Interview with Tanja Miscevic for Energize

The presence of Serbian companies in Brussels will become increasingly important as EU negotiations continue, and this is why the opening of NIS Brussels Office is an excellent move

“I believe that there are cooperation opportunities both in Belgrade and Brussels, since the advice, assessments and know-how of your expects can be highly beneficial to the negotiations,” says Tanja Mišćević, the Republic of Serbia’s Chief EU Negotiator, as she explains to Energize how companies can contribute to the process of EU integrations.

She adds that the presence of Serbian companies in Brussels will prove to be increasingly important as the negotiations with the European Union progress.

“This is why opening a NIS office in Brussels is an excellent move,” Miščević points out.

When asked if there were intentions to involve the most competent business and economic experts in the accession process so as to bring maximum benefits to the country from these negotiations in all areas, she replied: “Absolutely.”

Introducing Serbia’s energy sector into the EU market should contribute to the energy market’s liberalization, greater usage of available energy sources, higher energy efficiency and better utilisation of renewable energy sources

“It is among our priorities to ensure transparency and inclusiveness of the negotiation process, which means that we will seek advice from all stakeholders within negotiation groups. It is in our best interest – to listen to industry professionals and seek best solutions”, explains MsMiščević.

How is the accession process developing under current circumstances and has it been affected by the state of emergency caused by the floods?

“The negotiations are going as planned, screening has been carried out according to a set schedule and delegations have been well prepared. This was the Negotiating Team’s contribution during the severe floods in Serbia, because we believe that these processes in the country must not be halted. In addition, we have informed our European Commission counterparts about the scope of the disaster that had hit us and they showed us that the EU is ready to help to mitigate the damage. A considerable part of administration is working on these plans and projects development, but it does not affect the course of negotiations.”

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What are the next steps ahead of Serbia towards its EU goals? What do you see as the biggest challenges in the accession process?

“We certainly plan to continue with the screening, that is, the analytical reviews of our legislation’s compliance with acquiscommunautaire until March 2015. We have so far completed both explanatory and bilateral screening for 11 of a total of 35 chapters. We are also making preparations for a new phase of the negotiations i.e. chapter opening. This means that we are beginning to outline our first negotiating positions and action plans for the areas we expect to be first covered by screening reports, namely Chapter 32 on financial control and Chapters 23 and 24 on the rule of law. We are also preparing a revision of the National Programme for Adoption of the Acquis, which will be a sort of the Government’s plan on compliance with the EU agenda.

We will face the greatest challenges in agriculture, environmental protection, energy, transport and rural development. These sectors are very complex, their harmonisation requires extensive funds, but Serbia is eager to reform these areas, because it sees in them a significant potential for its development.”

Many reports warn of candidate countries often being faced with problems with administrative capacities. What is the situation like in Serbia on this matter?

“From the very beginning our Team’s preparedness has been rated very highly by our partners from the European Commission. But this is the fact that has been highlighted by European institutions for many years, as regards Serbia’s institutional capacity. We have an experienced administration working on harmonising domestic legislation with the EU Acquis since 2004 and on the negotiations since 2005, and afterwards on implementing the Stabilisation and Accession Agreement. Serbia’s Negotiating Team consists of around 2,000 highly experienced professionals in all fields, and they will be joined soon by members of our core negotiating team who will coordinate the process of negotiation with me on some chapters.”

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It is among our priorities to ensure transparency and inclusiveness of the negotiation process, which means that we will seek advice from all stakeholders within negotiation groups. It is in our best interest – to listen to industry professionals and seek best solutions

How has the administration proved so far? Are you satisfied?

“I am very pleased and thankful to my colleagues for the effort and energy they invest. As I have already mentioned, it’s a team of experienced people who are very good in their jobs but they are also strongly motivated as they believe that the process they have worked on for years will modernise their country.”

Could Serbia be faced with some special conditions and ultimatums, apart from those related to compliance with standards?

“As regards specific requirements to Serbia laid down in the accession process, they are primarily political and well-known. Regarding the harmonisation with European standards, we cannot claim that new conditions will never be imposed and this is not surprising. Namely, the European Union is a moving target and a living organism in progress, so if the acquis is amended, we will have to apply new standards. This, for example, can occur with public tenders or food safety. Yet this is a phenomenon we will encounter upon becoming an EU member state as well.”

How does EU accession assist economic development? And how is it significant for energy in particular?

“Energy is among the most significant areas of activity of the European Union, which has traditionally invested efforts to ensure competitive energy supply. The regulation of this area affects the regulation of other sectors and therefore of a country’s entire economic system. In this respect, the energy sector’s impact on economy is crucial taking into account its share in the Republic of Serbia’s national product and budget. Energy is an industry indirectly linked to competition and consumer protection, environmental protection, higher employment rates, infrastructure, transport, agriculture etc. Introducing Serbia’s energy sector into the EU market should contribute to the energy market’s liberalization, greater usage of available energy sources, higher energy efficiency and better utilisation of renewable energy sources, introduction and application of state-of-the-art energy technologies, improved energy-product supply safety, better state administration in this sector and strengthening of international exchange.”

How important is it for Serbian companies to adjust their business operation to EU standards? Can they otherwise remain competitive at all?

“We all need to adapt and learn to be competitive in the market of nearly 500 million consumers. This is a huge challenge that can encourage us to be better, to improve, to modernise and to open up possibilities in such a large market.”

How much money from EU funds is available to Serbia in this stage? To what extent are businesses participating in attracting that money with their projects and which industries are the most common recipients?

“Annually, Serbia has access to an average of 200 million euros from the Instruments for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). Various companies take part in numerous projects as service providers, contractors or equipment suppliers, which brings them profit. Most often, local companies are not direct IPA beneficiaries, but there are such examples in the energy and traffic sectors as well as among the companies developing innovation technologies.

Companies can also apply for EU programmes. Such practice will continue in the upcoming 2014-2020 financial period through new programmes we will join. It needs to be taken into account that the amount of withdrawn funds will depend exclusively on the quality and success of domestic companies’ projects in tenders, given the fact that no funds will be earmarked especially for Serbia.”

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