September 28, 2017 – Even though Serbia has a good base and competent personnel for interest representation in Brussels, it is necessary to invest more in promoting Serbia’s country image, as well as strengthening administrative capacities. This was the conclusion of today’s panel Serbia in Brussels – Between an Active Participant and a Passive Observer?, which was organized by the European Policy Centre (CEP).
This event featured a study on Serbia’s lobbying and administrative capacities for interest representation in the EU institutions. The findings suggest that Serbia has an excellent starting point, established institutional mechanisms and competent personnel. However, there is some fear that the existing system could be jeopardized unless there are additional investments in advancing existing capacities, especially human resources.
A Ambassador and former Head of the Mission of RS to the EU, Duško Lopandić, highlights that CEP’s initiative is an excellent opportunity to conduct an analysis of Serbia’s potential when it comes representation and promotion of its interests.
“The general conclusion of the study regarding the efficiency of Serbian administration and diplomacy in Brussels is positive, which is unsurprising, given frequent praise of Serbia’s administrative capacities in EU negotiations, which the European Commission publishes in its reports on the enlargement process,” highlights Lopandić.
He thinks that the process of EU accession is a collective endeavour and represents a challenge for the entire society and the entire government administration.
“This process entails a wide social consensus and comprehensively good organization,” highlights Lopandić.
A Member of the European Parliament Andor Deli, explains that the EU has big expectations from candidate countries, and adds that Serbia’s preparation is noticed. “With its efforts and dedication, Serbia stands as a credible country in Brussels, which has well-established institutional structure EU can negotiate with,” highlights Deli. He does, however, add that there is room for strengthening administrative capacities, because it is important “not only for successful negotiations, but also for future challenges that await upon EU membership.”
Given that the next decade is crucial for the completion of Serbia’s membership negotiations and for complete adoption of the EU acquis, CEP’s study suggests certain improvements, which entail not only human resources, but also promotion of Serbia’s country image during the negotiations.
This study was written by Strahinja Subotic, a Junior Researcher from CEP. Subotic adds that the key actors in the process are very well connected. “The study included the most relevant institutions for Serbia’s interest representation, as well as relevant EU institutions in the process of Serbia’s integration,” explains Subotić. He highlights that, even though Serbia has been successfully representing its interests in Brussels and has competent personnel, Serbia should create a long-term strategy and expand its administrative capacities in the EU.
“Serbia (within Mission in Brussels) does not have the personnel that could cover all sections, such as energy and environmental protection,” explains Subotić.
The panelists also discussed the recent statement that the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, made in his State of the Union speech, in which he highlights that the EU will create a Strategy for successful accession of Serbia and Montenegro to the EU by 2025.
“This represents a clear signal of political will of the EU to accept new members, which Serbia needs to take advantage of, in order to accelerate the negotiating process,” highlights Deli.
Lopandić concurs with this statement, and adds that Serbia is facing an important period which should allow for a completion of efforts of an entire generation. “It is important that Serbia acts towards further improving its country image in Europe and the world, as an open, dynamic country in the process of modernization, who fully shares European values and goals, and has a lot to offer to its European partners,” explains Lopandić.
Natasša Dragojlović, the coordinator of the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) thinks that it is very important that Serbia has representatives in Brussels, but adds that Serbia does not have sufficient will to strengthen those capacities.
“Serbia did not have the necessary intuition when it was necessary to send its representatives to the right centres of decision making, that resulted in NCEU’s having to send its members to lobby for Serbia’s positive country image,” highlights Dragojlović.
“It is important that Serbia creates a strategy for public diplomacy and expand its capacities in Brussels, in order to avoid waning of support for EU integration,” explains Dragojlović.
Source: European Western Balkans