European Western Balkans

Várhelyi responded to the Serbian opposition: The dialogue should continue, the EU is monitoring the situation in Serbia

Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS / BELGRADE – EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi responded to a letter sent by Serbian opposition representatives to the European Commission in July, stating that the European Union has developed mechanisms to monitor the rule of law in Serbia and added that political opposition is a key component of any democratic state, and called on both the government and the opposition to continue participating in the dialogue with the mediation of the European Parliament.

We remind you that the members of the opposition in Serbia that boycotted the elections sent a letter to the European Commission in July, in which they expressed deep concern over the erosion of democracy in Serbia and called on the European Union to form expert groups to help resolve the country’s political crisis, following the example of resolving the crisis in North Macedonia a few years ago.

The opposition then asked the EU to form an expert group to compile a report on the state of democracy and the rule of law, as well as a report on the state of the media, modeled on the so-called “Priebe” report, which formed the basis for political agreement of parties in North Macedonia.

In response to this letter, which the European Western Balkans had access to, Commissioner Várhelyi pointed out that reforms in the field of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights are crucial for Serbia, as well as for all other candidate countries. He stated that the European Union already has a developed mechanism for monitoring these areas, which, as he emphasized, has been further improved with the new methodology, which is why he currently does not see the need for additional reporting.

Immediately afterwards in the letter, Várhelyi also referred to the role of the opposition in Serbia and the continuation of the dialogue between the parties.

“Let me take this opportunity to emphasize that political opposition is a key component of a functioning democracy. Serbia needs a broad dialogue between the parties in order to achieve the key reforms in the areas of democracy, rule of law and responsibility, which are necessary to make progress in EU accession. We therefore encourage the new Serbian government and parliament to continue, and you to take an active part, in the dialogue led by the European Parliament, as a step towards progress in EU-related reforms. It is the responsibility of all parties to play a constructive role,” Várhelyi wrote.

In the letter, he described the ways in which the European Commission monitors and analyzes the situation in Serbia.

“As a candidate country, Serbia is subject to a detailed process and methodology for monitoring and reporting on the rule of law, especially under Chapters 23 and 24.… The European Commission regularly monitors the situation in Serbia and initiates talks with the authorities on these issues,” Várhelyi wrote.

He stressed that the EU already has a wide range of means to analyze and monitor Serbia’s progress under Chapters 23 and 24, including data provided by the government, reporting by the EU Delegation to Serbia, analyzes and data from civil society, experts and international organizations.

He reminded that the new enlargement methodology, adopted by the EU in March, additionally focuses on fundamental areas such as the rule of law and democracy and envisages new mechanisms for their monitoring, and the results of that monitoring will be presented in the European Commission’s annual reports.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić informed the President of France Emmanuel Macron in July that Serbia accepts the new enlargement methodology, but this decision should be made by the government, which is still in a technical mandate.

The adoption of the new methodology was supported by the Party of Freedom and Justice, stating that it would “completely expose the nature of the autocratic regime of Aleksandar Vučić and confirm that Serbia is a captured state.”

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