• 2022-10-17

Public reading of the European Commission 2022 Report on Serbia

Monday 17 October 2022

On 17 October 2022, the Center for Democracy Foundation and the Center for Contemporary Politics organised the traditional Public Reading of the EU’s Serbia Report 2022.

The following attendees spoke at the event: Plamena Halačeva, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in the Republic of Serbia; Nataša Vučković, Executive Director of the CDF; Nemanja Todorović Štiplija, Executive Director of the Centre for Contemporary Politics; Jovana Spremo, Advisor on EU Integration, Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights (YUCOM); Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of CEP Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP); Bojan Elek, Deputy Director at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP); Nikola Burazer, Programme Director at the Centre for Contemporary Politics.

The Report of the European Commission on Serbia for 2022 was published on 12 October. The non-governmental organizations, committed to European integration of Serbia, every year organize the public reading of the Report with aim to improve citizens` understanding of the key findings of the EU on the progress Serbia has made in previous year on its EU path. 

The most significant findings of the European Commission were presented at the public reading. Various areas were examined and the reports of other countries of the Western Balkans were compared with the Serbia Report. Organisations that have spent years dedicated to Serbia’s accession to the EU gave their recommendations on how to improve the process.

Serbia is Stagnating Along its Path to the EU

Although Serbia has experienced a great setback in terms of Chapter 31, this must not take focus away from other important areas mentioned in the EC report, including rule of law, democracy, judiciary and media freedom. This was concluded during the Public Reading of the EC Report, which has been organised by the Center for Democracy Foundation (CFD) and the Center for Contemporary Politics (CSP) for the past five consecutive years.

Nataša Vučković, Secretary General of the CDF emphasised the significance of the Report to the people and the role of the civic sector in transmitting key information to the public.

She said that the Report provides an objective image of life and work in Serbia and should be used as a guideline toward progress.

She reminded those present that EU membership is a strategic goal for Serbia, but that certain individual representatives of the state are bringing this into question with their public rhetoric.

“Today, more than ever, it is vital that we nurture positive speech concerning the European Union and oppose dangerous populism which, by offering easy fixes, is in fact distancing Serbia from its historical chance to catch up to modern societies of this day and age,” said Vučković.

Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in the Republic of Serbia, Plamena Halačeva, presented the key conclusions of the Report concerning key areas and reminded the audience that the process of drafting the Report included all relevant actors, from heads of state and civil societies to international organisations. 

Halačeva highlighted that new life has been breathed into the enlargement policy and at this time, now more than ever, it is the “geostrategic investment in long-term peace, stability, security and prosperity on the European continent.”

“The European Union remains Serbia’s main trading partner, its greatest donator and largest investor. We will continue to provide financial aid and investments which will make a difference, such as the European Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkan, and various other projects that will help Serbia weather the energy crisis,” said the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia, adding that the EU will continue its close cooperation with Serbian civil societies.

Nemanja Todorović Štiplija, Executive Director of the CSP, drew attention to the fact that since the Report’s publication, the public's focus has been on the backsliding relative to Chapter 31, and not on other topics.

“Traditionally, for the past five years, we have highlighted certain elements we believe to be of greater importance to the people of this country, elements that will truly make it European. So, once again, this year, we chose to deal with the basics that will turn Serbia into a democratic state, this including Chapters 23 and 24 which deal with basic rights and rule of law in general terms,” said Todorović Štiplija.

Srđan Majstorović from the Centre Policy Centre spoke about political criteria of significance to EU accession, for which, as he stressed, there are no standardised rules concerning the assessment of the democratic situation in candidate countries.

Majstorović expressed his concern over the fact that the issue of democracy is often overshadowed by issues of foreign policy, as, without a developed democracy, Serbia cannot hope for progress in its Eurointegration, regardless of foreign policy.

Chapter 23 is the clearest way to determine to what extent a country has fulfilled the political criteria, explained Jovana Spremo from the Lawyers’ Committee on Human Rights (YUCOM). She believes that the fact that only limited progress has been made concerning Chapter 23 is a consequence of the media situation in Serbia, where there has been no development whatsoever.

Spremo highlighted that this year’s Report pays a great deal of attention to the right to freedom of assembly, in contrast to the previous Report. The Report provides numerous examples, from environmental protests to the Europride march, indicating the manner in which the government obstructed the right to freedom of assembly. It stressed the necessity and urgency to establish a council for civil society cooperation and reminded us of the fact that over the past two and a half years, there have been over 200 cases of attack and pressure placed on human rights’ defenders.

In speaking about Chapter 24, Bojan Elek, Deputy Director at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) indicated that it shouldn’t be surprising that the y-o-y results remain at the same level, given that the person responsible for the implementation of the Action Plan, Mr Vulin, often makes statements and behaves in a manner that brings Serbia’s EU path into question.

According to Elek, the European Commission recognised the reaction of civil societies, which was a key reason the controversial Law on Internal Affairs was not adopted in the summer of 2021. However, Elek believes that the Commission should have been more critical of the law itself and the way in which its adoption was attempted.

Nikola Burazer, Programme Director at the Centre for Contemporary Politics and Editor of the European Western Balkans portal, spoke about media freedom, another area of the EC Report which indicates a lack of progress.

Burazer emphasised that media freedom in itself is important to democracy in Serbia, but also that there is spill-over here into other areas, in particular, the fulfilment of political criteria fundamental to the European integration process.

The panellists concluded by stressing Serbia’s stagnation along its European path, emphasising that the occasional progress, which can be measured in parts per thousand, relates to the adoption of formal documents, the implementation of which, as a rule, never takes place.

Source: FCD/EWB

The event was organised as part of the Socio-economic Rights and Sustainable Development project, with the financial support of the Olof Palme International Center.

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Public reading of the European Commission 2022 Report on Serbia (17.10.2022)