Serbia is conditioned
Within the EU, there are no talks about terminating negotiations with Serbia, said the rapporteur of the European Parliament (EP) for Serbia, Vladimir Bilčík.Source: Voice of America
But, as he added for "Voice of America", there will be no progress in the negotiation process if there is no progress in the domain of the rule of law, the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and the alignment of foreign policy with Brussels, primarily in the domain of sanctions against Russia.
He specified that it is possible for foreign investments to be threatened due to the current position of Serbia.
"I think it is important to understand that these three things are intertwined: the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, work on the rule of law, democracy and reforms, as well as alignment with the position of the EU in foreign policy, especially since Russia started invading Ukraine", Bilčík pointed out.
According to him, the more Serbia does on reforms, democracy and harmonization, the easier the discussions in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will be.
Also, he pointed out, the more progress is made in the dialogue, the easier it will be to open other areas in European integration.
Bilčík warned that there will be no freeze, but no progress in the negotiations if the conditions in three areas are not met, noting that the key decisions are in the hands of Serbia.
As he specified, it is not about external pressure, nor about an EU ultimatum, but "about Serbia's choice".
"We want Serbia to be consistent with its choice. We will continue to talk, we will continue to send the same political messages and we will evaluate the progress in the negotiations based on the choices that Serbia will make in the field of foreign politics, the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and internal reforms," emphasized the rapporteur of the European Parliament .
When asked whether, by maintaining the current policy towards Russia, Serbia can become a member of the EU, Bilčík said that Serbia has to choose.
"Serbia is a sovereign country that I believe has a place in the EU, and that it has the capacity to meet the requirements for membership. It is only necessary to make some difficult political decisions," Bilčík said, adding that Serbia made a decision a few years ago to start negotiations with the EU.
"We want to bring it to a successful end. But, this whole process is not compatible with developing ties with warmongering, autocratic countries. To be very clear - the time when you could sit on several chairs is over," Bilčík emphasized, and repeated that, "if Serbia wants to progress towards the EU, it must make clear choices".
As he stated, if Serbia sits at the back of the train leading to the EU, it is clear that it will have consequences.
Bilčík also indicated that there are no secret talks or secret plans in the EU.
"If conditions in a country are such that investors have doubts about the sustainability of investments, if there are problems related to security, strategic position, stability - and we saw what happened in Kosovo in the past weeks; if there are problems related to public institutions, governance rights; if there is a potential influence of third countries on politics, business, the environment - and these influences come from countries that are openly hostile to Europe, its principles, then it goes without saying that this will have important consequences for the economy, politics, investment climate", warned the EP rapporteur.
He clarified that it is not a question of some secret talks, but of reality.
"We want Serbia to become a member of the EU and it is important for it to hold sovereign elections, consistent with the strategic commitment of several years ago," said Bilčik, noting that part of the process is integration and the removal of Russian influence.
Speaking about the decline in popularity of the EU among Serbian citizens, he said that the reason for this "is not only external influences, or the context, but also the rhetoric we hear from the public in Serbia".
"If half of the politicians from the entire spectrum talked about the EU as a strategic goal, something that benefits the citizens, but also entails difficult choices - I am convinced that Serbian public opinion would change in favor of integration," he emphasized, adding that it depends on those who decide, govern and speak publicly on behalf of Serbia.
Commenting on the possibility of the European Union re-introducing visas to Serbia, Bilčik said that any area that is not closed and where negotiations have not been completed can be reconsidered if there are good reasons for it.
"We had difficult but good discussions with the authorities in Belgrade regarding the harmonization of visa policy and in the report I state that there is alignment in this regard... The fact that the EU has a visa-free regime with Serbia is a great benefit. And my message is - let's protect it", he added.