European Commissioner Johannes Hahn told the European Parliament Committee of Foreign Affairs that Serbia has to implement rule of law reforms as the most important condition for progress on its way to European Union membership.
Hahn presented the European Commission’s annual report on progress achieved by the countries of the Western Balkans to the committee.
He said that Serbia has to act with greater determination to implement reforms and meet the criteria required for chapters 23 and 24 in its pre-accession negotiations with the European Union. The report expressed concern over political influence on the judiciary and wide-spread corruption in Serbia, adding that the country has achieved good progress and is moderately prepared in terms of developing a market economy.
Hahn said that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue should lead to a legally binding agreement to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo and called both sides to avoid provocation. Hahn said that Pristina’s tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina has cast a shadow on Kosovo’s European path and should be revoked immediatelly. It said that Belgrade has to bring its policies in line with European Union foreign and security policies and added that Pristina and Belgrade have to restart their dialogue.
The report said that certain progress has been made in the judiciary but warned that the extent of political interference continues to be a cause of concern. The Serbian authorities have also achieved some progress in fighitng organized crime and corruption, expressing concern that corruption is prevalent in many sectors and poses serious problems.
According to the report, Serbia is moderately prepared for competition pressure and market forces within the Union with some progress made but the level of investments still below the needs of the economy, a high public debt and incomplete key structural reforms of state-owned companies, the public administration and tax authority and an insufficiently developed private sector.