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News 08 Feb 13

EU Parliamentarians Urge Serbia Membership Talks

EU accession talks with Serbia should start without delay, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament said on Thursday.

BIRN
Belgrade
Photo by European Parliament

Voting on the European Commission's 2012 progress report on Serbia, the committee said starting talks with Serbia as soon as June was achievable.

“We acknowledged Serbian progress and send a message of encouragement to Belgrade to continue dialogue with Pristina, make new steps towards normalization of relations with Kosovo and to continue its fight against corruption and organised crime,” the European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin said, following the adoption of resolution.

“At this moment, it is crucial for Serbia to get a date for accession talks,” Kacin added.

Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March last year and has been hoping to get a start date for accession talks by this summer.

In its resolution, the Foreign Affairs Committee said that Serbia needed to further pursue reforms and concentrate on the judiciary, corruption, media freedom and protection of minorities.

Speaking about the reform of the judiciary, the Committee said that Serbia should focus on quality rather than speed.

“Judges, prosecutors and police must be duly trained, not least because of extensive changes in legislation and in order to step up the fight against corruption,” the resolution said.

Strasbourg Urges Kosovo to Conciliate Serbs

The European Parliament has urged Kosovo to reach out to the Serbian minority in the north, while dismissing talk of ethnic-based partition.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on Thursday stressed that while partitioning Kosovo "is not an option”, the Kosovo authorities need to “take further steps to reach out to the Serbian minority, particularly in the North”.

The resolution “calls for the dismantling of parallel institutions in north Kosovo maintained by the Serbian state, in particular for withdrawal of security services and judicial organs, and for full transparency to financing of schools and hospitals in north Kosovo.”

The issue of the Serb-run north of Kosovo, and Serbian-finances institutions there, remains one of the major stumbling blocks in relations between Pristina and Belgrade.

The European Parliament also welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at the highest political level, including a recent meeting between Prime Ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci and between Presidents Tomislav Nikolic and Atifete Jahjaga.

The two countries started EU-led talks in March 2011 and have reached several agreements so far.

The northern segment of Kosovo is beyond the remit of the Pristina government, does not acknowledge its institutions, and does not recognise Kosovo's independence from Serbia, proclaimed in 2008.

The European Parliament also urged Serbian authorities to do more to ensure that national, ethnic and cultural minorities are effectively protected throughout Serbia and are fairly represented in the public administration, judiciary and police.

“The authorities should also increase knowledge and understanding of LGBT rights in the country and combat homophobia,” reads the resolution, adding that MEPs hope that the Belgrade Pride Parade, which was called off in 2012, can take place in 2013.

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