European Western Balkans

EU-Serbia SAPC: There should be more progress in terms of rule of law and media freedom

European Parliament in Brussels; Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BRUSSELS – MEPs and Members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia met in Strasbourg on 27 March 2019 for the 10th meeting of the EU Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee.

The meeting was co-chaired by Mr Eduard KUKAN (EPP, SK) and Mr Vladimir Orlić (SNS). Parliamentarians held in-depth and fruitful discussions on a number of important issues, including the implementation of the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, the rule of law with a focus on democratic governance, parliamentary procedures and media freedom.

Mr Kukan welcomed the progress made in developing a functioning market economy in Serbia. He stressed that the European Parliament is fully supportive of the country’s continued engagement on the path towards the European Union. In order to achieve this, more progress is required in terms of Serbia’s ambitious reform agenda, notably as regards the rule of law and media freedom. Indeed, violence and intimidation against journalists should not be taking place in a country aspiring to join the EU. Serbia needs a pluralistic media landscape with adequate financing and safeguards to protect journalists, including in the local media.

He further stressed that continued commitment by both sides to the EU facilitated dialogue is necessary to reach a comprehensive, legally binding agreement. Belgrade and Pristina need to reach an agreement that resolves all outstanding issues before joining the EU and both sides have to contribute to a conducive environment in order to achieve this.

The first step would be that the authorities in Pristina suspend the 100% customs tariffs on goods produced in Serbia. Both Serbia and Kosovo should remain multi-ethnic and any agreement could only be acceptable if it is mutually agreed, in line with international law and if it takes into account the overall stability in the region. Such an agreement can be achieved, if there is a political will.

Mr Kukan further stated that strong and peaceful mobilisation of the citizens is part of a democratic society. However, disagreement with the editorial policy of the public broadcaster should not be expressed through violence and intimidation of its journalists. It is also crucial that Serbia addresses the concerns of its citizens.

He also said that the European Parliament was aware of the difficulties that the Serbian Parliament faces in both its legislative and scrutiny activities, which has resulted in a boycott of the parliamentary work by part of the opposition. He stressed that the Parliament needs to be the place for democratic debate, where ruling and opposition parties should be able to find common solutions and answers for public concerns.

Mr Kukan also welcomed the adoption of a joint declaration and recommendations that the European and the Serbian parliament have adopted. He expressed the commitment of the European Parliament to continuous strengthening of the very good relations between the two parliaments.

The 11th EU-Serbia SAPC meeting shall take place in Belgrade on 30-31 October, 2019.

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