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More concrete action and mutual trust needed to ensure progress of Serbia and Kosovo on their path to the EU, urge S&Ds

Date

10 May 2023

Sections

Global Europe

The path of Serbia and Kosovo to the European Union will be paved by the efforts to normalise their relations. There have been recent positive developments in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, facilitated by the EU. However, more political will, concrete action and mutual trust are needed from both sides to ensure genuine progress – urge the Socialists and Democrats in light of the reports on the two countries adopted today by the European Parliament.

As regards the EU, 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 Union, pleaded the S&Ds.

Tonino Picula, S&D spokesperson on foreign affairs, said:

“First of all, the S&Ds reaffirm our deepest condolences to all Serbs who have lost their loved ones in the horrific shootings that shocked us all last week. We condemn such violence in the strongest terms. These tragic events are a sad reminder of the acute problems in Serbia, as demonstrated by the recent protests there – a strongman rule, state capture, celebration of war criminals and toxic media scene. More has to be done to counter Serbia’s democratic backsliding. Continuous financial support to Vučić’s regime does not bring Serbia closer to 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.”

Demetris Papadakis, S&D negotiator on the European Parliament’s report on Serbia, highlighted:

“The most important message for Belgrade in this year’s report is: Serbia 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.

“In this context, we highlighted our concerns about the dominant market position of Telekom Srbija, where the state is the majority stakeholder, and about the allegations that the ruling party is using the company to increase its influence over the national 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.”

Andreas Schieder, S&D negotiator on the European Parliament’s report on Kosovo, underlined:

 “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. This is the best proof that that there has been significant progress in the reform process, for example in the fight against corruption and organised crime. In key moments, Kosovo has proven to be a reliable partner. We therefore call on the European Commission to prepare, without further delay, an opinion on the country’s application for EU membership.

“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.”

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