BRUSSELS – Following the parliamentary elections in Serbia, the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament called upon EU member states to not open new chapters in accession negotiations with Serbia before sufficient democracy has been restored in the country, press release of the Group reads.
“This election was not representative and I’m afraid it won’t change the erosion of the rule of law in the country. This should not be possible in a candidate country to the European Union. We call on the European Commission that conducts the accession talks to really analyse what has gone wrong and draw its conclusions”, said Kati Piri, Vice-President of the group for foreign affairs.
She stressed that no new chapters should be opened with Serbia by the Council before the major problems with democracy are solved in the country.
“As a minimum, we need free media and a diverse parliament, where opposition is represented. I was shocked to see that Commissioner Várhelyi in last night’s statement did not say a single word about these problems, nor about the opposition’s request to postpone the elections to a later date”, Piri said.
S&D foreign affairs committee spokesperson, Tonino Picula, added that the S&D Group will maintain close contacts with its sister parties who boycotted the elections.
“We are never in favour of a boycott and think that the political debate should happen in the Parliament. However, with this boycott by the main opposition parties and the failure of any opposition to enter the parliament, despite lowering the threshold to 3% just before elections, the Parliament in Serbia has lost its role as a legislative body that represents the whole of Serbian society”, Picula said.
He added that the European People’s Party is largely responsible for the current situation, as they have been protecting President Vučić for years, while he was turning the country into autocracy.
“We call upon the EPP to finally review the membership of Vučić’s party”, Picula said.
Tanja Fajon, S&D MEP and the chair of the EP delegation for relations with Serbia, emphasised that the level of democracy following the elections in Serbia has deteriorated significantly, let alone the situation of media freedom.
“We no longer have a parliamentary opposition, which calls into question the legitimacy of the whole work of the new parliament”, she said.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was only a limited OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission observing the elections and the European Parliament could not send any mission. According to the local observers, election irregularities were recorded at five percent of polling stations, which is higher than the percentage of irregularities in the 2016 parliamentary and 2017 presidential elections. The turnout has also been considerably lower than 4 years ago, staying below 50%, despite pressure by the government to participate”, Fajon stated.
“As one of EP facilitators of the Inter-Party Dialogue with the Serbian Parliament on electoral conditions, I regret to say that despite our efforts, the conditions were not sufficient for a main part of the opposition to participate in the elections. We have to find new methods to include them in the next round of our Inter-Party Dialogue”, she concluded.