FRIDAY 9 November 2007 at 20:30 CET

Interview with Pierre Mirel, EC Director for Western Balkans

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

SERBIA

On overall progress in Serbia in last 12 months

I would say overall there has been limited progress. Why so? Because the government was formed very late, in May.So the government had a limited number of months between June and September-October, as far as our report is concerned, to deliver. It is a short period of time; it is only a few months to deliver. And we have seen a number of good strategies prepared, a number of good action plans but there were not actually delivered in the sense of new laws adopted in the Parliament. Which is understandable because the government was there only for few months. So limited progress.

On general political climate in Serbia

In our assessment, and this is not an assessment only for Serbia but comparing with any other country wishing to joint the EU, is that when a country wants to join is to have a very strong and wide national consensus over the objective across the political spectrum, across the economic social lobbies and interest groups and we don’t see that in Serbia. We don’t see a wide national consensus. On the contrary, we see over the past months a very nationalistic rhetoric shared by some leaders and that creates; this is a worrying element when it comes to the EU integration. How can you adopt many reforms, structural reforms in the field of economy, major political reforms regarding political criteria, judiciary or other important reforms related to the EU legislation, if you don’t have this overall objective for EU accession one day shared by the main political actors. This is very difficult.

Serbia’s position on Kosovo

As regards the position of Belgradein general on Kosovo, we have noticed two worrying elements. One is the call of Belgradefor Kosovo Serbs not to participate in the elections in Kosovo and we regret that very much, and second element is recently some hints on possibility for Serbiato withdraw from some regional meetings if Kosovo, although under the umbrella of UNMIK, would participate. That would be regrettable. Regional cooperation went very well over the past months with the energy treaty etc and we think that the regional cooperation is the key element and it should be supported by Serbia.

MONTENEGRO

On priorities for Montenegro after signing of SAA

What is important now for Montenegro after the signature of SAA is to implement what we call the Interim Agreement. What we mean by that? SAA in full will be implemented only once all EU member states and Montenegrohave ratified it. That may take another 8, 6, 10 months. Half of the member states have ratified it already. But in the meantime of the 1 of January what we call the Interim Agreement has to be implemented. That is the trade component of the agreement. Actually, the dismantlement of trade barriers on one side. And non trade issues which are public procurement, competition rules, state influence. This has to be implemented form the 1 of January. So priorities for Montenegroare very much implementation of this agreement that they have the capacity to do it. And second, I think to also improve on political criteria. And this is the other part of our assessment on the Progress Report. That lot has to be done for judiciary reform, for strengthening capacity of the institutions of the country, for fighting against the corruption and organised crime.

I think Montenegro has achieved remarkable progress over the past 12 months. A smooth divorce I would say with Serbia, very smoothly undertaken. Adoption of the Constitution by the Parliament so they don’t need to recourse to the referendum which is also an important achievement and thirdly they have managed to settle and strengthen some institutions. It is natural and understandable that not everything is in place in a new state, independent only since one year. So lot has still to be done to reinforce the institutions, to reinforce the capacity, to implement and enforce whatever law and legislation is adopted by the Parliament and we believe that now, that the Constitution has been adopted, the judiciary reform should be the priority, reinforcement of the institutions and fight against corruption and organised crime.

KOSOVO

Despite all the difficulties stability has prevailed, stability and security in the country. That is already an important element. Second, there has been some transfer of responsibilities from UNMIK to the local authorities over the past months. And it does work pretty well. Thirdly, there are some improvements in the capacity of the local administration, of the national assembly, reinforce their power to undertake their responsibilities. Of course there is a long way to go before fulfilling the political criteria particularly the corruption, organised crime but also trafficking. It is clear that we underline this as major issue as problem and judiciary reform. These are the more important issues.