News 04 Feb 16

Serbia Aims to Open Key EU Chapters in June

Negotiations on key chapters on Serbia’s European path could be opened as early as June, an expert said, after Enlargement Commissioner Hahn praised the progress made so far.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
EU Commissioner for Enlargment Johannes Hahn | Photo: Beta

Bojan Elek, from the Serbian EU integration watchdog, the Center for Security Policy, said on Wednesday that Serbia may be able to open negotiations with the EU on Chapter 24 of the accession process in June.

He was speaking after the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, on Wednesday confirmed that Serbia had made progress on Chapter 24, adding that if further progress is made on reforming the judiciary, Belgrade could open both chapters by mid-year.

“Serbia could open chapter 24 in June this year,” Elek told BIRN.

The Belgrade-based Center for Security Policy is a part of an NGO coalition called PrEUgovor, which is monitoring the EU integration process in Serbia.

Chapters 23, on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and Chapter 24, on freedom and security, are deemed crucial for Serbia's path to eventual EU membership.

"There has been progress on Chapter 24," Hahn said. "In terms of Chapter 23, we have some things that need to be done, but I am still convinced that it is possible to open these chapters by mid-year," Hahn added after meeting Serbia's Minister for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic.

Serbia opened the first two EU chapters in Brussels in mid-December – Chapter 35, on normalisation of the relations with Kosovo, and Chapter 32, addressing financial control.

However, most experts think that Chapters 23 and 24 will be the toughest to close for Serbia.

“The opening of chapters is always a political decision. But, implementing the EU standards is another story where the EU relies on so called ‘track records’, where they can see the exact results in specific areas,” Elek said.

The latest European Commission progress report on Serbia, released in November, said more needed to be done in terms of fighting corruption, curbing political influence over the judiciary and ensuring media freedom and freedom of expression.

The European Council granted Serbia membership candidate status on March 1, 2012.

The first intergovernmental conference between Serbia and the EU was held in January 2014 in Brussels, marking the start of accession negotiations at a political level.

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