European Western Balkans

MEPs warn Várhelyi of serious situation in Serbia in regard to human rights

European Parliament; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – A group of 21 MEPs sent a letter to European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi in which they point out to “extremely serious” situation in Serbia in regard to constitutional and human rights, N1 reports.

MEPs wrote that the open-ended state of emergency imposed by President Aleksandar Vučić to tackle the coronavirus pandemic is a “severe and disproportionate” measure which restricts human rights, apparently not in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but to impede freedom of expression and free movement.

“The result of it is that several citizens have been detained for violating strict curfew provisions, while the real reason behind their arrests was criticism of government policy”, it is stated in the letter, with MEPs recalling that the Serbian government “wanted full control over the press, in order to broadcast only filtered, mostly fake information and defamation against the European Union” but following protest revoked the decree “which was used as pretext to arrest journalists”.

The MEPs also recall Aleksandar Vučić’s statement that “European solidarity does not exist” and that it is “just a fairy tale”, adding that cooperation with Moscow and Beijing continues.

The MEPs believe that the deployment of the military to hospitals is “a measure compatible with a state of war, rather than a pandemic” and expressed concern over the fact that “the declaration of the state of emergency took place in the absence of a sitting parliament”.

That is why a group of 21 MEPs from different parliamentary groups ask the EU Enlargement Commissioner to make a clear statement on the “extremely serious” domestic developments and the statements against the EU, as well as what Brussels can specifically do to deal with the “extreme” measures of the Government of Serbia.

The MEPs are also urging Várhelyi to recommend political steps that the European Commission could make with regard to the EU membership prospects of Serbia in case its government refuses to revoke its repressive policies and to fully honour common European values.

The letter was signed by MEPs coming from various political groups, including those whose duties in the European Parliament are directly related to the Western Balkan countries’ European integration, such as Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee Tanja Fajon, Head of the Western Balkans Task Force in the EP’s Foreign Policy Committee Tonino Picula as well as EP Rapporteur Kosovo Viola von Cramon-Taubadel.

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