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news 10 Jan 17

Serbia, Kosovo Urged to Work Harder on EU Goals

New EU reports on Kosovo and Serbia list judicial issues, media freedom, corruption, organized crime and political polarization as the chief obstacles slowing their path to EU membership.

Natalia Zaba
BIRN
Belgrade
European Parliament, Photo by: Wikipedia

The European Parliament's rapporteurs for Kosovo and Serbia, Urlike Lunacek and Davic Mcallister, on Monday presented draft resolutions on the progress of both countries towards European Union membership.

The recent arrest in France on a Serbian arrest warrant of Kosovo's former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj drew strong reactions, including a note that the agreement of justice issues signed by Kosovo and Serbia in November 2016 should have solved such matters and remarks that such behaviour does not aid progress, dialogue and good neigbour relations.

Relations between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were also called barely acceptable in a draft resolution on Serbia debated on Monday.

The resolution called on Serbia to align its foreign and security policy more closely with that of the EU, including its policy on Russia.

Serbia was praised, however, for its efforts to deal with the migrant crisis, as well as for making significant economic changes.

Serbia's work towards regional stability was called progressive although often symbolic, especially when it comes to building better relations with neighbouring countries.

Fighting corruption and organized crime, as well as safeguarding the independence of the judiciary was described as a major concern, as Serbia is deemed to have little or no progress.

The European Parliament reiterated concerns that no progress had been made to improve freedom of expression and of the media in Serbia.

"Threats, violence and intimidation аgainst journalists remain an issue of concern," the resolutions said, calling on Serbia's authorities to investigate attacks on journalists and media outlets and fully enforce its own media laws, underlining the need for complete transparency in media ownership and funding of media.

Serbia was also urged to work on creating a better environment for workers in the media and the NGO sector and respect the Ombudsman's office.

In the draft resolution on Kosovo, rapporteur Lunacek called on the government to establish the stalled Association of Serbian Municipalities.

Lunacek expressed concern over the continued existence in Kosovo of Serbia-run "parallel structures", calling for them to be scrapped.

Kosovo was also urged to solve the demarcation issue with Montenegro and deal with high-level corruption cases in order to achieve visa liberalization with the EU.

Politicians on all sides were urged act for good of all of Kosovo's citizen, independently from Belgrade, reducing political polarization, and working on dialogue between the parties.

Kosovo was called to take more decisive action in its work on joining the EU. According to the resolution, progress in fighting corruption has been very slow. The rapporteur said joining Interpol and Europol were worth considering.

The European Parliament expressed regret that corruption and organised crime went unpunished in certain areas of Kosovo, notably in the Serb-run north.

It voiced concern that the track record of investigations, prosecutions, final convictions and confiscation and sequestration of criminal assets remains low.

The draft resolution praised Kosovo's decisiveness in fighting violent extremism, however, as well as good progress made in technical agreements with Serbia in 2016 over the cadaster, university diplomas and the bridge in the divided town of Mitrovica.

 

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