Swedish Ambassador: Difficult progress on EU path without alignment with CFSP

Anika Ben David
Tanjug/Vladimir Šporčić

Swedish Ambassador to Serbia Annika Ben David, whose country chairs the Council of the European Union (EU), said in an interview with the European Western Balkans that alignment with the EU common foreign and security policy and meeting EU criteria on the fundamentals will shape Serbia’s opportunities for progress.

“We believe it will be very difficult to move ahead on Serbia’s EU path without Serbia harmonizing its foreign and security policy as required in the EU approximation process. Common foreign and security policy (CFSP) alignment and meeting EU criteria on the fundamentals will shape Serbia’s opportunities for progress,” Ben David told the EWB.

Noting that the geopolitical realities have brought a new sense of urgency in EU accession, the Ambassador said that Russia’s war against Ukraine underscores the importance of a strategic partnership between the EU and the Western Balkans, that candidate countries now have an opportunity to advance and that she encourages partners to make use of it.

“The fundamentals apply of course: the benchmarks are there. There is a clear path, a clear methodology. We want to see the accession process accelerate, based upon reforms, fair and rigorous conditionality, and the principle of own merits. A strict and fair approach. Serbia also needs to counter the perception that it is siding with Russia. By showing progress, Serbia will make progress,” said Ben David.

The Ambassador said it will take dedication by the Western Balkans countries to make a case for themselves that they are ready to join the EU, because the EU is not only a political union, but a community of values that rests on the rule of law and respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.

She explained that the EU notes the progress made by Serbia in some areas of the rule of law but also the overall limited progress and continued delays in a number of other areas.

“We welcome last year’s constitutional amendments for a more independent and effective judiciary and are following closely the process as it culminates into five new laws. The key will obviously be their implementation,” said Ben David.

Regarding the fight against corruption and organized crime, she said the EU underlines the need for Serbia to demonstrate political will and to step up its efforts, to achieve tangible results and a convincing track record with effective investigations, prosecutions and final convictions, freezing and confiscation of criminal assets.

“We are following closely developments regarding media freedom. It is important that Serbia effectively implements its media strategy action plan as a matter of priority and improves the overall environment for freedom of expression and the independence of the media,” said Ben Davic and called on the Serbian authorities to communicate objectively and unambiguously on the EU, so that people in Serbia can make informed choices and opinions.

Disinformation and foreign information manipulation must also be tackled in all media channels, said the Ambassador, noting that the handling of EuroPride did not reflect well on Serbia and that the (Bosnian Serb convicted war criminal Ratko) Mladic mural in downtown Belgrade still stands, despite pledges to have it removed.