We hope to be able to open chapters 23 and 24 on the Rule of Law during the Dutch presidency of the Council of the EU. However, more important than timing is for Serbia to truly push on with reforms and ensure their consistent implementation. The Netherlands stands fully ready to help Serbia in this priority area
The Netherlands praises Serbia for everything that the country has been doing in the EU accession process, but also acknowledges that there are many aspects in which this process has to be improved. Rule of law, media freedom, better regulation in the business sector – these are some of the examples where “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. In other words, preconditions for a successful accession process – a legal system in which citizens will be able to effectuate their rights and in which a level playing field for enterprises is guaranteed – are needed. Such progress will allow for Serbia and the Netherlands to build mutual relations in even more satisfactory way, and to open new avenues for business cooperation, says Henk van den Dool, Dutch Ambassador to Serbia.
In your opinion, how much has Serbia progressed in the EU accession process?
— Accession to the European Union has really become Serbia’s strategic goal. In January 2014 Serbia became a candidate country to the EU. In December 2015 the first two negotiation chapters were opened: Chapter 35, which
focuses on the dialogue with Kosovo, and Chapter 32, on financial matters. We hope to be able to open chapters 23 and 24, on the Rule of Law, during the Dutch presidency of the Council of the EU. We also acknowledge that Serbia has taken concrete steps in national reforms that are necessary on the path to the EU. In the field of economic governance, an extensive agreement with the IMF was reached. The National Assembly adopted laws on bankruptcy and privatisation, which allows for the restructuring and privatisation of a large number of state companies. Likewise, a set of laws was adopted to restructure and privatise the media landscape. Furthermore, amendments were adopted to modernise the labour law and make it easier to obtain building permits – a move that can have a positive effect on attracting foreign investments. The dialogue with Pristina led to the 2013 Brussels Agreement and several follow-up agreements, the latest in August 2015. There is commitment to continue the dialogue until all outstanding issues regarding the normalisation of the relations are resolved. Looking ahead, we must also admit
that there are still challenges to be faced. In this respect, strengthening the rule of law, one of the three pillars
of the “Fundamentals First”-approach to EU Enlargement, remains crucial. Laws and action plans are important
and even necessary, but the real value of reform policies only becomes apparent through their consistent implementation. Or, as the saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The Netherlands stands fully ready to help Serbia in this priority area.
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