By Milica Stojanovic
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he likes the new EU enlargement methodology, presented on Wednesday in Brussels, but that Serbia will study it before deciding whether to accept it, or to continue its accession negotiations in line with the current framework.
Vucic made the comment after meeting the new Enlargement Commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi, in Belgrade on Thursday, a day after the College of the European Commission adopted the proposed new methodology for accession negotiations.
Vucic said that his “sympathies are on the side of the new methodology” because it was a lot clearer. “Although I have gone to Brussels several times regarding the chapters, if you asked me which chapters we had opened and which chapters we closed, I would not be able to list them,” he said.
“This way, everything is divided into six clusters and you open and close them according to strict and restrictive methodology. When one cluster ends, you turn to another, and people benefit from the cluster being closed,” he added.
A key change in the methodology, as BIRN reported, is that negotiating chapters will in future be grouped into six thematic clusters: fundamentals; internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion; and external relations.
Negotiations on the so-called fundamentals – which includes the rule of law, democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy – will be opened first and closed last.
Talks on each cluster will be opened as a whole – after fulfilling the opening benchmarks – rather than on an individual chapter basis. “This will bring dynamism to the negotiations,” Várhelyi predicted.
While the new rules will apply to North Macedonia and Albania, if and when they start accession talks, they will be optional for Serbia and Montenegro, which already opened the negotiating process. This is why Serbia can, as Vucic said, study the new approach carefully, before deciding whether to use it or not.
In the Western Balkans and former Yugoslavia, only Croatia and Slovenia have already joined the EU – Croatia in 2013. Serbia and Montenegro have opened accession talks but have not closed many chapters so far. North Macedonia has been a candidate country for years but has still not opened accession talks. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have not obtained candidate status. Nor has Albania.