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  • CEP panel discussion: Preparing for new normality is the biggest challenge facing the German presidency

    29 June 2020 – Croatia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU was marked by numerous challenges, and we must observe the progress made in enlargement policy in the previous six months with a broader picture in mind. During the German presidency, the biggest challenge we will face be how we will live in Europe “new normal” and how we can influence the shaping of that norma- these are the conclusions of the panel discussion organised by the European Policy Centre – CEP today in cooperation with the European Union Delegation in Serbia.

    When it comes to the Western Balkans, enlargement will be high on Germany’s agenda, as it believes that the countries of the Western Balkans, as future members of the EU, should be involved in making decisions that will affect them as well. How quickly they will become members depends mostly on themselves, and the fact that for the first time since the start of negotiations at the Intergovernmental Conference no chapter has been opened with Serbia should be taken as a serious warning, agreed the panel moderated by Milena Lazarević, CEP program director. The panel was attended by Ambassador Sem Fabrizi, Head of the European Union Delegation in Serbia, Croatian Ambassador to Serbia Hidajet Biščević, German Ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb, and CEP Steering Board President Srđan Majstorović.

    You can watch the video from the conference here.

    Commenting on the biggest challenge facing the world at the moment, the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the European Union Delegation in Serbia says that it is necessary to take a proactive attitude towards this situation. “As we will not be able to return to the period before the pandemic, we must transform ourselves from the victims of this situation into those who are actively acting, because only in this way we can influence the shaping of the ‘new normality’ that awaits us”.

     “The two biggest achievements of Croatia’s Presidency of the EU Council are the agreement on the mandate of the Conference on the Future of Europe and progress in the accession processes of countries of the Western Balkans, especially the opening of negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania”, said Ambassador Biščević.

    The ambassador said that, despite the fact that no intergovernmental conference was organised during the Croatian presidency, there is an idea of organising a meeting of Croatia with the countries of the Western Balkans at the ministerial level.

    “If that were to happen, then the Zagreb Declaration could be translated into concrete regional agreements”. This declaration provides the basis for resolving a large number of regional and bilateral issues even after the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council is over”, Biščević said.

    The German Presidency of the Council of the EU begins on 1 July 2020, and its slogan will be “Together for the recovery of Europe”. “Overcoming crises, including the current crisis caused by this pandemic, requires solidarity, willingness to compromise, pragmatism, and strong international cooperation, and that is the reason why we chose this slogan”, said Ambassador Schieb.

    Commenting on Germany’s attitude towards enlargement policy, Schieb said that “Germany will always be a very strong advocate of Serbia’s membership in the EU,” and added that “enlargement is very high on the list of priorities of our presidency, but how fast Serbia will progress depends only on its readiness to implement reforms. Serbia has been negotiating for 7 years and has opened only half of the chapters. This is a serious alarm to speed up and strengthen the process, and I hope that there will be a new impetus in enlargement policy during our presidency.”

    The President of the CEP Steering Board, Srđan Majstorović, said that the fact that Serbia will not open any chapters for the first time since the beginning of negotiations during the Croatian presidency should be taken as a very serious warning.

    “How the public will react to this depends mostly on the reaction of the authorities. I hope that this time there will be no mocking reactions, but that the government will respond adequately to this warning. The fact that we have not progressed in rule of law is the key reason why we have not opened any chapters”, said Majstorović.

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