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DAILY SURVEY 07.02.2018.
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EU STRATEGY

BRNABIC: EU STRATEGY GIVES SERBIA A CHANCE

BELGRADE, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Feb. 6 that the European Commission's Strategy for the Western Balkans "gives Serbia a chance" which it should use by laboring more intensely to achieve reforms. "This gives us a big chance, it is not a guarantee, it does not automatically imply that we will become a member in 2025," Brnabic told a news conference. The prime minister said that Serbia would prioritize reforms and not speed and that it would not look for shortcuts on its European path. "We know what our obligations in the future are and what we need to work on additionally, we will continue even faster and more efficiently to carry out all of the necessary reforms for a better tomorrow for all of us," Brnabic said. She said that Serbia was recognized by the EC's Strategy as a leader and that the cabinet now had an even greater responsibility, as well as that hard work was necessary every day. "I want to underline to the members of the Serbian cabinet that we have an even greater responsibility to use this chance and give our all to realize this ambitious, yet achievable plan," Brnabic said.

STRATEGY FOR THE WESTERN BALKANS ADOPTED

STRASBOURG, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - The European Commission adopted in Strasbourg on Feb. 6 a strategy for "A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced engagement with the Western Balkans" confirming the European future of the region as part of geostrategic investment in a stable, strong, and united Europe based on joint values. The strategy states that by 2025 the EU could have more than in its present 27 member states, but that "the dynamics of moving forward on their respective EU paths for all Western Balkans is based on their own merits and at their own speed depending on the concrete results achieved." The EC said that Serbia and Montenegro had made the most progress on the European path and they could become members by 2025, while the strategy explains the steps that these two countries need to take to finish the accession process in a 2025 perspective. "While others could catch up, Montenegro and Serbia are the only two countries with which accession talks are under way," the text states, but adds that the perspective will ultimately depend on strong political will, the delivery of real and sustained reforms, as well as definitive solutions to disputes with neighbors. "All Western Balkan countries have the chance to move forward on their respective European paths. The Commission assesses all the countries in a fair and objective manner on the basis of their own merits at the speed at which they achieve progress," reads the document. As for Albania and Macedonia, the EC said that the two states were achieving substantial progress on the European road and added that the Commission was ready to prepare recommendations for opening accession talks on the basis of fulfilled conditions. "The Commission will start preparing an Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership application following receipt of comprehensive and complete and complete answers to its Questionnaire," stated the EC. With sustained effort and engagement Bosnia and Herzegovina could become a candidate for accession, the EC added. As for "Kosovo", the EU said that there was an opportunity for sustained progress through the implementation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and progress on the European road "once objective circumstances allow." The Strategy states that, to meet the criteria for joining the EU, the Western Balkans need to carry out comprehensive reforms in key areas. Rule of law, fundamental rights and governance must be significantly strengthened. Reforms of the judiciary, curbing corruption and organized crime and reforms of public administration need to deliver real results, while the operation of democratic institutions needs to be seriously enhanced. The application of economic reforms must be vigorous to overcome structural weaknesses, insufficient competitiveness and a high rate of unemployment. The strategy states that all countries need to unambiguously commit - in both word and deed - to overcome the legacy of the past, by achieving reconciliation and solving open issues, especially border disputes, before they join the EU. A comprehensive, legally-binding agreement on normalizing relations between Serbia and "Kosovo" also needs to be reached, so that both sides can advance on their European paths. The strategy also says that special arrangements need to be made to ensure that new member states do not get into the position to be able to block the admission of the other Western Balkan candidates. The document specifies priorities and areas of heightened joint cooperation, directed at the specific challenges that the Western Balkans face, especially the need for in-depth reforms and neighborly relations. On Feb. 6 the European Commission announced six flagship initiatives - specific actions that the EU will take over the next few years to support the transformation efforts of the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest. These range from initiatives to strengthen the rule of flaw, reinforced cooperation in security and migration through joint investigating teams and the European border and coast guard, to expanding the EU Energy Community to the Western Balkans or lowering roaming charges and rolling out broadband in the region. Concrete actions in these areas are foreseen between 2018 and 2020. To deliver on the Western Balkans Strategy and support a seamless transition to membership, adequate funding is indispensable, the document says, adding that the EC proposes gradually increasing funding under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) until 2020 in so far as reallocations within the existing envelope allow. In 2018 alone, EUR1.07 billion of pre-accession assistance for the Western Balkans is already foreseen, on top of almost EUR9 billion from the 2007-2017 period. Much work lies ahead for the countries concerned to be in a position to meet the conditions and criteria for EU membership. Furthermore, the Strategy highlights that leaders in the region must leave no doubt as to their strategic orientation and commitment. "It is them that ultimately must assume responsibility for making this historical opportunity a reality," reads the document. "Also, the EU itself needs to be ready for members of the family - once they have met the conditions - including from an institutional and financial perspective. The Union must be stronger, more solid, and more efficient before it can be bigger. To ensure effective decision-making, we need to make use of qualified majority voting in the Council in the policy areas where this is already foreseen. In addition, the European Commission will present possibilities to further enhance the use of qualified majority voting in the third quarter of 2018 – as announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address," adds the Strategy. A more effective system is also needed to tackle systemic threats to or breaches of the rule of law in any EU Member State with a Commission initiative to be expected in October 2018, states the EC.

JUNCKER ADVISES BALKAN STATES TO SOLVE BORDER DISPUTES

BRUSSELS, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - European Commissioner President Jean-Claude Juncker warned the Balkan states aspiring to joining the EU on Feb. 6 that they would not be accepted until they solved their border disputes with neighbors. Juncker told European MPs that these problems must be solved before admission or there would be no admission. According to him, Serbia and Montenegro could be admitted to the EU in 2025 if they met all of the conditions for membership. Juncker's warning came on the heels of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic's speech in the European Parliament on the EU's future. Croatia and Slovenia, both members of the EU, have a border dispute that dates back to the time of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Among other things, they are also involved in a dispute over international arbitration, which gave Slovenia unhindered access to the Adriatic Sea.

EU STRATEGY: 2025 INDICATIVE DATE FOR SERBIA'S, MONTENEGRO'S MEMBERSHIP

STRASBOURG, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - All countries in the Western Balkans have a clear European outlook, and 2025 as the year of the prospective accession of Serbia and Montenegro is the indicative membership date by which all conditions must be met, officials said on Feb. 6 at the presentation of the European Commission's Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans. European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said this was a historic chance for the entire Western Balkan region, an area that belonged to Europe and was surrounded by EU members, which made it logical that the region should have a European outlook. We're talking about prospects for all states in the region. This means that everyone in the region should have an interest in working on their European outlook and in supporting each others on the EU path, Hahn said. Stressing that 2025 was the indicative date, Hahn said this was both ambitious and doable, but that all conditions in the strategy must first be met. Clearly, all conditions must be met. EU member states will not accept new members that haven't resolved their bilateral issues and conflicts, Hahn said, adding that this was in no way a lowering of the bar. Hahn said the strategy should serve to motivate Pristina to contribute proactively to a positive resolution of the dialogue with Belgrade, as this is not just in Serbia's interest, but in "Kosovo's" too. "We either export stability or we import instability," Hahn stated. The indicative date provided in the strategy can generate positive pressure on decision makers, he said, as most people are for EU integration. There is a lot of work ahead, we have a charted road before us and there is excitement that boosts motivation and optimism, but everyone, including the EU, must do their homework, Hahn said. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said 2025 was neither the target nor the deadline, but a realistic time frame for the conclusion of the association process. We didn't just adopt a strategy today, we also have a path before us to lead us in further steps, she said. Mogherini went on to say that, in the future, the EU would potentially have new members and that readiness and resolution was needed from the region. According to her, "the next months will be not only intense but also crucial." We hope that they will be defining months and that they will go down in EU history. Let's make it happen, let's be together. We need to have the Western Balkans in the EU in the not too distant future, Mogherini said.

FABRIZI: NO LOWERING OF EU MEMBERSHIP BAR

BELGRADE, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - Sem Fabrizi, head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, said at a presentation of the EU Enlargement Strategy on Feb. 6 that it was a historic day for all of the Western Balkans, a region with clear European prospects, but that all issues must be resolved before membership. There is no lowering of the bar. The road to the EU is very clear cut, Fabrizi said, adding that all six states should resolve their bilateral issues and that there has to be a reconciliation process. Fabrizi said this was the first time that Serbia had been given an indicative date and that the strategy was "very good news" for Serbia. It is an invitation for Serbia to make a decisive political step to achieve this aspiration. I think Serbia is already moving in that direction, Fabrizi said, adding that the good work done to date should be kept up. He reiterated that Serbia and Montenegro were the leaders in the enlargement process, but that the opportunity should be offered to the other nations in the region, too. We are a family and we obviously have a common future, the EU ambassador said. According to him, the strategy is a new deal for the Western Balkans Six as offers have been made for all six countries in the region to come closer to the EU. Fabrizi said there were a lot of issues to discuss, including the rule of law, a free judiciary, market economy and political resolve, and that reconciliation and normalization of relations with "Kosovo" were key. Before joining the EU, a legally binding agreement that will lead to a comprehensive normalization of relations between the two sides should be agreed and enforced, Fabrizi said. He added that the presidents of Serbia and "Kosovo", Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci, had agreed to launch a new stage in the normalization of relations, and voiced the conviction that the two sides would reach an agreement. Serbian EU Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic said a legally binding agreement with "Kosovo" had been planned for before and was nothing new, and stressed that its wording must result from the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue so a sustainable way could be found to normalize relations to the citizens' benefit. Joksimovic said the strategy was one of the strongest political messages since Serbia had entered the EU integration process, and praised the inclusion of the principle of meritocracy and actual progress of each candidate individually. "We are happy because we have been recognized as the most serious candidate at this time," the minister said, adding that the strategy was a good document for Serbia in terms of a more certain outlook of membership. Joksimovic also said the EU had finally launched a regenerative agenda with this document, so that it could be stronger and more ready to accept new members. Asked about the safety of journalists, Joksimovic condemned attacks on reporters and said the state of the media was only one area of the rule of law. She added that a media strategy was in the works to better define the sector and stressed that civil society was involved much more than in certain other countries.

SERBIA

VUCIC: SIX-MONTH MORATORIUM ON SUBJECTS FROM SERBIA, CROATIA'S PAST

ZAGREB, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has stated that Serbia and Croatia have no conflicts about the future and proposed a six-month moratorium on discussing subjects from the past. In an interview with the Croatian Globus, published in part on the weekly's website, Vucic said he would give Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic concrete proposals to improve Serbia-Croatia relations during an imminent visit to Zagreb. When it comes to the highly charged topics concerning World War II and the wars of the 1990s, which generate the most tension in relations between the two countries, Vucic said it would be best if the two sides refrained from discussing them for a time, Globus reported. "Let's agree, for the next six months - and let's say it, too, not to talk about this, this and that. Or, before we come out with anything, let's try to hear each other and tone things down, both of us," Vucic said. Asked whether his Croatian counterpart would accept this proposal, Vucic said the goal was better understanding in the future. "I think that the conclusion of our talks should be: We agree that we haven't agreed on anything from the past, but let's try to understand each other better in the future," he added. In the interview, Vucic discussed the issue of persons unaccounted for, an exhibition devoted to Jasenovac Serbia held in the U.N., the fear of Serb assimilation in Croatia and whether Croatia was holding Serbia back on the road to the EU.

BRNABIC, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR: RELATIONS BETWEEN SERBIA, ISRAEL CONSTANTLY IMPROVING

BELGRADE, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said in a meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Belgrade Alona Fisher-Kamm on Feb. 6 that relations between Serbia and Israel were continuously progressing through the bolstering of political dialogue and increasingly intense economic cooperation. Ambassador Fisher-Kamm pointed out the importance of constructing a memorial center on the site of the World War II Sajmiste concentration camp and said that memorials of this kind were important for preserving and cultivating cultural memory and the joint histories of the two nations. The two officials agreed that Serbia's decision on restitution gave a good example to other companies on how to solve this question, the Serbian government said in a statement. Brnabic said that the Serbian government would continue to work on performing planned activities in the area of restituting the property of Holocaust victims without heirs. Brnabic said that good bilateral relations and more intensive meetings between officials of the two countries, especially last year, had a positive effect on Israel investments in Serbia in numerous areas and bigger trade, and added that she saw IT, innovation, the environment and tourism as particularly good grounds for improving cooperation. Ana Brnabic said that an upcoming EBRD summit on the Western Balkans, slated to be held in London on Feb. 26, was a good opportunity for meetings with Israeli businesspeople, cooperation and plans for future investments. The Serbian prime minister thanked Fisher-Kamm for Israel's principled stance not to recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and its support on this question of importance to Serbia.

MOGHERINI: VUCIC, THACI HAVE LAUNCHED NEW STAGE OF DIALOGUE, HOPE FOR SERB MUNICIPALITIES

BRUSSELS, 6. February 2018 (Beta) - The European Union's High Representative Federica Mogherini said in Strasbourg on Feb. 6 that she felt encouraged by the fact that, a few months ago, the presidents of Serbia and "Kosovo", Aleksandar Vucic and Hashim Thaci had launched a new stage of the dialogue geared toward the normalization of relations. She further voiced the conviction that this initiative could be a success if there was political will, leadership and support on both sides. This was Mogherini's response when asked, after the presentation of the Western Balkans Strategy before the European Parliament, whether Serbia would have to recognize "Kosovo" before it could join the EU and how the EU members that had not recognized the territory could be made to do so. She stressed that the future dialogue between Serbia and "Kosovo" was absolutely essential, first of all to Serbia and "Kosovo" themselves - not just in terms of their bilateral relations, but also as related to the region and their prospects with the EU. The high representative stressed that Belgrade and Pristina were doing good work and that the EU was working well with them in the dialogue to normalize relations.

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