Interview with Tanja Miščević:  BiH must not stay behind, balance in the region necessary

Mišćević spoke about the experiences of Serbia and its preparations for negotiations as a guest lecturer at a seminar organized in Konjic by the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, within the project “Construction of structures and capacities of the Government of the Federation of BiH for EU integration,” on topics “The legal framework of the Stabilization and Association Process” and “Preparing for the negotiations – the experience of Serbia.”

In the process of European integration it is essential that each of the Western Balkan countries is progressing, both individually and regionally, because we are the only other region outside the united Europe, says the head of Serbia’s negotiating team with the European Union, Tanja Miščević.

“We cannot afford to remain an island outside the united Europe. Each of the countries in the region so far has had a different path to European integration and to the EU, which is conditioned by political, economic and security issues, but they all can be overcome together with these very processes of European integration. I’m referring to the process of getting closer to European standards and creating a stable and modern European state for each of us.
Therefore it is important and we must be make sure that each one of the neighbors has a good line of progress toward the same goal, then, you are also stable, have economic potential for greater cooperation and less problems in the region. Therefore it is important that Serbia, BiH, Macedonia and Montenegro follow the model of what is the success of Croatia in the European integration and its membership,” said Miščević in an interview with FENA.
“Our interest is to push each other and Serbia is always open to share its experiences, both good and bad. Serbia will help all those who need help in this process,” she said.

Miščević stressed that Serbia got the green light for starting the negotiations for the conclusion of the agreement, that is the start of negotiations for EU membership and on 25 September it will make the first formal step – the screening process of the state legislation.

When asked how long the negotiations with the EU could last until the final accession, Miščević stated that it is difficult to talk about deadlines. There is a standard that Serbia will try to comply with “because it has good administrative capacities.”

“We will try to speed up the process, but not at the expense of the state and all that needs to be done because it is not in our interest. Our interest is that, one day when we join the EU, we are a full member and not someone who constantly needs help,” says Serbia’s chief negotiator with the EU.

It is usual that the negotiations themselves last for at least four years. Before that, there is a screening process that takes at least a year and a half. These two processes can overlap. After that follows the drafting of the agreement, which lasts for at least six months, followed by the ratification process which, according to past experiences, takes about a year and a half.

“Thi is a substantial period that we will try to shorten, but not at the expense of quality, says Miščević, adding that the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina – in order to achieve a normal life of people who live there, whatever their nationality – is something that has been “well understood by the government of Serbia as its own interest and the interests of Serbs who live there.”

“This is a prerequisite not only for the process of European integration, but also for a normal life in the region. This is a sign of great political courage, which is actually something Serbia needed,” said Miščević, noting that Serbia and Kosovo Prime Ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci recently discussed the key issues – telecommunications and energy. She pointed out that “only fifteen months ago nobody could even imagine that this could happen.”

“The negotiations are very difficult, they are long, and in that sense, it is a real struggle, but without any prejudice on the option to sit down and talk. It is a European way to resolve disputes. To sit and try to find a solution, said Miščević.

“There are lots of preconditions and so far, little has been done in relation to what awaits Serbia in the future,” pointed out Miščević.

“Certainly, the most important issues are judiciary, home affairs, rule of law, fight against organized crime and corruption, media freedom, human rights and freedoms, competition rules, the protection of foreign investors and guarantees for their investments … This is something that brings benefits to us as this would bring foreign investments in our region, create production facilities, employ our citizens who then pay taxes to the budget of our country. This is something that only brings benefit to the European integration process,” highlights Miščević, adding that the act of entering in the EU does not mean much. Not everything is great, the economic crisis is equally difficult for a member state and a new member or candidate country, but membership brings security. In this regard, she mentioned the example of Croatia.

“No need to wait for the day after. Croatia has changed before that, during the process that ran for years. There are still preconditions that Croatia has not fulfilled in terms of the EU, but in terms of functioning and views on life it has changed. It is no longer an unstable state that independently solves its problems but it has strong EU by its side, and that gives you a lot of power,” emphasized Serbia’s chief negotiator with the European Union.
Asked about the members that would comprise the Serbian negotiating team, Miščević said that the names are not yet known, but the Serbian government adopted a structure of what the team is supposed to be.

She pointed out that a place in the team belongs to the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Finance since accession to the EU brings budgetary implications, such as the cost of funds and the budget costs, then the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs due to the connection with diplomatic – consular missions, as well as Head of the Mission of Serbia in the EU.

“Serbian negotiation team with the EU will have up to 20 people and it will contain experts in the fields that will be individually negotiated. These are people who are experts in various fields that will be negotiated in the further course of the negotiations for the membership,“ stated the head of the negotiating team.
There are 35 chapters of aquis communautaire, i.e. the acquis, but we do not need that many people, because some of the chapters can be connected.

People who will work in certain areas will be experts, but also they have to be well informed about European law and standards, to have credibility. Serbia has taken the experience of other countries, primarily Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

Miščević believes that good examples could encourage BiH.

“Croatia has entered EU, Montenegro is negotiating, and Serbia will begin negotiations. It can all be a beautiful message. To move in that direction and when you catch the momentum, then it is a force that propels you ahead.
Not because of the EU, but for our own sake, said in an interview with FENA Tanja Miščević, once again reiterating that “it is really important for everyone to progress equally because there is no success if there is imbalance in the region.”

FENA, 10.09.2013