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          • Year: 2014
          • Progress Report for Serbia Indicates a Slower Pace of Reforms

          • BCSP researcher Bojan Elek analyzes the key data from the annual report of the European Commission on the progress of Serbia in the accession process, published on October 8, 2014.

        • Notwithstanding the fact that the European Commission’s Progress Report for Serbiamaintains an overall positive undertone, a more detailed analysis reveals that, compared to the previous year, in 2014 there has been a significant slowdown in the process of implementing reforms.

          Namely, the European Commission evaluates the progress in individual chapters by assigning descriptive grades ranging from ‘no progress’ to ‘good progress,’ with four degrees between. From a total of 32 chapters evaluated by the EC according to this scale, there has been an increase of assigned grades that characterize the progress in implementing reforms as little or limited when compared to the previous year (see the graph above). This indicates that the pace of reforms is significantly slowed down.

          In 2014 there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of chapters where the level of progress achieved received higher marks. Taking into account that the performance in two key chapters—the rule of law and judiciary (chapter 23) and justice and home affairs (chapter 24)—received lower grades than in the previous year, the situation is even more alarming. Although one of the key conditions from the chapter 23 has been met, namely organization of the Pride Parade, Serbia did not perform well in the areas of the rule of law, fight against corruption and respect for the freedom of the press. These are the reasons that the progress in this chapter was graded as limited, which is one degree less than in the previous year. The same goes for the chapter 24 where Serbia received a lower grade due to its ineffective approach in dealing with the organized crime, as well as with addressing asylum and migration related issues.

          The pace of reforms slowed down in additional two areas, foreign and security policy (chapter 31) and normalization of relations with Kosovo (chapter 35), where the EC did not assign descriptive grades but did evaluate the progress achieved as unsatisfactory. This year there has been a significant drop in the level of harmonization of Serbia’s foreign policy—from a total number of 45 declarations and decision made by the EU Serbia supported 28. This sets the level of harmonization at 62%, a significant drop from the previous year’s 89%. The predominant cause of this drop is the hesitance on the part of Serbia to take a more decisive stance in the international arena regarding the situation in Ukraine.  When it comes to relations with Kosovo, the criticism has been directed to the delayed implementation of the agreements reached due to the problems with early elections and difficulties with forming the government in Kosovo. This area remains the key priority for EU in the accession process, and given that it will be one of the first chapters to be opened in the negotiation process it warrants a more proactive approach on the part of the Serbian Government.

          Notwithstanding the fact that the state of play regarding the areas of the rule of law, fight against corruption and freedom of the press was criticized by Brussels, the overall positive undertone of this year’s Progress Report stands out when compared to the previous one. The only logical explanation for this type of approach on the part of the EU is that the general positive direction of reforms has been recognized and that this is a way of showing tacit support for the Serbian Government’s efforts to put these good ideas into action.

        • Tags: eu, European integration, Serbia, Serbia and EU, Chapter 23, Chapter 24, Bojan Elek
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