CEP Insight - Our New Policy Product

As of July 1st 2015 CEP started publishing a new policy product - CEP Insight - short analytical pieces on various topics within CEP's scope of work. Articles and commentaries published earlier still can be found in this section below.

Tajani's Presidency: New EP President, Mini Political Earthquake and Why it Matters for Serbia

By: Sena Marić and Strahinja SubotićTajani's Presidency

On 17 January 2017 Antonio Tajani became President of the European Parliament (EP), succeeding Martin Schultz in this position. He underwent four rounds of voting – a practice rather unseen in the EP, which indicates how firm different political groups were in supporting their candidates. This CEP Insight takes a closer look into Tajani’s profile and ambitions as EP President; analyses the new shifts in

This CEP Insight takes a closer look into Tajani’s profile and ambitions as EP President; analyses the new shifts in the balance of power that came as a result of Tajani’s election; examines its implications on Serbia’s EU membership aspirations and finally suggests how the Serbian authorities should position themselves vis-à-vis the new circumstances.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU: Unbreakable Ties with the Candidate Countries

Maltese PresidencyBy: Sena Marić, Senior Researcher

2016 will be remembered as a year that brought unexpected political outcomes and outrages in the Western hemisphere. Nevertheless, 2017 is promising to be more intense than the previous year. The smallest EU member – Malta, finds itself in the midst of the upcoming events while holding the EU’s rotating Council Presidency. Malta will continue initiatives that were already put in place such as migration, security, internal market and the EU’s neighbourhood. However, as a small Mediterranean country, one of its main national interests will be further development of the EU’s maritime policies.

This CEP Insight will be focusing on the priorities of the Maltese presidency which should be considered by Serbian authorities, since they will be affecting the issues in which Serbia is directly involved.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

(Non)critical European Commission: Analysis of 2016 Findings and Reporting Effects

(Non)critical EU CommissionAs was the case in previous autumns, the European Commission (EC) held the professional public in the countries of the Western Balkans (WB) in anticipation for the results of its assessment of compliance and progress in the Serbia EU accession process. The Commission is changing its reporting schedule and the next report can be expected only in Spring of 2018. The EC explained that by doing so, it will harmonise its actions with the schedule of Economic Reform Programs (ERP) for candidate countries. In this edition of CEP Insight, we analyse the new EC reporting methodology and its novelties, and comment on the findings of the newest Serbia 2016 Country Report.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

Visegrad Bloc and the EU’s Future: Grand Aspirations behind Anti-Immigration Stances

Visegrad BlocDespite a considerably assertive and costly media campaign, the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban did not manage to convince the majority of Hungary’s citizens that the issue of migrants/refugees is the most critical “for their own future and the future of Europe”. The 43,4% turnout (out of which 6% of votes were blank/invalid) at the infamous “quota referendum”, point to the fact that exploiting the topic of migrants in a populist manner is not sufficient to mobilise the general electorate, worried about everyday issues, such as economic conditions. The referendum campaign, aside from presenting the migrants as a security threat, blamed Brussels for wanting “to take away a part of Hungary’s sovereignty”. However, the Council Decision has so far proven to be ill-fated in any case – one year since it was adopted, the member states have relocated only 5.2% of the agreed number of asylum applicants from Italy and Greece (5,651 out of agreed 106,000 persons). Hence, this referendum does not carry relevance even from the perspective of the implementation of this Decision, given that practically all member states have been failing to enforce it so far.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

(Un)success of Public Administration Reform in Serbia

Unsuccess of PAR in SerbiaBy: Vladimir Mihajlović and Milena Lazarević

In the recently published Serbia 2016 Report made by the European Commission, at the first sight, Serbia receives a positive assessment in the field of public administration reform. An encouraging fact is that public administration reform has been labelled as an area with the progress achieved. However, a more detailed reading of the report reveals certain deficiencies of the system, especially regarding depoliticisation and professionalisation of public administration, the introduction of a merit-based recruitment system, improvement of public policy making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, et cetera. In the new issue of CEP Insight, we analyse the EC's assessment of Serbia's results in the field of public administration reform - one of the pillars of the Enlargement Strategy alongside the rule of law and economic governance.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

Slovak Presidency of the EU: No Shortage of Challenges?

Slovak PresidencyBy: Sena Marić, Katarina Tadić and Dušan Protić

From 1 July to 31 December 2016, Slovakia holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Slovak Presidency begins at a time when the Union faces unprecedented challenges: the outcome of the UK Referendum necessitates discussion regarding the future of the Union; the migration crisis raises questions about the functioning of the Schengen area; the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have exposed weaknesses in the area of internal security; the consequences of the economic and financial crisis are still rippling through the economies of the EU Member States. Nevertheless, the Slovak Presidency puts forward a positive agenda which seeks to promote solutions that take into account the long-term perspective of the EU. 

This insight explores the programme of the Slovak Presidency in the light of Brexit, assessing its immediate ramification for the enlargement process. The insight also sets forth a comprehensive overview of what to expect in the next six months within other priority areas, particularly regarding the market and migration policy. 
This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

Brexit or Not? What Consequences for the Enlargement Policy?

Brexit or NotBy: Milena Lazarević and Sena Marić, with support of Tijana Stojanović

In the early hours of the 24th of June, the results of the British EU membership referendum were announced. Against the betting odds, against the predictions of market actors, and against the last minute polls, with a turnout of 72.2% and with a margin of 3.8%, the voters decided that the UK should leave the European Union. This unprecedented event has ushered in a period of political and economic turmoil in the UK: David Cameron re-signed and the Conservative Party will hold a leadership election; the Labour shadow ministers resigned en masse and the Labour MPs held a no confidence vote against their leader; the second Scottish independence referendum is on the agenda; Northern Ireland’s status is under question; economic forecasts are grim. Economic spillover effects are expected across the EU, its neighbours and beyond, and potential political instability within the EU looms.

The Brexit referendum has left the continent with a number of uncertainties. This insight develops three possible outcomes of the current situation, based on which it discusses potential consequences of the leave vote on the EU enlargement policy. It argues that as long as the Brexit issue remains unresolved, the EU enlargement policy will suffer.

This issue of CEP Insight is available here.

Dutch EU Presidency: What to Expect?

Dutch PresidencyBy: Milena Lazarević, Sena Marić, Katarina Kosmina, Lana Radovanović

Starting from 1 January 2016, the Netherlands took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Luxembourg which held it for the second half of 2015. They plan to focus on the essentials, by which they mean innovation, growth, jobs, and stronger relationships with civil society organisations and EU citizens. The realisation of these topics, however, might be hampered by a set of issues which depend on external circumstances and which the EU needs to tackle together with the third-party actors, namely the refugee and migration influx, issues related to its common energy policy and the looming question of Brexit. Considering their level of complexity and urgency, the question remains of whether the proposed essentials can really be the Presidency’s primary focus. This Insight provides analysis on the state of play in the issues of energy policy, refugee and migration influx and the British EU membership referendum and it looks at how the Dutch Presidency plans to manage these issues.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

Lessons Not Learned: Commentary on the EU's 17-Point Plan and Its Alternative

Lessons Not Learned: Commentary on the EU's 17-Point Action Plan and Its AlternativeBy: Katarina Kosmina, Lana Radovanović

As the massive refugee influx continues to grow, the European Union is attempting and failing to find effective solutions. The most recent such attempt was the meeting in Brussels at the end of October, which gathered leaders from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. The result of this meeting was the 17-point plan of action (the Plan). This CEP Insight deconstructs the Plan and provides critique of its most controversial measures. Furthermore, the Temporary Protection Directive is presented, explained, and advocated for as an alternative solution to the current crisis. Finally, the article considers the repercussions of the Plan in the context of Serbia.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

The 2015 Enlargement Package: What is New and How it Helps the Enlargement Countries?

The 2015 Enlargement Package: What is New and What it means for the Enlargement Countries?

By: Milena Lazarević, Sena Marić, Dragana Bajić

The Enlargement Package, annually issued by the European Commission, has been impatiently awaited this year due to the long-announced improvements compared to the previous years. This particularly concerns the new approach to assessments in country-specific progress reports, i.e. the introduction of a number of changes in the reporting style in order to increase quality, reliability and transparency of reports. The new approach in the annual country reports, along with five-tier assessment scales, is also intended to increase comparability between the countries as well as to provide the stakeholders with the possibility to scrutinise the process and the enlargement countries’ progress towards the EU.

The consequent question is how efficient is the Enlargement Package in intending to assist the countries on their path towards the EU? This CEP Insight gives a brief overview of the 2015 Enlargement Package and outlines the most important issues and concerns for the future.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

Handling the Refugee Influx: Between the Laws, Borders, and Political Discourses

handling the refugee influxAuthors: Lana Radovanović and Katarina Kosmina

When speaking about the refugees currently arriving to Europe, it is rather difficult to focus on one relevant dimension: the legal framework, border policy, and political discourse all converge to affect both how we speak and act on the issues arising from the mass influx of refugees on the territory of the European Union (EU). This article attempts to deconstruct the EU’s response to the current ‘crisis’ and outline its relevance for Serbia’s asylum strategy. The focus will be on relevant EU legislation, such as the Dublin III Regulation, and ensuing issues, as well as the response taken regarding border policies and political discourse.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

Luxembourg Presidency of the EU: Focus on the Refugee Crisis

luxembourg presidency eng picBy: Sena Marić

The past spring and summer of the European continent have been, without any doubt, marked by two hot topics: “the greferendum” – Greek referendum and the conditions for staying in the Eurozone; as well as now the already chronic exodus of refugees from the Middle East and Africa to European countries. The matters of migration and asylum policy are shared between the EU member states and the European Parliament – and are thereby one of the top priority issues of the current Luxembourg Presidency in the Council.

This insight will focus on the refugee crisis issue, as one of the topics that dominated the Luxembourg agenda in the past July, i.e. the first month of the 6month long Luxembourg Presidency, and which, judging by the most recent opinion polls, currently brings the most concerns to the EU citizens.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

Better Regulation Package: Regulating More or Regulating Less?

Better Regulation PackageBy Amanda Orza and Milena Lazarević.

Better regulation is not a novelty, but a continuation of previous efforts through different means. This time around, there were great expectations from the package and its influence on policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The Commission First Vice-President responsible for inter alia the better regulation portfolio, introduced five proposals under the Better Regulation Package – a proposal for an Inter-Institutional Agreement; communications on Better Regulation, Regulatory Scrutiny Board, and REFIT; as well as extensive guidelines on better regulation and impact assessments (IAs). 

The Serbian Public Policy Secretariat of the Republic could take up valuable lessons from the Commission’s recent efforts at reform, particularly in terms of stakeholder participation in the process. This article will go through the main changes that the packages bring to conclude on their feasibility in the near future, and relevance to Serbia.

 Read the entire CEP Insight here

EU Institutions and Citizens: How does the lack of communication affect the events of today

EU Institutions and CitizensBy Sena Marić

What would be the outcome of the recent Greek referendum if the European Union engaged in a "yes" campaign? How would the European Union look like today if 10 years ago French and Dutch citizens did not reject the Constitutional Treaty? Or if there was an open debate on European level on the changing demographic picture of Europe, inability to stop immigration and the ways in which the EU can act?

Perhaps we would be living in a different Europe if the European Commission invested more in public relations and communication with the European citizens over the past two decades.

Read the entire CEP insight here.

CEP Insight - Lobbying in the EU Demystified

CEP InsightBy Amanda Orza

We hear a lot about Commissioners and MEPs reinventing themselves into lobbyists and working for the private sector following the end of their mandate. We also hear a lot about the influence that the corporate interests have on European Union policies with little regard for the common citizen. But is it all as bad as it is covered?

The Serbian state and non-state players now have the benefit of previous experiences and the do’s and don’ts of lobbying behavior as well as the opportunity to test and improve their strategies prior to membership when it will start to count on a much larger scale.

Read the entire CEP Insight here.

2015: The year of adoption of new goals for global development

Sustainable Development GoalsWhen discussing the global targets concerning sustainable development, the year of 2015 can be considered as an important milestone for all countries around the globe. It has been 15 years since the United Nations member states committed themselves to work for the period 2000-2015 in order to reach the alleged Millennium Development Goals, which aim to tackle issues in the following domains: the reduction of hunger and extreme poverty; the reduction of child mortality rate; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; combating HIV / AIDS and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; improving maternal health and developing a global partnership for development.

Today, when the real cross-section of the achieved results and the remaining challenges is established, the United Nations, in consultation with the member states and civil society organizations, are on the threshold of defining a new development agenda in the form of Sustainable Development Goals. Experience from the past 15 years shows that setting the goals which are to be pursued has proven to be a useful practice, seeing that the progress has been made regarding the most of the millennium development goals set. Even though the methodology for monitoring the implementation of these goals has frequently been criticized, the following facts cannot be denied: the infant mortality rate has fallen significantly, the rate of global poverty has been reduced, and the number of children who are being educated is higher than ever.

Proposals for new development goals incorporate a wider range of topics than those defined in 2000, since they combine both development and global sustainability concepts. In addition to reducing poverty, these subject matters include sustainable economic growth, sustainable spending of energy sources, the tackling of issues concerning climate change, building accountable and inclusive institutions for the foundation of stable societies, etc. Therefore, these are the topics that concern Serbia to a far more important extent and should thus be of a greater interest to it. Considering that the consultation process of the targets for sustainable development is still open, and that it is anticipated that representatives of government and civil society participate in their formulation and implementation, it is very important that Serbia and the interested public recognize their role and proactively participate in these mechanisms. Simply monitoring the progress of the realization of goals individually, based on measurable indicators, as well as on relevant and reliable data, the government’s accountability can be substantially increased, thus creating evidence-based policies and enabling the awareness of the public and political stakeholders of the need to conduct analysis and research in order to monitor the achieved progress. This is in itself a very important aspect in the process of Serbia’s accession to EU.  

See Milena Lazarević's article (in Serbian) on Good Governance as a part of Millennium Development Goals after 2015, published in "Vreme", the Serbian weekly news magazine.

Latvian EU Presidency and Serbia’s European Path in the Next 6 Months

Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EUEU Presidency: an Opportunity the Member States Cannot Miss

On 1st January 2015, Latvia will preside over 28 EU Member States for the first time since it became part of the EU. Presidency of the European Union represents a major organisational and logistical endeavour for a member state that requires very thorough preparations and strategic thinking about the focal areas in the 6 months of its presidency. For the member states, EU Presidency is equally a chance to promote its economic and touristic potential. Each presiding country wants to have a successful presidency, i.e. to demonstrate itself as a successful honest broker in the negotiations between the member states. In addition, the countries use their presidency to push the questions of their own national interest on the European agenda. Whether one country’s presidency is successful or not largely depends on the state’s mechanisms and capacities for coordination, as well as on the timely planning. Presidency experience can significantly help to improve knowledge and skills necessary for successful advocating of national interests in EU decision-making process. We analysed this issue in depth in our study “Policymaking and EU Accession Negotiations – Getting Results for Serbia”.

In this study, we explored among others policy making system and coordination mechanisms of EU affairs in Latvia. One of the most important insights to be highlighted from Latvia’s example is that small states with limited capacities must prioritise the questions of their interest, so as to have their voice heard in the EU arena. The backbone of agenda-setting and prioritisation is good analysis and evidence-based policymaking. Latvia understood this early enough; therefore nowadays it has very successful mechanisms for coordination of EU affairs that will certainly be its asset in the next six months of the presidency.

Latvia’s Priorities

The priority issues of a presiding country are a reflection of the current circumstances in the EU. As in the case of previously presiding Italy, increasing economic growth and employment is equally an issue of priority for Latvia. Creation of a single digital market which is seen as a perspective branch that will bring new posts and economise resources is another priority during Latvia’s presidency. Perhaps the most noticeable differences in terms of prioritisation between the member states can be seen on foreign policy issues. Given its geographical position and history, Latvia wants to demonstrate itself as a proactive actor in fostering relations with the Eastern Partnership countries; it equally seeks to find alternatives to ensure energy efficiency of the Union.   

Latvia and Enlargement Policy – What Can We Expect?

Latvia is one of the countries favourable of EU enlargement, and alike other Baltic states, it represents a bright example of how the accession process and EU membership can positively affect its development. However, it is unlikely to expect that this small country with such capacities will sponsor Serbia’s opening of accession negotiations as ardently as Italy did in the previous semester. Relations with its Eastern neighbours are Latvia’s priority, not enlargement.

When it comes to Serbia, Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which are under negotiating chapter 35, are expected to be the dominant topic during Latvia’s presidency, as this chapter has to be opened first. Since opening of this chapter requires full implementation of the Brussels Agreement, Serbia will seek to open it in parallel with the chapter 32 – Financial Control, for which Serbia is fully ready. Screenings will end my March 2015, whereas the activities leading to opening the Chapters 23 and 24 (adopting the Action Plans, assessment reports, etc.) will be taking place. Moreover, one could expect higher pressure on Serbia to align its foreign policy positions with the EU. Overall, the EU membership seems rather far away from the current perspective. Therefore, it would be wise to invest more into explaining the citizens the benefits of the EU accession both to the Serbian and the European citizens, who are gradually losing interest and positive attitude towards the EU, i.e. enlargement.

Author: Sena Marić

Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Italian Presidency 2014

From 1 July to 31 December 2014, Italy is in charge of the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Italy has held the presidency 11 times in the history of the Union.

The presidency of the Council of the EU:

The Council is a single legal entity that meets in 10 different “configurations” depending on the subject to be discussed. Hence, the Ministers for the Environment meet in the Environment Council, the Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs meet in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and so on for all sectors. The presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates amongst member states every six months according to a pre-set order. The first semester starts on 1 January and ends at the end of June. The second semester starts on 1 July and ends on 31 December.

During the next six-month term, Italy will be in charge of preparing, coordinating and chairing the work of the Council; it shall act as an honest broker in order to promote legislative decisions and policy initiatives, and to negotiate with member states.

Read more ...

Agriculture in Serbia - What can we expect from EU accession?

Chapter 11 - Agriculture and rural developmentWritten by Ksenija Simović

In Brussels from 18 to 20 March an explanatory screening for Chapter 11 - Agriculture and Rural Development was held. On this occasion, European Commission officials explained all the details of the most important laws relating to agriculture and rural development to the Serbian delegation. Given the importance of this chapter, this article takes a brief look at the most important aspects for successful negotiations of this chapter for Serbia.

According to the information from the last census on agriculture in Serbia there are 631,122 farms, which handle a total of 3,355,859 hectares of land. Of the total number of farms, 628,555 are family run, and 2,567 belong to enterprises, cooperatives, companies or are owned by state institutions or churches and religious communities. Also, according to the information from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, agriculture and food industry account for about 17% of the overall gross domestic product (GDP), but the overall contribution of agriculture to other sectors of the economy, especially to the producers and processors of raw materials, this share exceeds 40% of the total GDP.

Because of the great importance of agriculture for the economic stability and sustainable development, adjustment of domestic policies and legislation with the legislation and the common agricultural policy of the European Union (CAP) is crucial. Rapprochement of these policies and legislation can provide a number of benefits for the agricultural sector in Serbia.

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CSO Participation in Policy Making

Photo1Written by Amanda Orza

Nowadays, there is a notable worldwide tendency to increase citizen participation in policy and decision making processes which influenced the coining of the terms deliberative and participative democracy. Namely, it is argued that participatory governance would introduce otherwise marginalized social groups into the policy making arena and enhance the transparency, openness, responsiveness, and accountability of government, consequently advancing the rule of law. More specifically, it is not merely limited to activism, pressure and advocacy but reaches into the promotion of institutionalised mechanisms of citizen participation in policy and decision making that will channel societal influence in adequate manner.[1] It is considered that participatory mechanisms will create the necessary space for citizen participation, consequently ensuring sustainability and irreversibility of the participative process which bestows the citizens with a greater role in government work. As a result, participatory mechanisms are deemed complement representative democracy and contribute to the establishment of participatory institutions.  

Turning to the European Union, the last decade was permeated by a debate on a ‘legitimacy crisis’ and a ‘democratic deficit’ and efforts aiming to advance representative democracy, which in return eventually turned the focus to the civil society as a crucial actor promising to bring the added value resulting in a participative democracy and a shift from ‘government’ to governance’.[2] The Treaty of Lisbon is a case in point as it states that the Union founded on representative democracy is based on direct and indirect public participation and thereof extends the democratic model to incorporate a horizontal and vertical Civil Society Dialogue, the consultations of the European Commission with stakeholders, and European Citizens’ Initiative (Article 11 TEU). Likewise, the EU explicitly recognizes CSOs as “an inherit part of enabling participatory democracy” that “create[s] demand for enhanced transparency, accountability and effectiveness from public institutions and facilitate[s] a greater focus on the needs of citizens in policy making.”[3]

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What is Gender Mainstreaming and Why Does it Matter?

Written by Amanda Orza

Short Overview of the History of Gender Mainstreaming and its Meaning in Europe

Gender MainstreamingThe European Union is an acknowledged forerunner in terms of gender equality policy, as the inception of an equal opportunities policy development in the EU was incorporated in the founding Treaty of Rome as early as 1957. The EU Member States, specifically Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, played a significant role in developing the concept within the framework of the United Nations, which were initiators of the World Conference on Women and the promulgators of the Action Platform, and emphasized the relevance of incorporating a gender aspect in public policy. EC's gender perspective approach was developed in the mid-90s, following an initial equal treatment approach to equality, and a pursuit of women targeted policies. Thus, in order to ensure a holistic conceptualization of gender equality, the Union takes into account the three complementary and interconnected perspectives.[1] While the equal treatment perspective depicts actions prescribing women and men with same rights and opportunities, a woman's perspective instigates initiatives favoring women and allocating them preferential treatment as a rectification of disadvantages from the past. Finally, the gender perspective promulgates an overall transformation of policy-making so as to tackle systemic and structural causes of gender inequality.

Therefore, it can be concluded that gender mainstreaming was not conceived as an end in itself, but as a horizontal strategy employed in order to include sensitivity to gender issues across the entire EU public policy spectrum.[2] According to the Council of Europe Framework, which is referred to as a benchmark document and is abided by in in the context of the EU as well, the added value of gender mainstreaming is in ensuring greater well-being of a society by paying due attention to the diversity of particular individuals rather than abstractions.[3] Following the Third and Fourth Action Program on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, the European Commission spearheaded the principle of gender mainstreaming, which is evident from its proposal to "bring a gender perspective into all EU policy-making in a ‘coherent and systematic way’."[4] Finally, the commitment to the mobilization of all Community policies with the aim of promoting gender equality was established as a priority in the Treaty of Amsterdam. Thus, the women's and gender perspective are not mutually exclusive, as it has often been misunderstood. Rather, the opposite is true as they reinforce one another and should therefore not be applied in isolation but make use of their complementarity through a synergy.

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Food Safety, GMO's and traditional products within Serbia's EU accession negotiations

Written by Ksenija Simović

Food safetyFood safety is certainly one of the most significant policies in the European Union, and most definitely one of the most important ones when it comes to consumer protection. Good knowledge of the legislation covering this policy area is of crucial importance for Serbia, primarily for the development of its economy and agriculture, but as well for Serbia’s exports to the European Single Market.

Legislation in this area is very wide and  is described by the slogan ' From farm to fork ', which aims to explain that the European Union's legislation and policies regulate the whole chain of production, distribution, sales and even food consumption. This integrated approach to food safety aims to provide a high level of food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health within the EU, as well as to contribute to the effective functioning of the Single Market.

The implementation of this approach revolves around the guarantee of effective monitoring system for the assessment of conformity with EU standards in the sectors of food safety and quality, animal health, animal welfare, animal nutrition and plant health within the EU, but as well as in relation to goods that third countries export to the EU market. Risk management in this area is in the hands of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

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Serbia's negotiatons on Chapter 30 "External Relations"

Written by Ksenija Simović

EU tradeBearing in mind the recent official opening of the negotiations between Serbia and EU at the Intergovernmental Conference ceremony in Brussels on the 21st of January and the four explanatory screenings that have taken part in past period, a more detailed description of the negotiating framework, various chapters and Serbia’s position is needed. The following article aims at contributing to the understanding of an important chapter for Serbia and its economy, which is threatened to be undermined in its importance in the negotiating process, namely, Chapter 30 “External Relations.” Firstly, the Chapter encompasses under the common European commercial policy issues such as trade and trade agreements with third countries, which is to a great extent, derived from international agreements i.e. the World Trade Organization. Secondly, under development policy, the chapter deals with relations with international organizations in the form of international development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

Chapter 30 “External Relations” of the negotiating framework refers mainly to the regulations of the common commercial policy of the EU, the regulations that apply to international trade - including duties, obligations attributed to the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), all EU trade agreements with third countries-as well as development and humanitarian assistance to developing countries and least developed countries. It has been deemed as a chapter which is relatively easy to close during accession negotiations. Nonetheless, in the case of Serbia it should not be undermined as it has significant influence both on country’s economy and its foreign relations. The acquis communautaire pertaining to Chapter 30 must be accepted in order for the negotiations to proceed, but in the negotiating position of Serbia, the national interest must be well conceived, argued for and defended, specifically in regards to the implications which the application of the acquis could have on its economy. The EU legislation in this area consists mainly of regulations, which have direct effect in the Member States, however the challenges of their implementation as well as their impact should be examined and assessed from the perspective of Serbia.

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Serbia officially begins EU accession negotiations

Written by Sena Marić

Pic1The Intergovernmental conference ceremony of 21 January marked the official opening of accession negotiations between the EU and Serbia, while the process in effect began after 28 June 2013 through explanatory and bilateral screenings concerning the negotiating chapters 23, 24 and 32 held in autumn. The IGC aside from its strong political message gave insight into the long-awaited Negotiating Framework. Although the statements of the EU representatives in the previous months and years revealed to the public the EU principles and guidelines to be followed during the accession negotiations, the Negotiating Framework solidified these principles to become official, clear and unequivocal.

This document reconfirmed that the key component of successful accession negotiations for Serbia (apart from the normalisation of relations with Kosovo) is not only the mere comprehension and adoption of the EU acquis, but also its sustainable implementation and the extent to which it is embedded in the value system. Therefore, Serbia should perceive positively the long-lasting, complex and demanding negotiation process as a chance and incentive, i.e. to embrace the EU’s reluctance to enlarge due to its internal functioning problems coupled with unfavourable public opinion, and the fact that it insists on sustainability of reforms in the candidate countries. Examples of failed reforms in Bulgaria and Romania in the areas of rule of law and public administration, consequently impeding these countries to fully take advantage of EU structural funds and the EU membership in general, and the denial of European values in the Croatian society upon accession, are illustrative examples to Serbia that membership itself does not bring benefits unless Serbia prepares thoroughly during the pre-accession phase for the rights and obligations of EU membership.

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Thessaloniki Summit Messages, 10 years later

Written by Sena Marić

EU flagThis month we are marking ten years since the European Council laid down the foundations for the ongoing relations between the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans, commonly known as the conclusions from the Thessaloniki Summit. This document is very often cited as a point of reference to emphasise the EU's commitment to pursue enlargement and integrate the Western Balkans into its club of members. In reality, however, the key messages from this summit tend to be over-interpreted. What is the real meaning of these conclusions? Does the EU stand behind its words? And finally, what is the state of play in the EU-Western Balkans relations on the tenth anniversary of the Thessaloniki Summit?

At the Thessaloniki Summit, the Western Balkan countries were given the “...unequivocal support to the European perspective [emphasis added]”, while “[T]he speed of movement ahead lies in the hands of the countries of the region.” This is an obvious dilution of the language compared to the ‘Big Bang’ enlargement, when the strength of declarations and documents ‘rhetorically entrapped’ the member states to accept the twelve new members in 2004 and 2007.

As a result, the ‘historical imperative’ to reunify Europe has ceased to be the main driving factor of enlargement, and the enlargement process itself has become more complex and demanding. The acquis communautaire has grown from 31 to 35 chapters. In addition to the Copenhagen criteria, Thessaloniki conclusions envisage regional cooperation and the cooperation with the ICTY as integral conditions for advancement towards the EU membership. Stabilisation and Association Agreements require not only to be in force, but also to be “effectively and efficiently implemented”. One can add to this the external condition, namely the “integration capacity of the EU” (European Council conclusions, December 2006). The accession negotiations have become “an open-ended process whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand” (Negotiating Framework of Croatia, point 11), while the important negotiating chapters are subject to ‘opening and closing benchmarks’. Finally, the Lisbon Treaty increases the requirements of the acceding states, which are required not only to respect the values of the EU, but also to promote them (Article 3 TEU). At the same time, it provides more flexibility to the member states, which can extend the conditions for membership without Treaty change (Article 49, TEU states “…The conditions of eligibility agreed upon by the European Council shall be taken into account.”).

Internal difficulties in dealing with the club of 27 member states, consequently making the enlargement process more complex, coupled with persisting economic and identity crises inside the EU, have induced not only the ‘enlargement fatigue’, but also the fatigue among the acceding countries. Public opinion surveys demonstrate that the closer the country is to become a member of the EU, the less public support for membership it has. At the moment, Croatians are far more against the entry into the EU than the Bosnians, for example. In Serbia, public support for the EU membership is shrinking progressively. It reached its peak in December 2009 with 73% support, following visa liberalisation, while today the bar stands at 41%. Yet, the majority of citizens are in favour of the reforms required by the EU (61%). The decline of support for the EU, caused by the lengthiness of the enlargement process, can be counterbalanced with periodic “carrot-offering”, for which the visa liberalisation was the perfect example.

Ten years ago, the greatest challenge for the Western Balkans was to alleviate the nationalistic and retrograde political forces. Today, the political scene in the countries of the region is consolidated in favour of the integration into the EU. Obviously, numerous challenges remain, most notably regional cooperation among the Western Balkan countries and strengthening their institutional capacities. The pace of progress on the side of the Western Balkan countries seems slow, while the commitment of the EU to integrate the Western Balkans seems somewhat weak. Croatia’s entry to the EU represents a signal that the enlargement process is to be continued, but with the uncertain outcome and a long break before the next country will be ready to join.

Pending Visa Reintroduction Possibility and Serbia's EU integration

Written by: Sena Marić, CEP Researcher

PassportIn the context of the current EU-Serbia relations, Serbian citizens find the freedom to travel without visas in the Schengen area countries since December 2009 as the most tangible benefit and accomplishment so far. However, the phenomenon of ‘false asylum seekers’ - Serbian citizens who ask for asylum in the developed European countries so to enjoy benefits provided by the asylum procedure - became a threat to the visa-free regime very soon after the visas were abolished. A sudden sharp increase of the asylum seekers from the Western Balkans that followed the visa liberalisation has forced the EU decision makers to reconsider the conditions under which the third country nationals could travel visa-free in the future. The provision which would allow temporary reintroduction of visas is currently being in the EU legislative procedure.

Potential re-imposition of visas for the Serbians, to result as a consequence of high numbers of asylum applications of its citizens in the EU countries, is one of the rare EU legislative acts with direct and palpable repercussions for the Serbian citizens. It is therefore important to understand how the decision-making process evolves and who the main actors in this respect are. The unfavourable circumstance for Serbia is the fact that despite the measures undertaken in the last three years aimed to tackle this phenomenon, the number of its citizens asking for asylum in the EU countries is still very high. What plays in Serbia’s favour, however, is the fact that the decision-making process takes very long. It is continuously being postponed due to extremely complex legislative procedure and the lack of consensus among the decision makers – the European Parliament (EP) and the member states represented in the Council of the EU.

Read more ...

Lobbying in the EU - How it Works and what it Means for Policy Making

By Sofia Tzortzi

business people lobbying“Lobbying:” a bad word, a euphemism, a blessing, a norm? No one really knows and no one will (soon) decide. What is true is that lobbying is all about the way one does it and the cause one pursues through it.  What is even truer is that in the EU everyone does it. It is the only way to succeed to pass your ideas in this daedal system. That is why it is not only a common practice but even institutionalised in the EU. But let’s examine more closely how it works and what it really means for the EU mechanism.

Who Lobbies in the EU and How

In a conventional way of approaching the notion of “EU lobbyists,” one can speak of businesses, groups of activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), citizens’ groups and so on, representing their interests before the decision-makers in so that EU legislation and policies do not harm them or even is drafted to their benefit.

In the case of a specific vested interest on a legislative act under preparation, the concerned stakeholders build an advocacy strategy with the ultimate goal to persuade decision-makers that it is right to legislate one way or another. The most common tools used to pass their message in a traditional lobbying campaign are face-to-face meetings with EU officials and politicians, participating in public consultations often organised for legislation under preparation by the European Commission or/and the European Parliament, disseminating “position papers,” creating media coverage, building social media campaigns, or organising thematic conferences and events. Often businesses, individuals or NGOs with a common concern join forces to represent their interests.

Read more ...

Irish Presidency: Programme and Priorities

irish-presidencylogoFrom January until June 2013 Ireland will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. According to its programme, during this period Ireland will strive to respond to the current pressing economic, financial and social challenges. Thus, according to Ireland's Presidency Programme "For Stability, Growth and Jobs," the Presidency's main objective is to deliver sustainable economic growth and employment in order to drive economic recovery and stability and ensure social cohesion. Moreover, if the EU is to achieve the necessary growth and stability in the globalised and interdependent world of today, it must strengthen its external and foreign policy. In this regard, the Presidency will support the work of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service as EU representatives in addressing global challenges.

 As economic growth is deemed to bring about employment creation, the Council will intensify the efforts to make progress in the implementation of the Union's new economic governance measures and financial services reform. Ireland argues that the needed stability will be best founded on the Banking Union proposals, the European Semester process and the progress regarding the Economic and Monetary Union. In this vain, it will support proposals and initiatives addressing unemployment, job creation and promoting the free movement of workers. 

In the area of the Single Market, one of EU's success stories, Ireland will prioritize its strengthening so as to assure EU's competitiveness on the global market and create long-term benefits for the citizens.

The three Presidencies (Irish, Lithuanian and Greek) acknowledged the importance of the Enlargement agenda in the Union's aim to continue asserting itself as a relevant political actor on the world stage. Therefore, Council will keep supporting the ongoing accession negotiations, and will encourage the Western Balkan countries to make further progress based on the Copenhagen criteria. Moreover, the EU will continue instigating both domestic reform and regional cooperation and reconciliation in the Western Balkans as well as promoting the pursuit of the European perspective within the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process. Furthermore, the initiative “Agenda 2014” aims at enhancing the intraregional cooperation and improving the Western Balkans - EU connection. The beginning of accession negotiations with Serbia is seen as conditioned by the outcomes of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

Read more about the Irish Presidency here.

Written by Amanda Orza.

Results of the Cyprus EU Presidency: does size matter?

cy 2012 eu logoHolding the rotating EU Presidency during the second semester of 2012 was a big challenge for a small “new” Member State. With a population of only approximately 1 million people, 4 votes in the Council, and 6 Members at the European Parliament, this divided island of the Eastern Mediterranean had the task to chair the EU Council during a turbulent period not only for Europe but also for the country itself. Despite the problems, the outcome of the Presidency was successful.

There are three distinct audiences who perceive quite differently the success of an EU Presidency:

  1. the wider public,
  2. stakeholders that exert pressure on the EU decision making process, that are either peripheral EU bodies or  outside the EU institutional framework altogether (industry, NGOs, interest groups, third countries) and, last but not least,
  3. the other Member States (through their representatives in the Council), the co-legislator -European Parliament and the EU “executive”- the European Commission.

For the wider public the Cyprus Presidency had a good image: the appealing logo and motto (“towards a better Europe”), the comprehensive user-friendly website and the noteworthy events served to highlightbreakthrough decisions (e.g. EU budget for 2013, Unitary Patent Package) but also important initiatives as the re-launch of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy.

For more specific audiences as well as other EU bodies, the chairing EU Member State also achieved the finalisation of other more specialised but equally significant legislative dossiers: on consumer protection and health the directive on foods for infants (PARNUTS); on environment, legislation on Monitoring and Reporting on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MMR) and on accounting for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF); on customs, legislation on customs for intellectual property rights (customs IPR). Progress was also marked on one of the main priorities of the EU for further development of the internal market the Single Market Act:not only the Unitary Patent package (above) but also legislation on the Guidelines on Trans-European Networks for Energy Infrastructure (TEN-E) and Alternative and Online Dispute resolution was agreed. 

All Presidencies have success stories in legislative proposals. Often, these amount to following through prior initiatives in a “business as usual” manner. Albeit their great importance, the role of a Member State when presiding the Council is not only ticking boxes without taking into account the quality of legislation. Colleagues-Member States in the Council as well as the European Commission and the co-legislator (i.e. European Parliament) saw in Cyprus a partner that was transparent and pro-active. It is of particular importance that acting as an honest broker in complex and intricate policy areas during its Presidency did not signify a change in Cyprus’ overall long-standing approach to the EU decision-making process. With no hidden agendas or vested interests, but hard work and determination Cyprus accomplished to embody the true role of the EU Presidency.

For more information you may also visit the website of the Cyprus Presidency.

Written by Sofia Tzortzi.


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