Serbia submitted its application for EU membership in December 2009 and was granted candidate status in March 2012 after Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement on Kosovo’s regional representation. The EU-Serbia SAA entered into force in September 2013. Accession negotiations with Serbia were formally opened on 21 January 2014, and one or more chapters could be opened by the end of 2015. However, just as with the other candidate and potential countries, Serbia also faces significant challenges on a national level.

Serbia remained committed to its strategic goal of EU accession and continued to build a track record in implementing the obligations of the SAA. It is implementing an ambitious political and economic reform agenda and successfully finalized the action plans required for the opening of the rule of law negotiating chapters. Serbia played a constructive role in the region. It remained committed to the normalization of its relations with Kosovo ∗ and came to key agreements with Kosovo within that process. It has also had a very constructive role in managing the migration crisis. The Serbian government improved consistency in implementing its programme of priority reforms. It remained committed to EU integration and to the EU-facilitated dialogue with Kosovo. With political direction from the Minister for EU Integration, leadership by its Chief Negotiator, and effective support from the Serbian European Integration Office, the Serbian administration demonstrated a high level of preparedness and professionalism in the screening process.

Serbia has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption as some progress has been achieved in the past year, especially in implementing existing legislation and adopting a new law on whistle-blower protection. However, corruption remains widespread and strong political impetus has yet to translate into sustained results. In addressing the shortcomings outlined below in the coming year, Serbia should pay particular attention to several issues such as establishing a track record on investigations, indictments and final convictions in high-level corruption cases, creating a robust system to coordinate and monitor implementation of the national anti-corruption strategy and action plan, ensuring that all key institutions have adequate capacity and resources to fulfill their remits effectively as others.

Moreover, the law on the confiscation of criminal assets needs to be aligned with EU rules, notably as regards third party confiscation, extended confiscation and precautionary freezing of assets. Criminal legislation on issues such as trafficking in human beings, online child pornography and cyber crime needs to be aligned with EU rules. A number of shortcomings in the investigation phase need to be addressed, notably as regards the time frame and arrangements for using special investigative measure.

The legislation and institutions needed to uphold international human rights law are in place. Legislation to protect minorities and cultural rights is also broadly in place. However, sustained efforts are needed to ensure effective and consistent implementation across the country. Shortcomings particularly affect the following areas: Conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression, implementation of the new media laws, promotion and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable and discriminated groups, including the LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, hate-motivated offenses need to be properly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned, efforts to improve the difficult living conditions of Roma and to combat discrimination need to be strengthened.