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Belgrade Media Report 20 November 2019

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United Nations Office in Belgrade

Daily Media Highlights

Wednesday 20 November 2019
LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic to Falconi: We trust Macron, but we need a clear answer (RTS/Tanjug/Beta/RTV/Blic)
• Vukosavljevic concerned over cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija (Novosti)
• Markovic: Law on Referendum not to change Serbia’s borders (Politika)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• B&H Presidency members reach agreement on Tegeltija’s appointment as B&H CoM Chairman-designate and Program of Reforms of B&H to be sent to NATO (BHT1)
• Tegeltija’s appointment and Program of Reforms of B&H to be sent to NATO spark numerous reactions (BN TV)
• Other B&H politicians, political parties comment on B&H Presidency agreement (N1)
• Inzko: B&H will have formed authorities soon (N1)
• Foreign Embassies, Head of EUD express support to adoption of Program of reforms of B&H (BN TV)
• Delegation of German Ministry of Interior pays visit to B&H, says burden of inflow of migrants should be distributed evenly among entities (TV1)
• Dodik: Proposal to deploy FRONTEX mission to B&H, but only on border with EU is unacceptable for RS (RTRS)
Croatia
• Tusk and Plenkovic want to restore EU’s unity regarding Macedonia and Albania (Hina)
Republic of North Macedonia
• Six member states agree to change EU’s enlargement procedure in exchange for talks with Macedonia and Albania (Nezavisen vesnik)
• Germany thinks France’s “non-paper” will slow down the enlargement process (Republika)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• EU faces rift over enlargement policy after French ‘non’ (EurActiv/AFP)
• De Montchalin: All Western Balkan countries might have to implement the new accession methodology (European Western Balkans)
• Border management: EU signs agreement with Serbia on European Border and Coast Guard cooperation (European Council Press release)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic to Falconi: We trust Macron, but we need a clear answer (RTS/Tanjug/Beta/RTV/Blic)

 

French Ambassador to Serbia Jean-Louis Falconi told Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday that Paris wanted the European Union to function appropriately with more member states.  Falconi, referring to a non-paper with President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestions for a new approach to the EU enlargement, he says the French position is clear – the aim of the accession process is the full membership for the candidate countries which implement all necessary reforms, a statement from the Presdient’s cabinet states. Falconi added that regardless of the methodology changes, Serbia’s current progress towards the EU would be taken into account. He said that French suggestions would have to wait for a new European Commission (EC) since it had to be in tune with the member states and the European institutions. Vucic said Serbia trusted Macron and his political judgement, but at the same time, it was essential for Belgrade to get a clear answer to what it could expect following the fulfilment of specific criteria. The President added that good relationship with France was significant to Serbia and thanked Macron for his hospitality during the last week’s visit to Paris.

 

Vukosavljevic concerned over cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija (Novosti)

 

A delegation of the Ministry of Culture and the Media, led by Serbian Culture Minister Vladan Vukosavljevic, is taking part in the Forum of Ministers of Culture, held at the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris. The Forum of Ministers of Culture was last held 21 years ago, and this year’s gathering is attended by more than one hundred ministers from around the world.

Vukosavljevic spoke at the panel “Culture at the heart of education – the basic dimension of human development and innovation”, and on the sidelines of this meeting, he met with Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Mechtild Rössler. At this meeting he expressed concern about the state of Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija. According to Vukosavljevic, in addition to the four UNESCO-protected cultural monuments, there are more than 1,300 cultural monuments in Kosovo, and locals do not show willingness and goodwill to treat Serbian shrines adequately.

 

Markovic: Law on Referendum not to change Serbia’s borders (Politika)

 

The draft law on referendum and the people’s initiative, which envisages the possible abolishment of the census for referendum, can in no way affect change of the state borders, former Serbian deputy prime minister, judge of the Constitutional court of Yugoslavia and retired professor of constitutional law Ratko Markovic told Politika. Professor Markovic reminds that according to the Constitution, the territory of Serbia is unified and indivisible, and that such situation can be altered only through a procedure prescribed for changing the highest legal act. “The Constitution, of course, may be changed through a constitutional referendum, which is not and cannot be regulated by any other laws,” Markovic said. He recalled that a proposal for changing the Constitution may be submitted by at least one-third of the total number of MPs, the President of the Republic, the government, or at least 150,000 citizens, and that a final decision on the changes has to be supported in parliament by two-thirds of its members.

If the parliament adopts the proposal for amending the Constitution, it approaches consideration, and later to drafting the proposal on amending the Constitution, while the final word is brought by citizens at the republic referendum. The Constitution will be amended, as stated, only of the amendments are supported by the majority of turned out voters, which means that for a successful referendum there is no necessity for a turnout of more than fifty percent of the total number of voters. The draft law on the referendum and the people’s initiative was presented to the Serbian public two days ago.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

B&H Presidency members reach agreement on Tegeltija’s appointment as B&H CoM Chairman-designate and Program of Reforms of B&H to be sent to NATO (BHT1)

 

At a special session that was held in Sarajevo on Tuesday, the Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency adopted a decision on appointment of SNSD’s candidate Zoran Tegeltija as the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman-designate and the Program of Reforms of B&H to be sent to NATO. Members of the B&H Presidency reached the agreement at the session they held suddenly and unexpectedly without informing the public, immediately after they held consultations with the Ambassadors of the US, the UK, France and Italy to B&H and Head of the EU Delegation (EUD) to B&H Johann Sattler. After the news leaked to the public, Bosniak member of the B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic addressed the public and confirmed that Tegeltija was appointed the B&H CoM Chairman-designate after they adopted a document called the Program of Reforms of B&H, which will be sent to NATO in Brussels. Dzaferovic did not specify any details of this document or what makes it different from the Annual National Program (ANP), regarding which there was no consensus among the members of the B&H Presidency over the past months. “We got to adopt a document that will be sent to NATO, which makes it possible for us to continue our relations and cooperation with the Alliance. Our friends from the world support this document. NATO supports this document too,” Dzaferovic told the press conference. Reporter commented that Dzaferovic avoided to say whether the Program of Reforms of B&H is the same document as the ANP. Dzaferovic emphasized that he is among those interested in the essence, adding that he will not give a single statement that will make the political situation in B&H more difficult or will undermine political atmosphere in B&H. “I think it is sufficient to say this document is acceptable for NATO, it enables continuation of B&H’s relations and cooperation with NATO and it respects principles of the rule of law,” explained Dzaferovic. Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik departed to Belgrade immediately after the special session in order to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic who congratulated him on the “compromise solution”. Dodik told reporters in Belgrade that the document regarding which the B&H Presidency reached consensus does not presume B&H’s membership in NATO in any way. “It is even openly said in this document that this document is all about reforms, that they do not presume membership, that any kind of path towards NATO requires a new decision of the Presidency and the Parliament and that decisions will be made in line with the stances of all authorities,” Dodik stressed. Dodik underlined that no document presuming NATO membership was adopted. “I understand those from SDS and PDP. They should stop being angry, because I see they are furious” stressed Dodik. According to unofficial information, details of this document will not be published as it contains elements of a “state secret”. The B&H HoR Collegium is now expected to convene a session of the B&H HoR, at which Tegeltija’s appointment as the B&H CoM Chairman is expected to be confirmed. A day after the B&H HoR confirms Tegeltija’s appointment as the B&H CoM Chairman, this document will be sent to NATO in Brussels.

 

Tegeltija’s appointment and Program of Reforms of B&H to be sent to NATO spark numerous reactions (BN TV)

 

Zoran Tegeltija’s appointment as B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman-Designate caused a number of reactions of the Republika Srpska (RS) opposition. SDS leader Mirko Sarovic said that it is clear now that SNSD leader and Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik capitulated and he actually activated the NATO MAP by passing the document at B&H Presidency, regardless of its name or content. He reminded that SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, B&H Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic (DF) and Bosniak member of B&H Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) also said that this move means the NATO MAP activation, which means that B&H and the RS take big steps towards full membership in NATO. According to Sarovic, Dodik ignored documents that he himself insisted on the most, i.e. the RS parliament’s resolution on military neutrality. He added that PDP and SDS Ministers in B&H CoM have prevented the submission of B&H’s Annual National Program (ANP) for NATO on several occasions in line with the RS parliament’s resolution. Sarovic assessed that SNSD and Dodik passed the decision that is against interests of the RS people. PDP leader Branislav Borenovic stated that Dodik stepped over the RS and the RS parliament again by accepting the program of reforms for NATO, adding that this move shows that Dodik is the “biggest faker and liar in the history of the Serb people.” He also wondered if Dodik will be arrested since he acted against the law, and if he will have the courage to show up before the RS people and the RSNA whom he forced to vote for military neutrality of the RS, concluding that he violated the declaration on military neutrality for the sake of SNSD’s intraparty interests. Commenting on critics by the RS opposition, Dodik stated that the document B&H Presidency passed on Tuesday does not prejudice B&H’s NATO membership nor it violates the RS’ military neutrality. Dodik said that they should first read what is written in this document or even wait for NATO itself to declare on this document. Spokesman of SNSD Radovan Kovacevic said that Tuesday’s agreement is a great success of the RS. He explained that the Program of Reforms of B&H means that B&H will continue its cooperation with NATO, but in accordance with the principle of cooperation of countries who do not plan to become NATO members. Kovacevic stressed that the B&H Presidency did not adopt the Annual National Program (ANP) and for the first time the B&H Presidency adopted a document that does not presume the NATO membership of B&H.

 

Other B&H politicians, political parties comment on B&H Presidency agreement (N1)

 

HDZ B&H leader Dragan Covic welcomed the agreement reached Tuesday, stressing that acceleration of the European and NATO path of B&H is the leading foreign policy goal of B&H. SBB B&H leader Fahrudin Radoncic stressed that compromise is the mother of all success. Meanwhile, SDP B&H Vice-President Zukan Helez said that B&H Presidency member Sefik Dzaferovic and B&H Presidency Chairman Zeljko Komsic capitulated before Serb member of B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik. “One is trying to mask the obvious unconditional capitulation before the wishes of Milorad Dodik with the shameful interpretations on sending the ill-favored Program of Reforms, instead of the ANP, to the NATO headquarters.” DF welcomed the B&H Presidency’s decision to form the B&H CoM.

 

Inzko: B&H will have formed authorities soon (N1)

 

High Representative Valentin Inzko commented on the decision of the B&H Presidency to appoint new Council of Ministers (CoM) Chairman-designate and adopt the Program of Reforms document, which will be sent to NATO. He said that B&H will likely see a new convocation of the B&H CoM soon. Inzko reminded that it has become a tradition in B&H for leaders of the country to come back from an international visit and as soon as they step out of the plane they express various interpretations of the visit. He added that the same happened with the agreement on authority formation that was signed by B&H leaders on 5 August. Inzko said that the session of the B&H Presidency is an important and constructive step. Asked about the various interpretations of this session by all three sides, Inzko said that one needs to be positive and the Chairman-designate needs to be approved by the B&H parliament, after which the new B&H CoM will also need to be approved. He reminded that B&H waited for 13 months for this to happen.

 

Foreign Embassies, Head of EUD express support to adoption of Program of reforms of B&H (BN TV)

 

The US Embassy to B&H welcomed on Tuesday the decision of B&H Presidency members to adopt the Program of Reforms that leads to continuation of the cooperation with NATO. “We welcome the agreement reached by members of B&H Presidency, which achieves the key objectives of government formation and continuing B&H’s partnership and cooperation with NATO. It will also unlock much-needed defense reforms,” the US Embassy said on Tuesday afternoon. The UK Embassy also commended the reached agreement and underlined that key goals for formation of authorities have been reached as well as continuation of B&H’s cooperation with NATO which will unblock the needed defense reforms. Head of the EU Delegation to B&H and EU Special Representative Johann Sattler wrote on Twitter: “Compromise is strength! Immediate forming of the government and parliament will ensure continuation of important reforms, but also unlock many projects financed by the EU.”

 

Delegation of German Ministry of Interior pays visit to B&H, says burden of inflow of migrants should be distributed evenly among entities (TV1)

 

Delegation of German Ministry of Interior paid visit to B&H on Tuesday and met with members of the Presidency of B&H. Following this meeting, representatives of the abovementioned delegation said that burden of inflow of migrants to B&H should be evenly distributed among two entities. They also stated that the main goal is to reduce inflow of migrants to B&H. It was emphasized that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Minister of Interior asked them to pay the visit to B&H. Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Interior of Germany Stephan Mayer underlined that the decision of the EU member countries to open its borders for migrants and refugees would convey a wrong message that once they reach Europe they will be distributed to one of the EU countries. He added that this would also enable smugglers and criminals to enter the EU. Member of German Bundestag Christian Schmidt stressed that their goal is to reduce inflow of migrants to B&H. According to Schmidt, reaching a common agreement and solution in B&H is expected in order for Germany to provide its assistance. “We ask for support and consent by Serb member of B&H Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik. Schmidt stressed that Germany will help B&H in solving the migrant crisis. “But, there has to be a unanimous stance in B&H. At this moment, we expect a response from Mr. Dodik and the RS,” Schmidt said. Schmidt said that they are hopeful that harmonization will be reached at Presidency level, especially regarding cooperation with EU and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).

 

Dodik: Proposal to deploy FRONTEX mission to B&H, but only on border with EU is unacceptable for RS (RTRS)

 

The German high delegation, which met with B&H Presidency members Tuesday, called on the B&H authorities to immediately reach an agreement on solving the migrant crisis in B&H, as well as that members of the German delegation directly called out Serb member of the B&H Presidency Milorad Dodik for rejecting the offered solutions. Dodik responded by saying that proposal to deploy a FRONTEX mission to B&H, but only on the border with the EU is unacceptable for RS. Dodik believes that in this way, the border with Croatia would be additionally strengthened, while migrants would remain on the territory of B&H. “Then I told them, and perhaps I irritated them, that it would be the best if they picked up these migrants and transported them to their area and accommodated them there if they want to solve a humanitarian crisis,” Dodik underlined, adding that he understands the humanitarian dimension of the migrant crisis, but that when migrants come to Serb villages, it is as if God knows what came there.

 

Tusk and Plenkovic want to restore EU’s unity regarding Macedonia and Albania (Hina)

 

The European Union needs to once again restore unity regarding the topic of enlargement after the disappointing decision not to okay the start of accession negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania, the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk and Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Zagreb on Tuesday. “Failing to decide about North Macedonia and Albania is a great disappointment, however, I remain an optimist,” Tusk told reporters. It is necessary to restore EU unity on enlargement, he added. Plenkovic underscored that Croatia wanted the situation regarding North Macedonia and Albania to be unblocked. “Those countries have Croatia’s support and we will seek a solution over the next few months,” said Plenkovic, the PM of Croatia that will preside over the EU in the first half of 2020. Six EU countries have addressed a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying they are ready to work on improving the enlargement process on the understanding that it will lead to consensus on opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia in March next year. “We are therefore ready to engage constructively in an effort to improve this process. We will do so on the understanding that such an exercise be conducted in an effective and result-oriented fashion and that it enables the EU to reach consensus on opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in March 2020,” says the letter, seen by Hina on Tuesday. The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Croatia, although not a signatory, shares these views, according to diplomatic sources. The signatories called on the European Commission to elaborate by January 2020 concrete proposals for ways to enhance the effectiveness of the accession process as an instrument to support reform and integration efforts in the region. The letter also said that there is no viable alternative to full-fledged membership of the Western Balkan countries in the EU if we want to safeguard our interests in the region effectively and that the process must continue without unnecessary delay. The letter was made public ahead of Tuesday’s meeting of the General Affairs Council which is due to discuss enlargement. It followed a document that France had addressed to the member states proposing reform of the present EU accession process. According to the French proposal, the process would be carried out gradually, in seven steps. Speaking to a small group of correspondents from Brussels, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the EU should not leave the entire Western Balkans region in the lurch and leave it to other actors. The Finnish presidency is of the view that if we lose the Western Balkans and do not take the integration of this region seriously, we may end up in new trouble, even in a new conflict, Haavisto said.

 

Six member states agree to change EU’s enlargement procedure in exchange for talks with Macedonia and Albania (Nezavisen vesnik)

 

Italy, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said they will accept the French proposal to change the ways in which the EU conducts enlargement, provided that in return France allows the opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania. France vetoed any further accession talks until both the process of enlargement, but also, and more importantly, the EU itself, are thoroughly reformed. The French Government presented a non – paper with its ideas on how the former condition can be met. Foreign ministers from these six countries wrote to the European Commission to say that they agree on improving the accession process, but in exchange for opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania in March. The countries remind the EU on the promise given to the Balkan countries more than 15 years ago and on the need to complete the unification of Europe. They promise to work constructively to amend the enlargement process, asking that it continues to lead to full EU membership.

 

Germany thinks France’s “non-paper” will slow down the enlargement process (Republika)

 

France’s proposal to reform the EU enlargement process, which should be discussed at the General Affairs Council, brings nothing new – it will only slow down the enlargement process, Berlin sources told DW. “We are familiar with the French government’s reform proposals on the EU enlargement method. We are open to talks that would lead to improvement, but only if it does not further delay the start of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia” the German Foreign Ministry’s said when asked to comment on France’s proposal to reform the negotiation process with countries seeking EU membership.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

 

EU faces rift over enlargement policy after French ‘non’ (EurActiv/AFP, by Georgi Gotev, 20 November 2019)

 

European Union members wrangled over the rules for joining their club on Tuesday (19 November), after France triggered anger by seeking to postpone bids from Albania and North Macedonia.

 

At the 17-18 October summit, EU heads of state and government failed to reach a decision of opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, France having been reportedly the major stumbling block. France’s European affairs minister, Amélie de Montchalin, arrived in Brussels on Tuesday, insisting Paris is not isolated in wanting to strengthen EU rules before admitting western Balkan candidates. “The European perspective of the Western Balkans is not in question, it is wanted, it is supported,” she said. “What we put on the table today are political declarations of principle, which have now been put to the European Commission to work on between now and January 2020.” But a European diplomat, speaking after the talks, warned: “France’s isolation, in particular over North Macedonia, remains obvious.” “A crushing majority of member states remains in favour of a rapid opening for membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In particular, discussion on reforming the procedure should not be used to delay decisions or form an obstruction,” after the closed-door talks. Finnish minister Tytti Tuppurainen, whose country chairs the European Council of member states, said the French idea had not been considered in detail. “We had a round table on the state of play, and of course we heard the French proposal… there were countries that welcomed it and there were countries that had concerns,” she told reporters. She said the future European Commission, which should take power next month, will be asked to draw up proposals to reform the membership application process. “We didn’t have a vote on the French proposal,” Tuppurainen said. “Today we wanted to send a full commitment to the region and our full commitment to the enlargement policy.” Nevertheless, a French diplomatic source insisted: “A step forward was made today towards reform of the enlargement process.” Vincenzo Amendola, Italy’s minister for European affairs, said “we have no problem in discussing any paper” but “the central objective” must be to open membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Six countries wrote a letter to the outgoing head of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, vowing to “engage constructively in an effort to improve this process.” France saw this as an opening for debate on the process. But Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia also said: “that the consolidation of Europe cannot be completed without the western Balkans.” And they urged members to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in March 2020.

 

Balkan ‘time bomb’

This month French President Emmanuel Macron raised hackles in the region when, in an interview with the Economist, he explained his tough opposition. He described Bosnia as a “ticking time bomb” threatened by Islamist fighters returning from Syria, and he said other EU members also want to reject Albania, but were hiding behind France. “Ask them tomorrow whether they want to open the door to Albania. Half of them will say no,” he said, conceding that by contrast North Macedonia “doesn’t frighten anyone.” “But I don’t want any further new members until we’ve reformed the European Union itself,” he said, arguing for closer cooperation on, for example, banking and EU governance. Italy’s Amendola referred directly to the Macron interview after Tuesday’s talks, saying pointedly: “To be a global power it is obvious that enlargement, the union of a superior force, is central.” The French “non paper” outlining proposed changes to the application procedure would see Balkan countries adopting some EU rules prior to their entry to the bloc’s institutions. The document suggests this would support efforts to improve rule of law standards and anti-corruption methods, but other members worry it would create a fringe of outsider, half-in half-out countries. Juncker’s European Commission and outgoing president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, protested the postponement of Skopje and Tirana’s final membership talks, arguing they already meet EU criteria. The western Balkan candidates — Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — will meet EU leaders at a summit in Zagreb on 6 and 7 May next year. Many in Brussels fear that if Paris or others continue to stall their ambitions, regional capitals may fall under greater Russian, Turkish or Chinese influence. And some could face internal political instability if pro-EU leaders are unable to deliver on promises of closer ties despite pushing Brussels-mandated reforms.

North Macedonia, for example, changed its name and its constitution to appease Greek nationalist concerns. EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Brussels has received no formal request to change the procedure. The new European Commission has yet to be approved, but its president-elect has already locked horns with Macron over the future of EU enlargement. on der Leyen has argued that the EU had “asked a lot of North Macedonia and Albania, and they’ve fulfilled it all. “Now we must be true to our word and start accession talks”, she said.

EURACTIV’s editorial content is independent from the views of our sponsors.

 

De Montchalin: All Western Balkan countries might have to implement the new accession methodology (European Western Balkans, 19 November 2019)

 

BRUSSELS – The French non-paper proposal and other proposals on the possible revisions of the accession process for the Western Balkan countries – these were some of the topics discussed at the meeting of the General Affairs Council on Tuesday, November 19. After the meeting, Ministers of France, the Netherlands and Austria told reporters that the new European Commission is expected to discuss the French non-paper on the new methodology and the idea of reorganizing the accession process. The French Minister for Europe Amélie de Montchalin told reporters that all ministers agreed that the enlargement process will be rearranged in the future. She also stressed that the Western Balkan countries have unquestionable prospect of joining the EU. “The EU is asking the countries of the region to proceed with the implementation reforms at the same time”, said De Montchalin, adding that the reforms in the region and the revision of the process must go on simultaneously. “By next spring it will be clear and in what to the extent that North Macedonia and Albania have implemented the required reforms”, said the French Minister. When asked if the new methodology also applies to Serbia and Montenegro that are already negotiating membership on the basis of a negotiated framework, De Montchalin said she “believes that these countries might be interested if the new European Commission proposes this new methodology”. The EU ministers also take stock of the work on the next Multiannual Financial Framework and the state of play on enlargement and the stabilization and association process, following the meeting of the European Council in October this year, when Albania and North Macedonia were not given the green light to start the accession negotiations with the EU.

The General Affairs Council also discussed the progress in the work on the multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027, focusing on enhancing respect for the rule of law in the EU and the evaluation of the Council’s annual rule of law dialogue. At the General Affairs Council meeting on 19 November 2019, discussions did not lead to reaching a consensus on conclusions on the evaluation of the annual rule of law dialogue. However, the Presidency concluded that the text was supported or not objected to by 26 delegations.

 

Border management: EU signs agreement with Serbia on European Border and Coast Guard cooperation (European Council Press release, 19 November 2019)

 

The European Union signed an agreement with Serbia on border management cooperation between Serbia and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). The agreement was signed on behalf of the EU by Maria Ohisalo, Minister of the Interior of Finland and President of the Council and Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, and on behalf of the Republic of Serbia by Nebojsa Stefanovic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. “Cooperation with our partners in the Western Balkans is essential to ensure the successful management of our common borders. Through this agreement Frontex will be able to coordinate operational cooperation between EU member states and Serbia, and provide support and expertise which will bring benefits for all,” said Maria Ohisalo, Minister of the Interior of Finland. “I would like to thank Serbia for its efforts and commitment to ensure closer cooperation with the EU on border and migration management. This is in the interest of both Serbia and the EU. With the agreement signed today, we are further strengthening our relations with Western Balkan partners, bringing this neighbourhood closer to the EU,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship. This agreement allows Frontex to assist Serbia in border management, carry out joint operations and deploy teams in the regions of Serbia that border the EU, subject to Serbia’s agreement. These activities aim at tackling illegal immigration and cross-border crime, and can involve the provision of increased technical and operational assistance at the border.

Strengthened cooperation between priority third countries and Frontex will also contribute to further enhancing security at the EU’s external borders. Next step is the draft decision on the conclusion of the agreement will be sent to the European Parliament, which needs to give its consent for the agreement to be concluded.

 

Background

The status agreement is the third such agreement to be concluded with a partner country, after similar agreements were signed with Albania in October 2018 and Montenegro in October 2019. Negotiations with Serbia were concluded in August 2018 and the draft status agreement was initialled by Commissioner Avramopoulos and Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Nebojša Stefanović on 20 September 2018. The Council then authorized the signature of the agreement on 22 January 2019. Similar status agreements have also been initialled with North Macedonia (July 2018) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (January 2019) and are pending finalization. Frontex launched its first-ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country in Albania on 22 May this year. Frontex can carry out deployments and joint operations on the territory of neighbouring countries, subject to the prior conclusion of a status agreement between the European Union and the country concerned. The European Parliament and the Council have recently adopted a new regulation to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard, following a proposal by the European Commission. This will allow for joint operations and deployments to take place in countries beyond the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. Cooperation with third countries is an important element of the European integrated border management concept. This concept is applied through a four-tier access model which includes: measures in third countries, measures with neighbouring third countries, border control measures and measures within the Schengen area.

 

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