Continuous efforts by the authorities to align with European standards are crucial for improving lives of people in Serbia, and to this end the European Union (EU) and Council of Europe (CoE) will keep supporting the reform processes in Serbia. Thanks to the co-operation with the joint EU/CoE programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Türkiye”, significant results have already been achieved, paving the way to further co-operation. This has been underlined in today’s first meeting of the Beneficiary Steering Committee of the programme.
Miroslav Gačević, Assistant Minister of European integration of Serbia, said that the Ministry is recognising the priorities covered within the Horizontal Facility programme as the ones of vital importance for the implementation of the reforms in the context of EU integration process. “Rule of law, the respect of human rights and democratic governance are at the heart of the accession process, and we, in the Ministry together with our partner institutions are very committed to sustainable and continuous reforms in these areas and promotion of Council of Europe standards. We believe that support planned within the third phase of the programme will result in a very valuable impact with positive effects on our reform efforts,” added Gačević.
Nicola Bertolini, Head of Co-operation at the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, said: “The European Union continuously supports Serbia’s reform process through meaningful actions like the Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Türkiye. The progress achieved over last six years is noticeable but more tangible results are expected. As stated in von der Leyen speech the “rule of law and fundamental rights will always be the foundation of our Union - in current and in future member States…the accession is merit based and …it takes hard work and leadership”. Consequently, the progress of reforms in this field, determines the pace of the entire accession process to the EU. The most significant lesson learned in the previous phase was the need for an in-depth continuous involvement of the national and local authorities and interested stakeholders in the implementation of the actions. The good co-operation with civil society proved to be a condition sine qua non for genuine progress. Only jointly, we can define priorities, identify progress and concerns, and agree on necessary steps and measures, and achieve them. We are looking forward to Serbia taking full ownership of the process and ensuring its sustainability.”
For his part, Schnutz Rudolf Dürr, Head of Programming and Resource Mobilisation Department, Directorate of Programme Co-ordination of the Council of Europe, said: “Substantial reforms require long-term efforts and continued actions. To this end, the Council of Europe, together with the European Union and in partnership with the beneficiaries, remains committed to support Serbia in meeting its reform agenda in the fields of human rights, rule of law and democracy in line with European standards.”
The meeting with beneficiary institutions discussed key achievements of the Horizontal Facility actions implemented in Serbia so far, as well as plans for the future.
The joint European Union and Council of Europe programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Türkiye” (Horizontal Facility III) is a co-operation initiative, running from 2023 until 2026. It enables the Beneficiaries to meet their reform agendas in the fields of human rights, rule of law and democracy and to comply with European standards, which is also a priority for the EU enlargement process. The current, third phase of the programme, is worth €41 million (85% funded by the European Union, 15% by the Council of Europe).