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South Slavic: October 9, 2003


9 October 2003, Volume 5, Number 33

GETTING SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO READY FOR THE EU.

An interview by Srdjan Kusovac with Milica Delevic-Djilas, director of the Office of Serbia and Montenegro for Association to the EU.

RFE/RL: On 12 September in Belgrade, EU External Relations Commissioner Christopher Patten announced the start of work on the feasibility study for Serbia and Montenegro's association to the EU.

A week later, the government of Serbia launched a campaign for promoting EU membership. How far is the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro from membership, and what does the first step -- the feasibility study -- actually mean? Who is working on the study and why?

Milica Delevic-Djilas: The feasibility study is being conducted by the EU Commission and will evaluate Serbia and Montenegro's ability to assume the commitments arising from a Stabilization and Association Agreement. The study should be finished by the end of the first trimester of 2004, when the rotating presidency of the EU will be held by Ireland.

The study could be positive, meaning that negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro aimed at signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement could start; or it could be negative like, for instance, in the case of Albania, in which case the recommendation will be for the Council of Ministers of the EU to decide.

In our case it, will probably be after the 10 new members are added to the council. One can hardly expect them to let our country have an easier time than they did themselves.

RFE/RL: Who is going to evaluate the progress made by Serbia and Montenegro, and what progress are we talking about? In what specific domains is Serbia and Montenegro expected to make progress?

Delevic-Djilas: The European Commission evaluates progress in keeping with the rules set down in Copenhagen.

Those are very strict criteria. First, democratization, the rule of the law, and respect for legislation dealing with human and minority rights. Second, the functioning of a market economy, and third, the ability to assume commitments arising from membership. Fourth -- and this is very important -- regional cooperation and honoring commitments arising from the peace accords we have signed.

The progress evaluated by the European Commission is therefore divided into several areas. One meeting took place in July to evaluate the progress made by Serbia and Montenegro regarding its legal system and internal affairs. A second "enhanced policy dialogue" is expected to take place in October or November to deal with the economy.

RFE/RL: With whom are the representatives of the EU going to talk, that is, to whom are they going to hand in their wish list -- to you as a representative of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, or to the governments of each of the member states?

Delevic-Djilas: The agenda is going to be delivered to the joint Office for Association to the EU, and to the respective departments dealing with European integration of both the Serbian and the Montenegrin ministries of Foreign Economic Relations. The joint office will eventually determine the final document. All the relevant protagonists will attend the meeting.

RFE/RL: Are there substantial differences between the policies of Serbia and those of Montenegro regarding EU association?

Delevic-Djilas: All parties concerned consider it a priority.

RFE/RL: The Croatian example is very interesting since Croatia is well ahead of Serbia and Montenegro in the process of EU association. But its Stability and Association Agreement needs to be ratified by all EU member states, and two of them, Great Britain and the Netherlands, have not done so because of what they say is Croatia's insufficient degree of cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal. Do you expect similar problems [for Serbia and Montenegro] during this first phase, i.e. during the work on the feasibility study?

Delevic-Djilas: As far as this particular problem is concerned, we are not expecting substantial difficulties simply because we know full well that we are expected to cooperate with The Hague. That, however, does not mean that everything will go smoothly, without any problems. But at least nobody here will challenge the principle that cooperation is a necessity.

RFE/RL: What will happen if the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro dissolves at some point during the process of association? The joint state is the negotiator now, but in that case, would the two independent states, Serbia and Montenegro, continue these negotiations, or would they have to start again from the beginning?

Delevic-Djilas: Well, I can only give you the example of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. They had to start again from scratch.

RFE/RL: That means that Serbia and Montenegro would each have to start the entire process again from the beginning?

Delevic-Djilas: Yes.

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