Participants in the fifth briefing organised by the EU Info Centre with support from the EU Delegation to Serbia said that Serbia had received benchmarks pertaining to Chapter 12 – food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy – in 2017 and is now working to implement them.
Head of Operations III of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sakellaris Hourdas said that the EU was the primary destination for food produced in Serbia. He noted that the EU has over the past decade supported Serbia’s agriculture sector with EUR100 million, not including IPARD, whose 5-year budget for Serbia amounts to EUR175 million. According to him, the EU Delegation to Belgrade is helping Serbia to adopt the national strategy and action plans and train administration personnel for Chapters 11 and 12.
Danilo Golubovic, a member of Serbia’s EU negotiating team, said that the legislation in said area is being continuously hampered. The first issue here is the transposition, Golubovic said. Unfortunately, that’s the issue with most of the chapters and it is something that hampers Chapter 12-related legislation adoption, despite the support from the Government, the Ministry of European Integration and the Head of the Negotiating Team.
“I hope this would be finished soon, he said. Unless so, we will be racing time, having in mind certain deadlines for Serbia’s EU accession”, he noted. According to him, Serbia needs financial assistance, technical fit-out, personnel, additional education projects, etc. As he pointed out, not everyone wants to join the EU and put veterinary and phytosanitary sectors in order. Some will lose millions of euros in the process, which is why they are making sure the process takes as long as possible.
He expects the personnel for veterinary and phytosanitary inspection to start working soon, with support from the Government and the Ministry. Golubovic said that there has always been food smuggling, adding that the new policy should reduce its occurrence to the level that does not pose threat to the system.
A member of the Croatian chapter 12 negotiating team Ksenija Longo Ceskovic said that the EU had separated Chapter 12 from Chapter 11 (agriculture) during the negotiations with Croatia, after realising that the talks with Romania and Bulgaria haven’t paid enough attention to that issue. When it comes to frauds, she said that the EU itself was facing with this issue and was working to tackle it through joint food control systems. There are many frauds: from adulterated honey to falsely labelled food, she said, citing the example of horse meat being sold as beef, a case that got the attention of all Member States.