At the beginning of the year, prEUgovor traditionally reviews the situation in the areas of Cluster 1, which it regularly monitors and offers recommendations on what needs to be done during 2023 in order to solve the key noted problems.
The year that passed was marked by the gloomy picture of Serbia’s European integration. The old Government spent eight and a half months in technical mandate, which is why most of the reform activities were placed on hold. Institutions in Brussels increasingly doubt the commitment of Serbian authorities to the European path, while citizens’ support for their homeland’s membership in the European Union (EU) has significantly decreased and now remains the opinion of the minority.
As shown in the latest annual report of the European Commission, Serbia is progressing towards membership in the European Union ever more slowly and has been standing halfway for years now.
Russian aggression against Ukraine has complicated international and regional relations and strengthened the geopolitical dimension of the EU’s external action, which contributed to the intensification of the EU’s enlargement policy and its mediation efforts between Belgrade and Priština. The decision of the Serbian leadership not to comply with a series of sanctions the European Union imposed on Russia after February 2022 contributed to the stalling of the negotiation process, further complicating Serbia’s position. Alignment with the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU has de facto become a prerequisite for any further progress in the accession process as an expression of the country’s strategic determination.
In the above context:
- The prEUgovor coalition welcomes the new momentum of the European Union’s enlargement policy and asks that geopolitical issues not be given priority over reforms in the area of the rule of law. In this sense, taking shortcuts and cutting corners is not desirable and can prove to be dangerous.
- PrEUgovor calls for the strengthening of the enlargement policy’s reform potential. This implies facing the challenges of stabilocracy and state capture that render the transformational goal of the accession process meaningless while maintaining the semblance of progress in European integration.
- PrEUgovor once again warns that the acceleration of reform activities in order to meet the deadlines should not come at the expense of the consultation process, which must precede the adoption of normative and strategic acts.
- PrEUgovor regrets that, even in the new convocation, which includes representatives of opposition parties from a wide political spectrum, the National Assembly has not become a body that completely fulfils its constitutional role.
- PrEUgovor emphasises the need to establish a functional framework for the systemic cooperation of public institutions with the civil society in the creation and implementation of public policies and strategic and normative acts. The establishment of a formal strategic framework for the development of a stimulating environment for the civil society is nothing but a dead letter if the competent institutions do not adequately respond to continuous pressure and attacks on civil society’s representatives and activists, human rights’ defenders.
- Although negotiations at a high political level between Belgrade and Priština have been intensive in the past period, they have taken place in an atmosphere of strained relations, sporadic incidents and a deteriorating security situation on the ground. The Coalition calls on the competent institutions to commit to the preservation of stability, responsible public speech and a transparent approach to negotiations.
- In the area of strengthening the independence of the judiciary, PrEUgovor expresses its regret that, when adopting new judicial laws, the Ministry of Justice, the Government and the National Assembly did not accept numerous proposals of civil society organisations, or those of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, as a result of which there remained too much room for political influence when electing members of the judicial councils in the National Assembly.
- This year, the main challenge in Chapters 23 and 24 is the preparation of the Draft Law on Internal Affairs, which contains deficiencies in many areas and there is a risk that it may lead to a reduction of already achieved human rights standards without solving any of the key problems on which prEUgovor has been reporting on a regular basis. PrEUgovor appeals to the Government of Serbia and the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) to abandon the idea of introducing and legalising smart mass biometric surveillance in public areas. It must be ensured that the new Law improves the work of the police, above all when it comes to eliminating the influence of organised crime and politics on its operational work.
More detailed recommendations in certain areas of Cluster 1, including the functioning of democratic institutions and Chapters 23 and 24, are listed in the publication.