The Republic of Serbia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union on 29 April 2008, and the SAA came into force on 1 September 2013. By means of this Agreement, the Republic of Serbia and the European Union have entered for the first time a stage of relations regulated by an all-embracing agreement, whereby Serbian EU membership prospects have been reaffirmed. The Republic of Serbia applied for EU membership on 22 December 2009. The European Council passed a decision to grant Serbia the candidate status for EU membership on 1 March 2012, while on 28 June 2013 it decided to open the accession negotiations with the Republic of Serbia.
Course of Accession Negotiations
The Common Position of the European Union (EU) on the accession negotiations with the Republic of Serbia, which was adopted by the EU General Affairs Council (GAC) on 17 December 2013, and subsequently approved by the European Council of 19-20 December 2013, consists of two documents: introductory remarks of the EU at the First Inter-Governmental Conference between R. Serbia and the EU, and the Negotiating Framework of Serbia's EU accession. The Negotiating Framework embodies principles, the essence and procedures of the overall negotiating process. The emphasis is laid on the conditions in which a candidate country will embrace and execute the EU acquis communautaire, divided into 35 thematic chapters. The EU expects the Republic of Serbia to ensure full implementation of the key reforms and legislation, particularly in judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime, public administration reform, independence of institutions, media reform, non-discrimination and protection of minorities. Particular importance is attached to the harmonization of the dynamic of the negotiating process, i.e. a uniform progress in all areas. This particularly refers to Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (justice, freedom and security) where progress has to follow the dynamic of other chapters. The above-stated procedure will also apply to issues within Chapter 35.
Serbian EU accession negotiations formally commenced on 21 January 2014 in Brussels by the First Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) on Serbia's EU accession, where representatives of the EU and Serbia exchanged views, and the EU Negotiating Framework, the Negotiating Team of the Republic of Serbia and the IGC meetings calendar according to negotiating chapters were presented.
An initial step preceding the opening of each of the 35 chapters is the so-called screening, i.e. scanning and analytical review of legislation in force in the Republic of Serbia in a certain area and the legislation applicable in the EU. The analytical analysis stage of legislation begins with the so-called explanatory screening within which the European Commission presents to the candidate country the EU acquis communautaire divided into negotiating chapters, while the level of conformity of the candidate country's legal system with the legal system of the EU is assessed through the so-called bilateral screening. Then, the differences between the two legal systems and measures designed to overcome them are being identified, on the basis of which an implementation Action Plan is being drafted and its timescale defined.
Following the completion of the bilateral screening, the European Commission presents its Screening Report to the Member States, containing recommendations on the opening of negotiations for a certain chapter, and, possibly opening benchmarks.
The screening process for Serbia began in September 2013 and was completed in late March 2015. The European Commission plans to submit all screening reports to the COELA Working Group for consideration by the end of 2015.
The Republic of Serbia wants the pace of the overall negotiation process to be as fast as possible, including the dynamic of opening (and closing) of as large a number of negotiating chapters as possible, during the current and the following year. However, the dynamic of the process itself depends not only on the Republic of Serbia but primarily on the EU and its Member States.
Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs take an active part in the work of governmental bodies during the EU integration process. The First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs is a member of the Coordinating Body, tasked with discussing the major issues and coordinating within the scope of the activity of public administrative authorities throughout the European integration process. The Coordinating Body Council deals with the current issues that arise in the integration process. The Assistant Foreign Minister responsible for security policy, in the capacity as Chairperson of Negotiating Group 31, was a member of the Council on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs carries out the activities concerning Negotiating Group 31- Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also participates in the work of the following negotiating groups concerning Serbia-EU accession negotiations, as a member of: Negotiating Group 23 - judiciary and fundamental rights; Negotiating Group 24 – justice, freedom and security; Negotiating Group 30 – external economic relations; Negotiating Group 34 – for institutions and Negotiating Group 35 – for other matters.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his official capacity is a member of the Serbian Negotiating Team, participating in the drafting of negotiating positions, and is in charge of conducting negotiations on all chapters and in all stages of negotiations. Moreover, representatives from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the EU, serving as the Secretary and Vice-Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Conference, play an active role in the accession process and negotiations.
In order to ensure the monitoring of the implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement signed between the Republic of Serbia and the EU, the following bodies, in which MFA representatives participate, have been established: the Stabilization and Association Council, tasked with discussing the major issues concerning the SAA implementation, whose membership includes: the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister without portfolio responsible for European integration, Head of the Negotiating Team, MFA State Secretary, Assistant Foreign Minister responsible for the EU, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to the EU, SEIO Deputy Director, and a representative of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the EU as the Council Secretary; and the Stabilization and Association Committee, entrusted with the task of addressing specific issues concerning the SAA implementation, while holding, as appropriate, meetings in between the Council sessions, whose member is the MFA State Secretary as well. MFA representatives also participate in the work of the SAA Sub-Committee for justice, freedom and security.
Please find more information on relations between the Republic of Serbia and the European Union on the following link: http://www.mfa.gov.rs/en/foreign-policy/eu