Belgrade happy with EC ‘limited progress’ report

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Serbia’s Finance Minister Sinisa Mali joined on Wednesday Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in expressing satisfaction with the latest European Commission (EC) report on the country’s progress in reforms.

Both were happy with parts of the report saying Serbia made limited progress in some areas but did not mention all those warnings about the lack of achievements in other vital areas.


Mali recalled the report’s assessment about progress in the economy and the tax policy, describing the EC report as „very positive.“


„The report is very favourable in the field of economy, where it is recognised that we have made progress. It was especially emphasised that thanks to the exceptional growth in the period before the outbreak of the crisis, we managed to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic significantly,“ Mali said.


Prime Minister Ana Brnabic went even further on Tuesday, saying, „progress report best yet.“


„This is the first time that progress was noted in almost all areas, in absolutely all political criteria and reforms in the field of the rule of law,“ she told a news conference.


However, she added that „there are some things that we differ on and that I feel we had better results on than was presented in the progress report. I expect a more favourable report in some aspects, but we are very satisfied that progress was noted in almost all areas, on absolutely all political criteria and in the rule of law reforms.`


A couple of previous similar reports were met with a lot of authorities’ resentment in Serbia.


The latest one indeed did not sound alert but used a diplomatic vocabulary to say very little had been done in critical areas like the rule of law, media freedom, political pluralism and alike.


The EC has carefully worded warnings about some things that have been promised and not done in some areas, but the ruling officials grabbed a chance to hail the report for its admission of ‘a limited progress.’


„Regarding freedom of expression, limited progress was made by adopting and starting to implement a limited number of measures under the action plan related to the media strategy. However, verbal attacks against journalists by high-level officials continued, and cases of threats and violence remain a concern. Most media associations withdrew from the group on the safety of journalists in March 2021, citing hate speech and smear campaigns against journalists and civil society representatives, including by the head of the ruling party caucus in Parliament.


These verbal attacks in Parliament took place even after a code of conduct was adopted in December 2020. The overall environment for exercising freedom of expression without hindrance still needs to be further strengthened in practice,“ the report said among other observations,“ the report said.


On the political situation, the report said that „inflammatory language against political opponents and representatives of other institutions expressing diverging political views was used during parliamentary debates. This included verbal attacks against civil society organisations and media by representatives of the ruling coalition.

All politicians should counter hate speech and contribute to political dialogue on EU-related reforms in particular on the fundamentals of democracy and the rule of law. Institutions need to improve cooperation with civil society and treat it as an essential partner in reforms and a guarantor of effective checks and balances.“


The EC added Belgarde was ready to open two more clusters in the accession negotiations with the European Union, but the decision would depend on the member states’ opinion.


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