The New French Proposal for the EU Accession Process

At the end of October, France sent a non-paper to EU Member States, proposing to introduce the principle of “reversibility” in the accession process of the new candidates for EU membership from the Western Balkans. It should be applied by the European Commission (EC) when a state fails to meet certain criteria or suspends its obligations in the accession process, which would result in freezing of the negotiation process until the candidate country fulfills the conditions.

France urges EC to develop and publish new negotiation methodology by January 2020 which should be applied to the candidates for EU membership.

In the non-paper, France proposes that “once negotiations begin, the process not to be based on opening of chapters, but on several successive phases that form coherent blocks of policies and a framework drawn up by the EU that takes into account the specificities of each candidate country”.

The document calls for “the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights to be a prerequisite for the opening of accession talks as well as for the whole negotiation process”.

The current basic structure of the accession process should remain unchanged: during the negotiations, candidate countries must fully adopt EU legislation (35 chapters). Once the negotiations are completed, an accession treaty will be signed, with the country becoming a full member after ratification of the treaty by the parliaments of all member states.

The new moment in the French proposal is the process of membership negotiations to go through seven steps: the rule of law and fundamental rights; education and research;employment and social activities; financial activities; free market;agriculture and fisheries; foreign affairs and “others”. Following the fulfillment of the conditions in this seven stage process, the candidate countries will gain access to individual EU policies and programs. When a candidate country meets the conditions in step one, it will acquire access to Eurojust and Europol and, after step five, the country would be eligible to access EU structural funds.

The ultimate goal “must be full membership” and the whole accession process should be “gradual and more stimulating”. In this context, additional EU financial commitment is envisaged for the Western Balkans pre-accession process, with one option being to redirect part of the EU structural funds to the region.

The French document does not mention Turkey, with which accession talks were cut off three years ago, as well as any other country outside the Western Balkans.

The first discussion of the document proposed by France was expected to beheld on 19 November at a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council.

Kosovo Serb Politician Warns Victory of Serb List in the Elections is Not Credible

Kosovo Serb politician Aleksandar Jablanovic says (04.11) that the victory of the Belgrade-backed Serbian List at the latest Kosovo elections is doubtful.

Jablanovic, who is the leader of the Party of Kosovo Serbs, told local television in Gracanica that he was against Serb List because it is not a legitimate representative of Kosovo Serbs. According to him, 97% of the votes in the elections for Serb List were “stolen”. He added that his party has evidence of election fraud, which they will deposit to the Kosovo Central Election Commission.

Jablanovic warned that the Serbian community in Kosovo has been virtually ignored and cannot trust neither Belgrade nor Pristina. He considers, that the representatives of the Serbian community in Kosovo should acquire a direct access to the Brussels talks as it comes to their own future. “The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina aims to protect the interests of Serbia in Kosovo, but it will also determine and future of Serbs in Kosovo”, adding that not everything that Belgrade negotiate is in the best interests of the Kosovo Serbs. According to him: “The negotiations aim to buy time and gain points that will facilitate Serbia’s path to the European Union”.

Zijin Buys Another Copper and Gold Mine in Serbia

The Chinese company Zijin Mining intends to buy the mines for copper and gold that its partner Freeport McMoran Inc. owns in Serbia. Zijin Mining will pay up to $390 million for the lower zone of the Timok copper and gold mine. The company already owns the upper zone. Zijin Mining will initially pay Freeport $240 million with subsequent payments of 0.4% of net sales revenue once production begins, up to additional $150million.

Zijin continues to strengthen its presence in the Balkans after taking over copper production at the RTB Bor Mining and Metallurgical Complex in Serbia in 2018. The company have said that with the acquisition of Freeport shares, it would increase its total controlled copper resources by 7.72 million tons (15.6%) to 57.24 million tons, while its gold resources will increase by 161 tons (9.3%), up to 1889 tons.

The development of the lower zone of the Timok mine is due to start after production commences in the upper zone, which is foreseen for 2021.

The copper mines around the towns of Bor and Majdanpek are the biggest polluters of the environment in Eastern Serbia, whose flotation waters run into the Timok River and then into the Danube. Eco-organizations have repeatedly warned about the periodic pollution of the Timok River, which borders Bulgaria and the destruction of the river flora and fauna.