Genuine respect of fundamental rights and normalising relations with Kosovo, will determine the pace of accession negotiations, say MEPs in the report adopted on Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs stressed the importance of injecting more dynamism into the EU’s accession negotiation with Serbia calling on the country to commit unambiguously to fulfil its obligations towards EU accession in a visible and verifiable way.                       In the Committee’s report on the 2019-2020 Commission reports on Serbia adopted on Tuesday, MEPs urge the country to deliver convincing results in areas such as the judiciary, freedom of expression and the fight against corruption and organised crime. They also note that the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, and the genuine respect of fundamental rights continue to be essential and will determine the pace of accession negotiations.

Call on the opposition to return to the negotiating table

MEPs take note that the 21 June 2020 parliamentary elections were administered efficiently but that the dominance of the ruling party, including in the media, was of concern, with long-term trends showing pressure on voters, media bias and blurred lines between the activities of all state officials and partisan campaigning. Regretting that some of the opposition boycotted the elections, MEPs call on the opposition to return to the negotiating table and participate in political and parliamentary activities. They call for the Inter-Party Dialogue (IPD) with the National Assembly to continue under the European Parliament’s facilitation and with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders and pro-European political forces in Serbia in order to improve the political climate and trust across the political spectrum.

Anti-EU rhetoric

MEPs encourage the Serbian authorities to communicate their commitment to European values more actively in public debate and express concern that publicly financed media outlets, often quoting office-holders, contribute to disseminating anti-EU rhetoric in Serbia. MEPs deplore the disinformation campaign concerning EU assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic by government officials and urge the Serbian government to provide citizens with all relevant information about the pandemic.

Alignment with EU common foreign and security policy

Serbia must be aligned with EU common foreign and security policy as a condition of the accession process, MEPs stress. They express concern that Serbia has the lowest alignment rate in the region and are concerned by Serbia’s repeated support to Russia over the annexation of Crimea in the UN General Assembly. China’s increasing influence in Serbia and across the Western Balkans is also of concern, particularly the lack of transparency, and environmental and social impact assessment of Chinese investments and loans.

The rapporteur, Vladimír Bilčík (EPP, SK) said: “My first report as Standing Rapporteur comes in a difficult time when Serbia is battling an ongoing pandemic. A large majority of MEPs supported this realistic report, which outlines Serbia’s main accomplishments and tasks for the country’s reform process. I want to underline that the report sends a clear message that the European Parliament stands ready to support Serbia on its EU path.”   The report was adopted by 57 votes for, 4 against and 9 abstentions. The vote took place on Tuesday, with results announced on Wednesday.