Both politicians and Serbia’s business community have welcomed EU ministers’ decision to unblock Serbia’s interim trade agreement, noting the agreement paves the way for future investment in the country.
President Boris Tadic noted that the agreement proves EU countries consider Serbia a serious partner: ”Both the visa liberalisation and now the unblocking of the interim agreement show that we are a country with high credibility in Europe and the World, a country that foreign investors see as safe destination for their capital and for opening new jobs,” the President told journalists during a visit to Prague.
He said that Serbia will now consider when the most appropriate moment will be to submit its application to join the bloc. He said Serbia’s application will be submitted when the government is certain that “it will get the best reaction possible”.
EU foreign ministes meeting in Brussels Monday evening agreed to unblock Serbia’s Interim Trade Agreement with the bloc.
The head of Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce Milos Bugarin noted that the move signifies the first time his country has entered a contractual relationship with the EU.
“The Serbian economy has been waiting for the unfreezing of the SAA (Stabilisation and Association) trade part from the moment it became its one-sided application.. Our unilateral implementation of the SAA was a short term cost for the Serbian economy, but has now shown it was a good investment for the longer term,” Bugarin said, referring to the government’s decision to unilaterally implement its part of the trade agreement.
Vice-President of the G17 Plus party that is part of the governing coalition Suzana Grubjesic said the move represents a recognition of the reforms that Serbia has undertaken.
But a member of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians Balint Pastor noted that while this is good news coming hot on the heels after visa liberalization, there is no reason for Serbia to be euphoric.
“Approaching the EU is a process… we should still work on the harmonisation of our laws with the EU legislation,” Pastor said.
The advisor to Serbian Prime Minister Jurij Bajec also sounded cautious, noting that the unblocking of the trade agreement is unlikely to bring any dramatic changes overnight, but will lead to greater exports and strengthen the country’s economy in the long term.
“Our country has previously had certain privileges in exports to the EU market, but now the “privileged” status will be legally sealed… The legal framework allows us the position of a permanent partner of the EU that is, in my opinion, the most important thing”.
President of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party Cedomir Jovanovic stated that the move is a recognition for the “important and huge influence of the work of the LDP (his party)”.
But the leader of the opposition Serb Progressive Party Tomislav Nikolic pointed out that this is “an expected move addressed at Serbia, not at the government or the opposition.”