Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America, will create effects that will not be restricted exclusively to these two economies. On September 12, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, hosted a public debate “TTIP and the EU Enlargement: What Will the Agreement Mean for the Candidate and Potential Candidate Countries?”, with the aim to initiate expert discussion on the importance of this agreement for Serbia and other countries on the EU’s doorstep, in order to draw attention to the necessity of strategic approach to the challenges it brings. The event in Belgrade was organized in cooperation with the European Movement International and the European Movement in Serbia, and it brought together around 80 international and domestic participants, government officials, diplomatic core, expert community, professional associations and civil society organizations, as well as media.
Sinan Ülgen, Chairman of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) and author of recent article on TTIP’s impact beyond the EU and the US, refered to pending agreement as the new chapter in transatlantic relations. Given the understandibly complex and closed nature of negotiations, he called on the third countries interested in eventually joining TTIP to strategically define and pursue their priorities. Maja Bobic, Secretary General of the European Movement in Serbia and Damir Šaljić, expert of Foreign Policy Initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined the need for the EU candidate and potential candidate countries to strategically approach this issue and intensify efforts to increase competitiveness of their generally weak economies. In this way, they may be able to increase positive and reduce expected negative effects of this agreement.
Srđan Majstorović, Deputy Director of Serbian European Integration Office, presented expected TTIP benefits for Serbia, having in mind its intensive relations with the EU as the largest trading partner, but also increasing volume of trade relations with the US. Opening of markets may particularly benefit the agricultural sector, where Serbia is the only country to have a trading surplus with the EU. Freek Janmaat, Head of the European Integration Section of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, emphasized that TTIP should not be perceived as a deregulatory agenda, as will not bring changes to the EU rules and high standards in areas such as food safety and consumer protection. David Krzywda, Economic Counselor of the US Embassy in Serbia, expressed expectations that the negotiated TTIP regulations will be aligned with public interest and will not only benefit major companies.
Guillaume Xavier-Bender, GMF’s Transatlantic Fellow underlined the importance of civil society engagement in following TTIP negotiations, given concerns over a number of opened controversial issues. According to Bernd Hüttemann, Board Member of the European Movement International, the EU has yet to find an appropriate model for bringing on board the public and various interest groups. Access to relevant information during this phase is also important for the EU candidate countries, in order to make timely preparations for future obligations stemming from TTIP, pledged Goran Papović, Chairman of Serbian Consumer Association.
The debate was organized as part of the European Movement’s second cycle of events on civil society and the TTIP, TTIP – Stepping Up a Gear, taking place in Warsaw, Berlin, London, The Hague, Arendal, now Belgrade, and soon Madrid and Helsinki, to inform the public about the progresses in the negotiations and discuss matters of concern.