BRUSSELS – European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi responded to a letter from MEPs sent three weeks ago, in which they expressed concern over respect for constitutional and human rights in Serbia during the state of emergency. The commissioner stated that the assessment of the latest developments will be found in the regular annual reports, which will be published in June.
In a response dated May 5, which the European Western Balkans had access to, Várhelyi noted that the European Commission is closely monitoring the situation in Serbia, that the current priority is the fight against the pandemic, and that they received an announcement of the intention to lift the state of emergency which the National Assembly of Serbia voted two days ago.
“When it comes to your point on media freedom, we welcomed the decision of the Government of Serbia to withdraw the measures introduced in order to centralize public information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Freedom of the media is crucial at all times,” Várhelyi wrote in a reply addressed primarily to Attila Ara-Kovács, the MEP who initiated the letter, along with twenty colleagues.
The letter from the MEPs to the members of the European Commission is a form of control of the European Parliament over this institution.
Várhelyi added that, at the same time, the accession process of Serbia continues.
“In that context, we continue to monitor the situation in Serbia and assess its progress. The conditions for EU accession have not changed. As you are aware, the overall progress of the pace of negotiations between Serbia and the EU depends on the implementation of reforms in the key area of the rule of law. We will assess the situation of the latest developments in our regular annual reports, which will be published in June,” Várhelyi concluded.
In the introduction to the letter, Commissioner Várhelyi reiterated his earlier comments that this was an unprecedented time and that many countries had taken large-scale measures to protect the health of the population. He also reminded of the assistance that the EU has provided so far to the region of the Western Balkans.