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news 24 Jun 16

Serbia Hopes of Opening Key EU Chapters Fade

Despite hopes to the contrary, Serbia will not open Chapters 23 and 24 in its EU negotiations during the Dutch EU presidency that ends on July 1, experts warn.

Milivoje Pantovic
Birn
Belgrade
The European Parliament . Photo: Flickr/European External Action Service.

Experts doubt Serbia will get a green light to open Chapters 23 and 24 in its EU membership negotiations - which are considered among most important - before the EU's last session during the Dutch presidency ends on Monday.

“Due to the problems that have occurred, I do not think the opening of Chapters 23 and 24 will happen,” Bojan Elek, from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, said.

A European Council working group on April 6 pulled opening Chapters 23 and 24 - dealing with the rule of law, the judiciary and human rights - from its agenda after Croatia failed to give them a green light.

Slovakia will take over the presidency of the EU from July 1.

“Serbia is still far away from EU standards concerning rule of law and the judiciary,” Elek noted.

He added that even if Chapter 24 was opened, work on it would probably be suspended following the continuing furore over controversies about demolitions in Belgrade's Hercegovacka Street in April.

On April 24, a group of masked men, apparently acting on orders of Belgrade city officials, demolished residential and commercial objects on the riverside in Belgrade to make way for the Belgrade Waterside, a major urban development.

During the demolition operation, local people tried to contact the police who did not answer their calls. The masked men also confiscated mobile phones from eyewitnesses and some were even tied up.

“To truly implement EU standards when it comes to Chapter 24, Serbia needs to reform its police,” Elek explained.

The Slovak EU presidency, meanwhile, remains an unknown quanitity in terms of Serbia's EU negotiations and no one knows as yet what its agenda will focus on.

Elek said that apart from the continuing problem of EU enlargement "fatigue", Serbia's own dedication to the EU membership path remained questionable, referring also to the recent sacking of the Serbian ambassador to the EU.

“The head of Serbia’s Mission to the EU, ambassador Dusko Lopandic, was doing a good job in Brussels,”Elek observed.

“Although the Dutch wanted Chapters 23 and 24 to be opened by the end of June, during their presidency, there is small chance of that now,” agreed coordinator of work group for the Chapter 24 of National Convention on the EU Sonja Stojanovic Gajic.

She said that when Slovakia takes over the EU presidency next month, if the Chapters are not opened in July, the next opportunity will probably be in October.

 “Chapter 24 is a challenge for Serbia because it covers a large number of policies which are changing fastest in the EU, due to the dynamic changes to threats such as cyber crime, terrorism and irregular migration,” Stojanovic Gajic told BIRN.

Serbia's negotiation team in talks with the EU is coming back to Belgrade on Thursday evening after the latest talks with Brussels officials.

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