19 September 2018 – The regular meeting of the Working Group of the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) which is following the negotiations on Serbia’s EU accession in the Chapter 28 (Consumer and Health Protection) was held in Novi Sad, Serbia. This Working Group is managed by the European Policy Centre (CEP).
The Meeting has been opened by the coordinator of the Working Group and the Programme Manager for the Internal Market and Competitiveness in CEP, Dušan Protić. Protić stated that organisers have decided to hold this Meeting in Novi Sad, because many relevant organisations, especially the ones from the field of consumer protection, come from this region.
Member of the Core Negotiating Team for the Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the EU, Nebojša Lazarević, gave highlights of the progress made in this Chapter since 2014 and the news since the last Working Group meeting. Lazarević has explained that the screening of this Chapter was finished in 2014 and that it had been expected that the EU Screening Report will be delivered to our Government during 2015. However, this Report was delayed because the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy (DG NEAR) did not have enough resources at that time, so Serbia has finally received the Report in 2016. Lazarević has stated that the good news is that this Chapter doesn’t have any benchmarks, which brought the optimism that the creating the Negotiating Position for this Chapter will be relatively fast. Competent Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Telecommunications of the Government of Serbia have organised numerous training for their employees, mostly for those who were already working on EU projects and were expected to be actively participating in the writing of the final Negotiating Position. The Draft Negotiating Position was sent to the DG NEAR shortly after the EC’s Report.
In the previous period, Serbia has received new questions and requirements with additional explanations related to the Draft Position. If the last replies with additional explanations are to be adopted by DG NEAR, Negotiating Team will then deliver the final Negotiating Position to the Commision.
Lazarević also stated that Consumer protection is a part of EU legislation, making it more difficult for Serbia to harmonize its complete legislative in this field in such short term. Lazarević added that only some parts of a healthcare are in the EU jurisdiction – only trans-border contagious diseases, trans-border healthcare, organ transplantations, and similar areas belong to the EU jurisdiction. Lazarević emphasized that Serbia’s goal needs to be gaining as much progress as possible and the opening of this Chapter during this winter. As he has explained, there is a fear that the upcoming European Parliament’s elections will get a lot of EU’s attention and that much more effort will be needed in order to “catch” the EU attention for the opening of this chapter.
His speech was followed by the discussion of the Working Group members, representatives of the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications and the representatives from Health and Family Committee of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia.