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European Western Balkans
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European Parliament adopted resolutions on Kosovo and Serbia

European Parliament session; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – The European Parliament adopted on Wednesday resolutions on Kosovo and Serbia and urged both sides to engage in the Belgrade – Pristina Dialogue, and secure without delay a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on the normalization of relations based on the principle of mutual recognition.

In the report on Serbia, MEPs say accession negotiations with Belgrade should advance only if the country aligns with EU sanctions against Russia and makes significant progress on EU-related reforms.

They specifically mention progress on the rule of law and fundamental rights, the functioning of democratic institutions, and a commitment to shared European rights and values. MEPs stress the importance of aligning with the EU’s common foreign and security policy, especially with regards to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

European Parliament is concerned about the recent decrease in public support for EU membership in Serbia, which they consider is a result of long-standing anti-EU/pro-Russian political rhetoric spread via government-controlled media and government officials.

According to the report, the result of a gross failure from government representatives to face up to and come to terms with Serbia’s past.

MEPs want the EU to reconsider the extent of its financial assistance to Serbia if support for anti-democratic politics continues, and call on the European Commission to ensure all EU expenditure is fully in line with the EU’s own strategic goals and interests.

The European Parliament is reiterating its call to Serbia to deliver convincing results in cases of high public interest, including the cases of Krušik, Jovanjica, and Belivuk. It expresses concern about the slow progress in these cases, as well as allegations that Darko Šarić organized an international criminal organization while in Serbian prison.

EP emphasized the fact that efforts and political will are necessary to achieve tangible results, especially in the fight against organized crime.

A serious concern is reiterated about the state of freedom of expression and media independence, and it is stated that this is an area that needs to be addressed as a matter of the highest priority. The establishment of a government working group for the protection of journalists is welcomed. The concern is also expressed about the imbalance between representatives of the authorities and the opposition on television channels with national coverage.

The European Parliament calls on Serbia to improve and protect media professionalism, diversity, and pluralism, and to promote quality and investigative journalism,” the amendments state. The European Parliament regrets the abuse of the media by the ruling regime, in order to gain an “unfair political advantage, attack political opponents, and spread disinformation.

Rapporteur for Serbia Vladimír Bilčík said that this report makes a number of criticisms while supporting Serbia’s EU path, one to which its leaders committed after the 2022 elections.

“I welcome the return of the opposition to the Serbian National Assembly. Serbia must align with the EU’s external relations, continue domestic reforms and normalize relations with Pristina. If Belgrade achieves this, it will be a common European success”, Bilčík adding that his main goal was to present a realistic and balanced report, while at the same time support the ultimately strategic goal of Serbia, which is to join the EU.

According to him, Serbia still remains the only candidate country in the region that has not supported the EU sanctions against Russia.

“European countries in times of war must stick together on the basis of common values. We expect political leaders in Serbia to take a clear stand and condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and align with EU foreign policy.  Russia’s influence is still extensive in Serbia – in energy, security but also through the spread of disinformation- and this must change,” said Bilčík.

The report on Serbia was adopted by MEPs with 508 votes for, 76 against, and 37 abstentions.

In the report on Kosovo, MPs stressed good results in the fight against corruption, adding that more improvements are necessary in the judiciary area

MEPs welcome Kosovo’s application for EU membership and the conclusion of the long-awaited agreement granting visa liberalization to its citizens. Commending Kosovo’s achievements in EU-related reforms, such as the fight against organized crime and corruption, they stress that the pace of the accession process will depend on progress on the rule of law, fundamental rights, and improvements in the country’s legal order.

MEPs regret the fact that initiatives to involve the Serb community in Kosovo’s political, social, and economic structures remain very limited and call on Kosovo’s government and the representatives of Kosovo Serbs to overcome intercommunal divisions.

Rapporteur for Kosovo Viola von Cramon-Taubadel said that report clearly calls for the full implementation of all relevant agreements in the Serbia-Kosovo Dialogue, including the establishment of the Association of Serbian-majority Municipalities (ASM).

” I genuinely hope that the Ohrid Agreement will deliver benefits for Kosovo and contribute to a further normalization of relations with Serbia”, Von Cramon said, adding that EP is happy to confirm that the long-awaited visa-liberalization will be granted to all citizens of Kosovo as of 1 January 2024.

During the press conference, she also requested that the Serbs in the north of Kosovo return to the Kosovo institutions.

The report on Kosovo was adopted with 452 votes for, 87 against, and 76 abstentions.

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