European Western Balkans

Savamala Case debated in the European Parliament

The European Parliament Plenary Session; Photo: European Union

BELGRADE – Plenary session on which annual progress report for Serbia will be adopted is going to be held by the end of March. It is already clear that the Serbian Prime Minister Vučić will hardly remain the Europe’s favourite. Even though the draft report which David McAllister submitted to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs is relatively moderate and in a fair part reports about progress, it still includes previously mentioned events regarding Savamala, fact that an independent judiciary is not ensured as well as the pressure on the media.

The current regime claims – it is not a big deal.

Minister without portfolio in charge of European Integration, Jadranka Joksimović believes that in some media Serbia’s need for an independent judiciary and media is exaggerated as well as the need for the stronger fight against corruption, because ‘there is no country which negotiated accession to the EU in which this was not criticised’.

The difference between those ‘criticised countries’ and Serbia is the fact that on a draft report on Serbia’s progress was submitted 325 amendments, major part considering the situation of human rights.

Jozo Radoš MEP (Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats) with his amendments emphasised the importance of Savamala, pointed out the lack of police reaction and urged for this matter to be solved. He also insisted upon the importance of independent monitoring bodies. He said for NIN:

‘There is a problem in Serbia with the absence of progress or even regression in the entire range of democratic indicators of the country; human rights violations is manifesting in the attacks on the independent media and civil society activists, in limited supervisory role of the Parliament, endangering an independent judiciary, as well as the absence of or even limited functioning of an independent civil institutions such as Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection or Ombudsman. The Serbian government is cleverly using its strategic position in the south-east Europe to avoid the establishing of fundamental democratic institutions.’

Dutch MEPs Kati Piri and Paul Tang, members of the Labour Party, have an objection to the lack of progress in the fight against corruption, leakage of data from investigations, treatment of the state’s independent control bodies, as well as media freedom.

A couple of friends of the current government helped the Serbian regime by submitting their amendments. Le Pen’s rightist Jean-Luc Schaffhauser asked the EU to prove the claims that there is a problem in the functioning of the media, while Harald Vilimsky from the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria called for non-interference with the sovereignty of Serbia.

Tanja Fajon, Slovenian MEP (Social Democrats), submitted several amendments and proposed to express concern due to the controversial events in Belgrade quarter Savamala, which show a serious lack of the rule of law in the country.

However, the question still arises – whether the EU is ready to consistently fight for human rights in Serbia considering the fact that the current government still has bargaining chips – from Kosovo to its fondness with Russia.

‘The European Parliament is the most sensitive European institution when it comes to protecting human rights and democratic values. Resolutions of the European Parliament certainly have an impact in terms of pointing out the problems and proposing changes. Next, accepting resolutions puts pressure toward governments which resist to change and solve problems. The effect is more powerful when parliamentary resolutions are better prepared. However, not even the European Parliament is immune to political tactics. Thus, there is no guarantee that the next resolution on Serbia will necessarily be of a high quality. Building good democratic institutions does not happen overnight. The main role in this process have citizens of Serbia alone. But, it is certain that the European institutions, especially in the phase of Serbia’s EU accession can be of a great help’, said Radoš.

Bearing in mind that according to the Serbian European Integration Office only 6 percent of Serbian citizens said that reforms in the field of human rights should continue, it seems unlikely that the citizens could help themselves.

This article is originally published in Serbian in NIN weekly magazine No.3450 and it is translated and republished with the approval of NIN. Translation of the article is the sole responsibility of the European Western Balkans.

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