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report 23 Jan 14

Serbia’s 35 Steps to EU Membership

Before it can join the EU, Serbia has to close 35 chapters covering all aspects of government and economic activity as well as the sensitive Kosovo issue.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

“A stable, modern, democratic and prosperous Serbia in the European Union is the goal which should unite us all. There is a lot of work ahead of us,”

Michael Davenport, head of EU Delegation to Serbia, wrote these words in the preface of the brochure, "35 steps to the EU", which the delegation published on Tuesday, January 21, when Serbia officially started EU accession talks.

In addressing the size of the workload ahead, Davenport had in mind the 35 negotiating chapters that Serbia will have to close before it can obtain membership.

In September 2013, Serbia started the so-called screening process. This is a process of reviewing the situation and determining the level of harmonization of Serbia’s economic and legal system with that of the EU, thus creating a foundation for the accession negotiations. Once screening is complete, Serbia will open and close the 35 chapters, one by one.

The chapters cover practically all aspects of administration, from tax policy to fishing, regulation, security, culture and education. Each must be opened and closed by the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, which unites foreign ministers of all 28 member states.

“In order to join the European Union, the candidate will have to incorporate EU laws into national legislation and implement them by the time of accession," the EU brochure notes.

The first chapter is devoted to the principle of free movement of goods, which means free trade in all products throughout EU territory.

The second deals with the free movement of people. Migrant workers within the EU must be treated the same way as national workers when it comes to working conditions, welfare and benefits.

The third chapter notes that candidate country must provide an equal right of residence for all EU citizens and residents. The candidate country must ensure free provision of cross-border services.

According to the fourth chapter, in addition to allowing free movement of goods and people, each member state must remove all impediments to the free movement of capital within the EU, and between the EU countries and third countries.

The EU acquis in the area of public procurement, the fifth chapter says, includes general principles of transparency, equal treatment, free competition and prevention of discrimination.

According to the sixth chapter, the legal legacy of the EU regarding the right of companies includes rules on founding a company, registration, merging and splitting as well as companies’ obligations to publish financial reports annually.

The seventh chapter covers intellectual property.

EU acquis in the area of competition policy covers the fight against monopolies and policies on controlling state aid, addressed in the eighth chapter. They include rules and procedures for combating actions of companies that violate principles of competition, restrictive agreements between companies and the abuse of dominant positions.

The ninth chapter, on financial services, covers authorization rules, labour and supervision of financial institutions in the area of banking, insurance, supplementary pensions, investment services and securities markets.

Rules on electronic communications, information society services, especially electronic commerce and audio-visual services, are covered in the tenth chapter.

Agriculture is addressed the 11th chapter, followed by food safety, veterinary and sanitary policy in the 12th chapter.

The acquis concerning fishing and fisheries comes in the 13th chapter.

Safe, efficient and eco-friendly traffics are covered in the 14th chapter while energy is dealt with in chapter 15. To close this chapter, Serbia must open up its energy market to foreign companies.

Taxes, excise duties and monetary policy are covered in the 16th and 17th chapters.
Statistics, social policy and employment are the main topics along with entrepreneurship and industrial policy addressed in chapters 18-20.

The development of trans-European networks comes in chapter 21, followed by regional policy in chapter 22.

Chapter 23 and 24 are dealing with justice, freedom and security.
Science, research, education and culture are on table with chapters 25 and 26.

To close chapter 27, on the environment, power plants have to be prohibited from emitting toxic gases.

Consumer protection is covered by chapter 28. This is followed by a chapter on the customs union, which means the abolition of tariffs at national borders of EU member states and establishing a harmonised system of taxing imports.

Rules on foreign relations and defense policy come in chapters 30 and 31.

The concept of internal public financial control is addressed in chapter 32. Chapter 33 includes the financial contributions that EU member states must give to the EU budget.

EU institutions are covered with chapter 34, while the last chapter, 35, is reserved for “other issues”, which in Serbia's case includes relations with the former province of Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not recognize. The current EU-led dialogue with the Kosovo government will continue alongside the accession talks with the EU.

Both Serbian and EU officials agree that chapter 35 will be the toughest.

The EU framework, unveiled on Tuesday, envisions Belgrade and Pristina signing a legally binding agreement before either joins the EU. In Serbia’s case, European diplomats see as a guarantee of permanent normalization of ties, rather than as a demand for Serbia to specifically recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Only once all 35 chapters are closed can a membership treaty be signed by Serbia and all existing EU member states. Serbia will become an EU member state once the treaty is ratified by all the parliaments of the member states.  

 

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