BRUSSELS – More political will, concrete action and mutual trust are needed from both sides to ensure genuine progress, urge Socialist and Democrats in European Parliament (S&D) in light of the reports on the two countries adopted on Wednesday.
The S&D Group stated that the desired progress in the dialogue must not be an alibi for turning “a blind eye to the autocratic rule of President Aleksandar Vučić”. “First and foremost, Serbia must align with the EU sanctions against Russia or lose the financial support that it gets from the EU”.
““While fully acknowledging the importance of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, we also need to be aware that a much-aspired progress in this process, which in practice is minimum, must not be an alibi for the EU to shy away from more assertive politics towards Serbian authorities. This approach has proven very harmful in the past. It goes without saying that it is the European People’s Party – Vučić’s political family – who bear a special responsibility in this regard. We fully support the Serbs who want a different, better, non-violent and European Serbia. Their aspirations give hope that it is possible to break the permanent crisis spiral which has a negative impact on the entire region”, said MEP Tonino Picula.
He stressed that more has to be done to counter Serbia democratic backsliding, adding that continuous financial support to Vučić’s regime does not bring Serbia closer to the EU.
Demetris Papadakis assessed that the most important message for Belgrade in this year’s report is that official Belgrade must align with the EU sanctions against Russia.
“Otherwise, it risks backtracking in negotiations for EU membership and losing the EU’s financial support. To ensure further progress on its path to the EU, Serbia must also normalise relations with Pristina and continue domestic reforms, in particular with the aim to uphold the rule of law, fundamental rights and media freedom”, Papadakis said.
He mentioned especially the case of Telekom Srbija, the state own company for which EP highlighted concerns about its dominant market position in Serbian media.
“We are worried about any possible state financing of Telekom Srbija, which gives the company an unfair competitive advantage and contributes to the declining state of independent media in Serbia. Furthermore, we urge the European Commission to look into the European Investment Bank’s €70 million loan to Telekom Srbija”, Papadakis added.
Speaking about the report for Kosovo, MEP Andreas Schieder assessed that the most important news for Kosovo in the past year has been that the long-overdue visa-free travel will be granted to its citizens as of 1 January 2024.
He added that this is the best proof that there has been significant progress in the reform process, for example in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
“To ensure further progress, more efforts are needed to safeguard the independence, efficiency and integrity of the justice system, to strengthen the government’s cooperation with civil society, and to safeguard media freedom. Last but not least, normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, based on mutual recognition, is key for the European future of both countries. Both need to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and act in line with EU values and principles”, Schieder concluded.
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 normalisation of relations based on the principle of mutual recognition.