Western Balkans: MEPs mark 2016 progress
- Serbia and Kosovo should do more to normalise relations
- Kosovo’s recognition by all Member States
- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should continue on path to EU integration
Belgrade and Pristina must make more effort to come together and to get closer to the EU, while Skopje should commit to robust European reforms, MEPs say.
In a resolution adopted by 524 votes to 70, with 79 abstentions on Wednesday, MEPs welcome the recent improvement in relations between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as progress in adopting EU law, including the start of work on judiciary and fundamental rights and on justice, freedom and security, which are key to the accession process. However, they urge the Serbian authorities to establish an adequate institutional framework for the absorption of pre-accession funds.
Serbia should align its foreign policy with the EU’s, including its policy on Russia, ensure judicial independence in practice and revise its Constitution to guarantee the independence of key institutions and the protection of fundamental rights.
MEPs welcome the entry into force of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on 1 April 2016 and the European Commission proposal to waive visas for Kosovan citizens, even though a couple of important criteria have yet to be met. They express concern at the persistently extreme polarisation of the political landscape, regret the slow pace of Kosovo’s efforts to build an adequate and efficient administrative capacity and condemn the violent disruption of these efforts by some members of the opposition which occurred in the parliament of Kosovo in the first half of 2016.
MEPs also take note that five EU member states have not yet recognised Kosovo, adding that if all EU member states were to do so, this would increase the EU’s credibility in its external policy and help to normalise relations between Kosovo and Serbia, in a resolution passed by 474 votes to 134, with 64 abstentions.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
MEPs welcome the formation of a new government on 31 May and urge it, together with all political parties, to restore confidence in the country and its institutions. They also call on the new government to maintain efforts towards EU integration and fully commit to robust reforms in the areas of rule of law, justice, corruption, fundamental rights, home affairs and good neighbourly relations. Once there is tangible progress in implementing the 2015 Pržino agreement and on urgent reform priorities, the European Parliament will support opening EU accession negotiations, says the resolution adopted by 503 votes to 113, with 45 abstentions.
Looking back to 2016, MEPs regret that Skopje is continuing to backslide in the reform of its judiciary and deplore recurrent political interference in the appointment and promotion of judges and prosecutors. MEPs are also concerned about the political attack against and obstructions to the work of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.
Rapporteur on Serbia, David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: „Serbia is on its path towards the EU. The Serbian government is tackling the challenges of creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and boosting growth. Important economic reforms have been adopted to strengthen the business environment in the country and on normalising relations with Kosovo“.
Rapporteur on Kosovo and EP Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT) said: „This vote once again sends a strong signal that the future of an independent Kosovo lies in the EU. Kosovo is urged to respond constructively. The two remaining benchmarks for Visa Liberalisation (border demarcation with Montenegro and track record of high level convictions for corruption and organized crime) can and must quickly be fulfilled by Kosovo to enable visa-free travel for Kosovo citizens.”
Rapporteur on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, SI) said: “The Parliament has taken positive note of Macedonia´s progress towards EU membership. The new government has committed to important reforms, which enabled the country to hold transparent elections and overcome a protracted political crisis. Macedonia should now accelerate the process of adopting EU standards, values and principles, thus also contributing to the stability in the Western Balkans”.