Monday

25th Mar 2019

EU meeting highlights Serbia corruption

Serbia may gain EU candidate status in 2009 but must crack down on corporate corruption, enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said at a Brussels event organised by Serb supermarket baron Miroslav Miskovic on Monday (20 October).

"I believe that, if conditions are met, [Serbia] could get candidate status next year," the commissioner said, "welcoming" Belgrade's decision last week to unilaterally implement the trade section of the EU's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Delta Holding owns shopping chains such as Maxi supermarkets, C-market and Pekabeta (Photo: wikipedia)

The EU's ratification of the SAA - an important pre-accession treaty - is on hold over Dutch objections that Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic remains at large. But Mr Rehn's speech targeted changes among the country's business elite instead.

"In the legal vacuum that followed the collapse of former Yugoslavia, corruption, organised crime, tax evasion, financial fraud as well as the grey economy emerged as serious problems," he said. "Justice, freedom and security, including the fight against corruption and organised crime are therefore EU priorities in Serbia."

"The mere signing of the [SAA] agreement is not sufficient," the commissioner added. "Ultimately, we rely on you, on the economic operators, to promote the respect of [EU] rules."

Mr Rehn made the remarks at a meeting of 30 to 40 CEOs of Serbian companies at Brussels' swanky Conrad Hotel. The event was organised by one of Serbia's richest men, Delta Holding chief Miroslav Miskovic, who has himself faced corruption allegations and who came to Brussels to sit alongside the commissioner on a discussion panel.

The billionaire financier and supermarket baron - a former deputy prime minister of Serb nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic - was in 2007 accused by Serbia's Anti Corruption Council of using political ties to try to establish a retail monopoly.

MPs from Serbia's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have also pointed the finger at Mr Rehn's host for alleged involvement in cigarette-smuggling.

"Pervasive political corruption undermines democratic interests in Serbia ... at the heart of this corruption is the President of Delta Holding Miroslav Miskovic. Serbia will not be able to move forward democratically as well as economically until the monopoly over Serbia's daily life by this Milosevic-era tycoon is ended," an internal note by the US embassy in Belgrade dated May 2007 and leaked by the LDP said.

A spokeswoman for the enlargement commissioner said Mr Rehn's anti-corruption speech was not aimed at Mr Miskovic personally and that there was no risk his participation at the Delta Holding event risked lending the company his good name.

"Certainly not. This problem [corruption] is very widespread in the Balkans," she explained. "He [the commissioner] did not participate for the sake of any one person."

Serbia came in at joint 85th place on NGO Transparency International 2008 corruption index along with Albania, Madagascar and Panama, slipping down from 79th place the year before. An EU report on the country's progress is due next month.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

News in Brief

  1. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  2. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  3. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  4. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  5. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  6. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  7. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  8. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us