BRUSSELS – The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, Renew Europe Group, as well as the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, released statements on yesterday’s adoption of Reports on the Western Balkan countries.
S&D Group: Time to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania
The Socialists and Democrats confirmed their clear support for a European perspective for all the countries in the Western Balkans and call on the EU member states to finally start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
Tonino Picula, S&D MEP and co-ordinator on foreign affairs and the European Parliament’s Rapporteur on Enlargement in the Western Balkans said that the future of the Western Balkans remains within a strong and united European Union, and that the group encouraged them to continue the path of reform towards EU laws, standards and values.
“We also remind the EU Council of its responsibility toward the Western Balkans and we express our dismay at the Council’s continued failure to start accession negotiations with Tirana and Skopje, even though both countries have ‘done their homework’. Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia is unacceptable. We call on member states to keep their word. Further delaying the Intergovernmental Conference that would start the negotiations will jeopardise the credibility of the European Union in the whole region”, Picula said.
Andreas Schieder said that, following the formation of the new government after extraordinary elections, now was the time for Kosovo to resume the dialogue with Serbia.
“All the parties in the parliament should show responsibility and come to an agreement concerning the election of the new president, to avoid another snap election. The EU should do its share too and finally grant visa liberalisation for Kosovo, which fulfilled all requirements”, Schieder said.
Demetris Papadakis stated that it was regrettable that the EPP Group is focusing its efforts on watering down the critical language of the report.
“In Serbia we have not seen convincing results in areas such as the judiciary, freedom of expression and the fight against corruption”, Papadakis said.
Renew Europe Group: Albania, Serbia in need for improvement
For the Renew Europe Group, North Macedonia demonstrated continuity regarding its dedicated commitment to the European path and the understanding of the need to implement stable and inclusive democratic reforms, especially by taking important steps to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.
MEP Michal Šimečka, Shadow Rapporteur on Albania, welcomed the continued implementation of the EU accession-related reforms, but it highlighted the need for improvement in some specific sectors:
“The upcoming parliamentary elections will serve as an important test of Albanian democracy. We are expecting them to live up to the highest international standards”, he said.
On Serbia, Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament regretted the lack of progress in many areas of the country’s reform agenda and the fact that there has even been backsliding on issues that are fundamental for EU accession such as rule of law, fundamental rights, media freedom, and the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration. Nevertheless, MEPs welcome the fact that EU membership continues to be Serbia’s strategic goal and that it is among the priorities of the government.
MEP Klemen Grošelj, Shadow Rapporteur on Serbia, said that Serbia’s path to the EU is wide open, the path is known, the advantages and disadvantages are known, as well as obstacles along the way, and now it is up to Serbia to find the will and energy to follow this path quickly, efficiently and in the interest of its citizens.
MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Shadow Rapporteur on Kosovo, welcomed the country’s efforts to implement reforms and to maintain constructive neighbourly relations throughout the region:
“It is high time for all EU member states to recognise Kosovo and allow its citizens to benefit from visa liberalization because all benchmarks have been fulfilled since 2018”, he said.
Greens: Reforms must not remain just words on paper
Viola von Cramon, Greens/EFA MEP and European Parliament rapporteur on Kosovo and shadow rapporteur on Serbia, stressed that the announcement of the European Reform Agenda of dialogue between the government of Kosovo and the Commission is welcome, but it cannot remain just words on paper.
“We need to pay close attention to the implementation, and to that end, we support Kosovo in its reforms to the rule of law, the judiciary and public administration, and we want to work together to tackle corruption and organized crime”, she said.
She added that the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia and a binding legal agreement are central; this would also fulfil the prerequisite for accession negotiations and possible EU accession for both states. The Kosovo government should take the necessary steps to seize the opportunity for EU accession.