as well as reforms.

Republic of Serbia very slowly but thoroughly is going to be part of EU. I think entering to EU can only bring good things, and benefits for citizens will be much bigger than now, especially for young people.

Education is one of the most important things. I am part of Erasmus + program, and I would like that more people from Serbia can be part of it. Also, members of EU can work everywhere in Europe, if visa free regime is introduced.

I also think that a tense political situation in the country and the region could be resolved. The question of the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija (self – appointed state of Kosovo) by the arrival of the EU would certainly be solved

Intergovernmental conferences

The Republic of Serbia’s EU membership talks officially began on January 21, 2014 in Brussels, the First Intergovernmental Conference on Serbia’s Accession to the EU, where views were exchanged between EU and Serbia representatives, ie the EU Negotiating Framework and the Republic of Serbia’s Introductory Statement were presented. Conferences can be held in political format or at a technical or expert level.

In the current process of negotiation between the Republic of Serbia and the European Union, a total of six intergovernmental conferences were held in which ten negotiating chapters were opened, two of which were simultaneously closed.

Intergovernmental conferences on the accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union

I – January 21, 2014 – The EU Negotiating Framework and the Republic of Serbia Introductory Statement have been presented

II – December 14, 2015 – Chapters 32 – Financial Control and 35 – Other issues have been opened

III – July 18, 2016 – Chapters 23 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and 24 – Justice, Freedom and Security

IV – December 13, 2016 – Chapter 5 – Public Procurement is open, and Chapter 25 – Science and Research is simultaneously open and temporarily closed.

V – 27 February 2017 – Chapter 20 – Entrepreneurship and industrial policy is open, while Chapter 26 – Education and culture is open and simultaneously temporarily closed

VI – June 20, 2017 – Chapters 7 – Intellectual Property Law and 29 – Customs union

The Republic of Serbia intensively works and undertakes all necessary measures and activities in order to fulfill the basic preconditions for the remaining chapters as soon as possible to be ready for opening. SERBIA PARTICIPATES IN A LARGE NUMBER OF EU PROGRAMS, enabling its institutions and citizens to be part of European flows in culture, science, research:

ERASMUS +: 5,000 Serbian students and professors participated in exchange programs through Erasmus and Erasmus +; 2,000 faculty employees participated in 218 European projects

CREATIVE EUROPE: a program of support to the sectors for culture and the media, where only in 2015 and 2016, the assistance of 1.5 million euros has received 38 projects HORIZONT 2020: Framework Research and Innovation Framework which focuses on activities close to the market. Several institutions from Serbia are successfully using the funds from this program: so the Novi Sad BioSense Institute has so far implemented 10 projects, among which

ANTARES project worth as much as 28 million euros (application of information and communication technologies in agriculture)

COSME: a program for competitiveness of small and medium enterprises

EUROPE FOR CITIZENS AND CITIZENS: an EU program dedicated to the promotion of common European history and the strengthening of citizen participation in all aspects of the Community’s life

CROSS-BORDER AND TRANSNATIONAL COOPERATION PROGRAMS: important for the development of local communities as well as for border regions

YOUTH SUPPORT: With the support of the EU and the reputation of the French-German Youth Office, an agreement was signed at the Summit of the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to establish a Regional Office for Youth Cooperation (RYCO) at the beginning of July 2017 in Paris. The task of this organization is to contribute to calming the ghosts of the past in the region and the exchange of cultural values among young people.

In order for Serbia to become a member of the EU, it must meet very demanding conditions. Serbia is on a long way to meeting these criteria.

The crucial year will certainly be in 2019, after Bregzit, when Serbia should receive transitional criteria for closing chapters 23 and 24, after which we will know how long the negotiation process will continue, as well as when we will enter the EU roughly. An important indicator will be the EU 2020 budget that will be prepared in 2020, for the period from 2021 to 2026, from which it will be known whether Brussels is planning an expansion in that period.

Republic of Serbia have shown seriousness as a candidate country, good results in many areas, as well as the political will for reform and partnership with the EU, an important role in regional stability, which is also important for the EU.  The latest research has shown that the citizens of Serbia are interested in entering the EU in a large number. The crucial problem that stands in the way of Serbia and EU accession is the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the unresolved status of Kosovo and Metohija. but the Republic of Serbia does everything to solve this issue, and it is open to every aspect of cooperation. For Serbia, entering the European Union will be the day when dreams, not just these generations, have been achieved, but many previous generations of our people, the day we created the basis for a safe, democratic and European future for our new generations. Joining the EU is a difficult job, but it is ultimately beneficial to every single citizen, their family and their work.