EP about Serbia: Omissions in judiciary, concern about media and parliament’s role

The Foreign Policy Committee of the European Parliament (EP) will officially consider the draft resolution on the European Commission’s 2018 report on Serbia today, which underlines that the implementation of reforms remains a key indicator of the success of the European integration process, and which calls on Serbia to improve the planning, coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the new legislation and measures.

The proposed text of the resolution points to the failures in judicial reform and in the fight against corruption and organized crime, the weak democratic role of the parliament, as well as expresses concern about the situation with the freedom of speech and media while urging Serbia to provide guarantees for the principled implementation of the legislation on national minority protection.

The EP welcomes Serbia’s progress in the economy and in public administration reform, its contingent attitude towards the migrant crisis, commitment to bilateral relations with other candidate countries and neighbouring member states, and the continued engagement of Serbia in the normalization of relations with Kosovo.

Serbia is also urged to gradually harmonize its foreign and security policy with EU policy, including policy towards Russia, as well as gradually harmonize its visa regime with the Union.

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The document mentions that, in terms of the rule of law, Serbia needs to implement reforms, in particular, to “guarantee independent and effective judiciary” and urges Serbia to “strengthen accountability, impartiality, professionalism and overall efficiency of the judiciary and establish a system of free legal aid.”

When it comes to fighting against corruption, the EP believes that Serbia needs “to pass a new law on the Anti-Corruption Agency as soon as possible” and that “it is essential that this agency has human and financial resources necessary to perform its tasks in an independent manner”.

The paper also assesses that, in terms of fighting organized crime, and although “some progress” has been made, Serbia should show “more credible results on investigations, prosecutions and passing on verdicts, which also applies to money laundering, as well as on conducting proactive investigations” .

The EP believes that the Serbian Parliament “still does not exercise effective control of the executive power and that transparency, including the quality of the legislative process, needs to be improved, and that frequent urgent parliamentary procedures “jeopardize parliamentary and public oversight.”

The document emphasizes that it is necessary “to fully recognize and support the role of the independent judgments of regulatory bodies, including the Ombudsman institution.”

Welcoming Serbia’s progress in public administration reform, the draft authors point out that the political impact on the appointment of senior administration officials remains a problem.

The EP estimates that, in the field of human rights in Serbia, a legislative and institutional framework has been established and that a consistent and effective implementation throughout the country is needed, as well as additional efforts made on improving the position of vulnerable groups, “including children, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community “.

Serbia has again been urged to actively investigate and punish hate crimes.

The EP again “expresses concern over the fact that no progress has been made in improving the status of freedom of speech and the media” and emphasizes that “threats, violence and intimidation of journalists remain a problem,” and that the legal prosecution of the same is “still rare”.

The draft resolution calls for the full implementation of the media law and bolstering of the independence of the national regulatory body for electronic media, and highlights the need for full transparency regarding the ownership and financing of the media.

Welcoming the creation of a fund for national minorities, the resolution calls on Serbia to guarantee the principled implementation of the minority law, including education, the use of native languages, representation in public administration and access to media and religious practices in minority languages.

The EP underlines, in particular, that “the cultural diversity of Vojvodina contributes to the identity of Serbia, so that the autonomy of Vojvodina should be preserved and that the law on financial resources of Vojvodina should be adopted without further delay”.

In the document, under the title of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations, the EP welcomes Serbia’s continued engagement in the normalization of relations with Kosovo, and calls for the timely and full implementation of all agreements reached, including those on energy, plus it emphasizes the importance of forming a community of municipalities with the Serb majority.

It stresses that it is necessary to expedite the work on the new phase of dialogue in order to comprehensively normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo, which will be defined by a legally binding agreement, and calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) “to evaluate how both parties have been fulfilling their obligations.”

(Naslovi.net / Beta, 27.09.2018)


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