EU’ s Várhelyi warns Serbia & Montenegro about rule of law in closing chapters

NEWS 17.03.2021 17:25
Share:
Source: Olivier Hoslet/POOL/AFP

Belgrade and Podgorica cannot count on closing any chapter in the accession negotiations with the European Union before they meet all transitional arrangements related to the rule of law, Olivér Várhelyi, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, says in a non-paper on the implementation of the new bloc's enlargement methodology he has presented to the EU member states' ambassadors, the Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported on Wednesday. The European Commission (EC) came out with a new methodology in February 2020 to improve the accession process. This revised methodology will be applied to those countries that have yet to open accession negotiations with the EU. The first countries to negotiate under the new methods are Northern Macedonia and Albania.

RFE had access to the non-paper, which read: „In line with the revised methodology, no chapter should be closed before the transitional arrangements in two chapters related to the rule of law. Corrective measures should be considered in the case that any problem occurs during negotiations. At the same time, the existing action plans for the rule of law remain in place, i.e., no new road map is necessary,“ Várhelyi wrote in the non-paper.

The report specifies that once the provisional benchmarks of Chapters 23 and 24 have been met and the chapters’ closure set, action plans will need to be updated to allow these two chapters to consider specific key issues identified in the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration reform.

RFE had access to the non-paper, which read: „In line with the revised methodology, no chapter should be closed before the transitional arrangements in two chapters related to the rule of law. Corrective measures should be considered in the case that any problem occurs during negotiations. At the same time, the existing action plans for the rule of law remain in place, i.e., no new road map is necessary,“ Várhelyi wrote in the non-paper.

The report specifies that once the provisional benchmarks of Chapters 23 and 24 have been met and the chapters’ closure set, action plans will need to be updated to allow these two chapters to consider specific key issues identified in the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration reform.

As with the existing accession negotiation process, led by Belgrade and Podgorica with Brussels, Chapters 23 and 24 are closing last. The European Commission’s (EC) proposal on applying this methodology for Serbia and Montenegro emphasizes that the EU will maintain and further strengthen its strong focus on fundamental reforms, Várhelyi’s document said.

It adds that the reporting will continue as envisaged in the negotiating framework, and existing ones already stipulate that chapters 23 and 24 will be among the first to be open to provide sufficient time for the necessary reforms before the negotiations close/

Anti-corruption action will be integrated through a strong focus in the relevant chapters, it has added.

According to the document, „the proposed changes can be adjusted to the existing negotiating frameworks with Montenegro and Serbia with those countries’ consent.“

Montenegro has opened all chapters in the accession negotiations (33) and has temporarily closed three, while Serbia has 35 chapters, of which 18 have been opened, and two have been temporarily closed.

The European Commission (EC) came out with a new methodology in February 2020 to improve the accession process. This revised methodology will be applied to those countries that have yet to open accession negotiations with the EU.

The first countries to negotiate under the new methods are Northern Macedonia and Albania.