EurActiv: Serbia easily digests Commission’s ‘progress report’

Photo: mfa.gov.rs

BELGRADE – The government in Belgrade is generally satisfied with the European Commission’s annual report on Serbia’s progress in European integration published on Wednesday, even though it might not agree with all of its conclusions, EurActiv Serbia reports.

This year’s report positively assessed the progress Serbia made on the economic side and in certain other areas, as well as its role in establishing cooperation in the region and conduct regarding the migrant crisis.

However, as far as the rule of law is concerned, the Commission finds that Serbia still faces big challenges: there is still political interference in the judiciary, corruption is a serious problem and there is no progress in media freedoms. Other weak points are the relations with Kosovo and Serbia’s close ties with Russia. Serbia did not join the EU’s sanctions against Moscow.

The report notes that Serbia has not adjusted to the EU Council’s decisions regarding the restrictive measures against Russia, but admits that the country is not asked to do so immediately, but rather to “progressively” adapt to the Common Foreign and Security Policy until its accession to the Union.

When it comes to Kosovo, Serbia is expected to work on implementing the agreements it has reached with Pristina in the EU-mediated dialogue on the normalization of relations.

“Continued efforts are needed to implement the agreements already reached with Kosovo. The steps taken should have a positive and concrete impact on the everyday life of citizens in both Serbia and Kosovo,” the EC report reads.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said that the Commission’s report for Serbia was realistic and well-composed, although he personally might not agree with each of the statements made in the document.

“It is important for us that we are making progress in almost all of the chapters. It is also important that the European Union very positively assesses Serbia’s political role in the region and the role it has had in the migrant crisis,” Vučić told a press conference at the government headquarters, after EU Delegation to Serbia Head Michael Davenport handed him the report.

Vučić added that there was much more to be done, such as the continued reforming of the judiciary, which must become more efficient and completely independent.

He further said he had seen objections concerning a lack of cooperation with the Hague tribunal, over the failure to extradite three Serbian Radical Party members for, as he called it, “a strange criminal offense,” as well as concerning the Serbian Progressive Party’s cooperation with United Russia.

The Hague tribunal indicted three officials of the Serbian Radical Party, Petar Jojić, Vjerica Radeta and Jovo Ostojić, for influencing witnesses and obstructing justice in the process against the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Šešelj.

The Higher Court in Belgrade decided earlier this year that there were no legal grounds for their arrest and extradition, because the national law on cooperation with the Hague tribunal envisages the obligation of extraditing only war crimes indictees, not individuals accused of contempt of court.

The EC report reads that four Serbian political parties, among them the Serbian prime minister’s Serbian Progressive Party, signed a declaration on cooperation with the United Russia party at the latter’s June congress in Moscow. It adds that high-level contacts with Russia continued with regular bilateral visits as well as military technical cooperation between Serbia and Russia.

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