December 21, 2017 – What are the results of the Estonian Presidency and should we be satisfied with what Serbia has achieved in the past six months? What are the biggest challenges for Serbia on the road to the EU and what are our plans in the coming period? These are some of the topics discussed at the panel discussion organised by the European Policy Centre (CEP) in co-operation with the EU Info Centre. From the Estonian to the Bulgarian Presidency to the EU Council: New Impetus for Enlargement Policy?
Sem Fabrizi, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, highlighted the significance of the Estonian presidency, both for the Western Balkans and for the Europe, particularly in the area of security.
“During the Estonian Presidency, the implementation of the Paris agreement has begun and the cooperation in the area of EU security (PESCO) has deepend, as well as many other things,” says Fabrizi.
Despite the fact that Serbia has shown some progress in the past year, Fabrizi adds that it is nevertheless significant for Serbia to catch the opportunities and adequately prepared for the next year’s events which will bring the Union’s attention back to the Western Balkans.
“The EU – Western Balkans Summit is expected in May, after the adoption of the Western Balkans Strategy in February, which represents a political momentum, that should be used in the next six months of the Bulgarian presidency,” Fabrizi believes.
Daniel Erik Schaer, Ambassador of Estonia to Serbia, points out that many things have been achieved in the last six months. Although the policy of enlargement has not been in the EU’s focus, Schaer adds that it has come back on the top of the EU’s agenda, as confirmed in Juncker’s strategy.
“At the beginning of the Presidency, I could not have had said with certainty that Serbia would have opened chapters during the Estonian Presidency, but has, and that is good,” Schaer says.
Radko Vlajkov, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Serbia, says Bulgaria has readily accepted this responsibility.
“We have been preparing for this Presidency for four to five years. By now, we have considered our priorities well and we are fully prepared to take on this role,” says Vlajkov.
Ambassador also adds that Bulgaria is leading the motto “United we stand strong”.
“Serbs carry the values of the European Union in their hearts. We are ready to help and support the Western Balkans, “says Vlajkov.
Tanja Miščević, Head of the Negotiating Team for the Serbia’s EU Accession, explains that although Serbia has opened two chapters in the last few months, the reform is far from complete.
“The process of EU accession does not only benefit Serbia, but also the European Union,” Miščević said, but adds that the enlargement policy is of political nature, since the Member States are the ones having the final say. In that view, she adds, that even tehnical parts of the process is closely related to the political decision making process.
Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of the CEP Governing Board, said that the year of 2017 was significant for the Western Balkans and Serbia, but that more is expected from the following year.
“This year will be remembered as year in which the enlargement agenda has come back to the EU’s focus,” says Majstorović, and believes that there will be major challenges for the Bulgarian presidency.
“I would like to emphasize that this is a great chance for the Western Balkans. The EU will provide a credible expansion strategy, and it is up to us to implement the necessary reforms, “explains Majstorović.
Tanja Fajon, European Parliament Member, points out that in the recent years she has heard pessimistic messages about enlargement, but adds that the year of 2017 should end on a positive note.
She also agrees with the statement that much of the Bulgarian Presidency is expected.
“Bulgaria is about to have a hard time, because they have to face many challenges, and expectations are extremely high,” Fajon says, adding that enlargement to the Western Balkans is indispensable.
“This region has always been a part of Europe,” says Fajon.
“The process of enlargement is not and will not be easy, it will take a lot of work and will. But reforms need to be implemented. The EU is the best opportunity for state reform and the necessary changes, “concludes Fabrici.