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European Parliament supports EU future of the Western Balkans, urges Serbia to align with CFSP

European Parliament Session; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG — Western Balkans are strongly affected by the negative consequences of the war in Ukraine, which significantly changed the context of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), it is stated in the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on the plenary session held on 18 January. 

With 407 votes in favor, 92 votes against and 142 abstentions, MPs adopted the resolution based on the annual report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy for 2022, drafted by David McAllister, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).

The European Parliament highlighted the threat posed by the “unjustified military aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine ” to European and global security and which “significantly changed the geopolitical context of the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP).” The war in Ukraine is said to have caused a great deal of destruction and suffering, exacerbating economic and food insecurity, as well as energy and climate crises in many areas of the world.

The war in Ukraine poses a threat to the stability of many EU member states, as well as those in its neighborhood. In this context, the resolution particularly emphasizes the countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, which “are in need of peaceful conflict resolution, improved stability and security and increased mutual cooperation.”

In the part of the resolution that refers to Serbia, the members of the EP expressed their regret for the continued low level of alignment with the CFSP, especially regarding the war in Ukraine. They stressed “the importance of the full alignment of Western Balkan countries with the EU’s foreign and security policy, especially its policy of sanctions against third countries.”

European Parliament “reiterates its position that further negotiating chapters should be opened only when Serbia strengthens its commitment to reform in the areas of democracy and rule of law and demonstrates full alignment with the CFSP” and “recalls that Serbia, as a country that strives towards European integration, has to adhere to the EU’s common values and rights,” it is stated in the resolution.

The resolution welcomed candidate status being granted to Bosnia and Herzegovina and urged the political actors to show commitment toward implementing the necessary reforms and fulfilling the 14 key priorities on the country’s path towards the EU. The European Parliament also called on the Commission and the EEAS “to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in swiftly implementing the key priorities and in preventing backsliding into nationalistic policies of the past.”

An amendment denouncing secessionist rhetoric and actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including celebrations of national holidays proclaimed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, was adopted as well. The same paragraph proposes targeted sanctions against Milorad Dodik and other high-ranking officials of Republika Srpska and third-country officials “providing political and material support for secessionist policies.”

Amendment welcoming Kosovo’s application for EU membership was adopted, as well as the one calling for the 5 Member States who don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence to do so and emphasizing “the urgent need for the EU-led Pristina-Belgrade dialogue process to be intensified with the objective of normalising bilateral relations on the basis of mutual recognition.” 

European Parliament also welcomed the start of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and urged “all relevant parties to pursue the necessary steps to enable Albania and North Macedonia’s swift progress.” The resolution reaffirmed EP’s support for the European future of the Western Balkan countries and called upon the Member States “to renew their commitment to enlargement by delivering on the EU’s commitments to the Western Balkan countries.”

The resolution emphasized the need for a “more active and effective communication strategy” to promote the benefits of enlargement and the relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. 

EP called for investigation on Enlargement Commissioner

The European Parliament expressed deep concern “about reports that the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi deliberately seeks to circumvent and undermine the centrality of democracy and rule of law reforms in EU accession countries.”

Therefore, the MPs called on the Commission to launch an independent and impartial investigation into whether the behavior of Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, who is not mentioned by name in this version of the resolution, is in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Commission Members and the Commissioner’s obligations by the Treaty.

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