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Chapter 30: External Relations

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 and obligations attributed to the members of the World Trade Organization, all EU trade agreements with third countries as well as development and humanitarian assistance to developing countries and least developed countries.

The set of regulations governing the common commercial policy of the EU have considerable political importance as they represent the external aspect of the Single Market. These regulations follow to great extent the ones included in the regulations and trade agreements under the WTO. As Serbia is in the final stage of its negotiations with the WTO and its membership is expected to be finalized soon, the acquisition and implementation of these regulations should not pose a great deal of problems.

Certain topics under the negotiating chapter that may come across as more problematic are the trade agreements with third countries that EU has concluded in the past or that is currently negotiating, as well as the set of rules governing its development and humanitarian assistance policies. More specifically, problems may arise due to the fact that Serbia will have to confer exclusive competence to the EU in regards to foreign direct investments as Member States already have since the Lisbon Treaty (Article 207 TFEU). Probably the most important piece of legislation in the EU governing the external relations regarding trade is the Regulation (EU) No. 1219/2012 that “clarifies the legal status of bilateral investment treaties concluded between EU member states and non-EU countries (“extra-EU BITs”) and the role of the European Commission in such agreements.”[1]

In other words, once Serbia becomes a fully-fledged member of the Union, it will have to accept all of the already established trade agreements and become an active participant in the negotiating of new ones. This could be very beneficial for Serbia’s economy as it would gain immediate access to markets that otherwise it would have more difficulties in accessing on its own. For instance, to name a few, markets such as those in Central and Latin America, Africa or Pacific were the EU already concluded free trade agreements or to markets such as the US, Canada, Japan or India where EU is in the process of negotiating significant trade agreements. The problematic part of the application of Article 207 TFEU is that Serbia will have to renounce its current trade agreements with some of its most important trading partners, like the CEFTA countries and Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

In regards to the part of the chapter referring to development and humanitarian assistance, Serbia will have to transition from the role beneficiary of aid to be an active participant in providing development and humanitarian assistance to less developed countries mapped by the EU. First of all, Serbia needs to establish a development policy of its own as there was no unique strategy on the cooperation with developing countries in over two decades. Moreover, Serbia does not have the culture and memory of dispatching aid as the policies in relation to these areas come down to limited ad hoc aid to non-EU countries on an individual case basis, particularly in response to natural disasters, where the EU is a leader on the global scene.

In previous enlargement waves, Chapter 30 was deemed as one 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 the 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 Serbia’s specific situation should not be lost from sight and the negotiating position should be devised in such a way so as to defend its national interests. Despite the fact that the EU legislation in this area consists of regulations which have direct effect in the Member States and the accession countries have to transpose theм without further a due in the case of Serbia as well, the challenges of their implementation as well as their impact should be examined and assessed from the perspective of the respective country.  A horizontal approach to devising the negotiating positions is essential in the accession negotiations as well as later on for a successful policy making in this area as the topics covered by the chapter are closely interconnected to the ones in other chapters (Single Market, Foreign, Security & Defense Policy etc.). Moreover, to these ends, an efficient administrative capacity that is able to tackle all the cross-sectorial issues is of paramount importance.

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