In its new annual Reform Agenda the prEUgovor coalition provides a short overview and recommendations in regard to key issues to be addressed in 2021 in the EU accession process of Serbia.

prEUgovor Reform Agenda for 2021

It is the year 2021 and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, as well as the management of its economic and social consequences. We are expecting the beginning of a large debate on the reform of the European Union and the operationalisation of the new enlargement methodology, which Serbia has accepted.

Last year was marked by a standstill in Serbia’s accession process. For the first time no new negotiation chapters were opened, as a clear consequence of Serbia’s lack of progress in key areas of European integration - democracy and the rule of law, as prEUgovor has reported on a regular basis.

Coalition prEUgovor reminds the EU that the enlargement policy is its most effective foreign policy instrument and the foundation of its influence in the Western Balkans. It also reminds the Government of Serbia that the accession process cannot be a goal on its own, but is rather a means to achieve substantial progress in further democratization and state organisation based on the rule of law. The political will to continue the enlargement process has to be visible and clear from both sides for the reforms to continue.

In that context, the prEUgovor coalition calls the EU:

  • to define, as soon as possible and with the Government of Serbia, how the new methodology will be applied to Serbia’s accession negotiations;

  • to invite the Western Balkan countries to the Conference on the Future of Europe as a clear message of their membership perspective;

  • to more effectively respond to challenges of state capture in the Western Balkans by commissioning an independent analysis of the mechanisms of state capture;

  • to link new funds within the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans with a solid advancement in the rule of law standards in the aspirant countries;

  • to set a positive example for the Western Balkan countries by effectively tackling Rule of Law problems in certain Member States.

prEUgovor calls the Government of Serbia:

  • to appoint an experienced expert as the new Chief of the Negotiating Team

  • not to relativise the negative assessments and Serbia’s ranking in relevant international indexes but to focus on solving the identified problems.

The coalition reiterates its concern about:

  • the lack of dialogue in the media and key democratic institutions such as the Parliament. In circumstances where dialogue between all relevant political actors cannot be ensured through parliamentary mechanisms, there is a growing need for meaningful discussion of public issues in the media and via other mechanisms of social dialogue, such as organising public hearings in the Parliament, using public consultations on policy making, or engaging in EU-mediated inter-party dialogue on key issues;

  • the weakening of independent state institutions that continues to hamper the exercise of external oversight of the executive power;

  • the persisting attacks on civil society organisations, investigative journalists, opposition, and all persons, including EU representatives, that voice criticism towards the Government and/or official policies. These attacks continue not only in the pro-Government media and on social networks, but also in the statements of high officials and during parliamentary debates.

Regarding Chapters 23 and 24, prEUgovor reminds that:

  • key challenges identified thus far in the implementation of the Rule of Law reforms in Serbia have not been fully addressed in the adopted Revised Action Plans;

  • The new coordination and monitoring mechanism for AP 23 should become operational and transparent as soon as possible;

  • Catching up after standstill in 2020 and speeding up reform efforts to fit the set deadlines should not go to the detriment of the consultative processes preceding the adoption of normative and strategic acts;

  • It is necessary to establish better coordination of activities that overlap in the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24, in particular those that concern amending criminal legislation.

Read in more detail in the prEUgovor Reform Agenda for 2021. The document includes also concise overview with recommendations regarding specific areas covered by Chapters 23 and 24, such as independence of the judiciary, fight against corruption and organised crime, anti-discrimination policy and gender equality, migration and asylum, among others.

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union, as part of the project PrEUgovor Policy Watch: building alliances for stronger impact in uncertain future. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the prEUgovor coalition and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.