Serbia should align its foreign policy more with the EU’s, also on Russia, while Kosovo should be granted visa liberalisation without delay, say MEPs.
On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted two resolutions evaluating the latest efforts by Serbia and Kosovo to get closer to the EU and a possible future membership.
In a report adopted by 503 votes to 85 with 47 abstentions, MEPs welcome Serbia’s continued engagement on the path of integration into the EU and call for this strategic decision to be actively promoted among the Serbian public. They also highlight Serbia’s efforts to normalise ties with neighbouring Kosovo and support the dialogue facilitated by the EU as the framework to reach a comprehensive normalisation agreement.
While taking note of the recent debate on possible exchanges of territories between Serbia and Kosovo, MEPs underline that ethnically homogeneous states should not be the objective in the region. They consider any future agreement acceptable only if mutually agreed between Serbia and Kosovo and if it takes into account the overall stability in the region and international law.
MEPs urge Serbian authorities to step up reform efforts on the rule of law, intensify the fight against corruption and organised crime, and continue to reform the country’s public administration to make it more politically neutral. Serbia should also be more aligned with the EU’s foreign and security policy, including on Russia, and within the United Nations.
EP rapporteur on Serbia David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: “Serbia is making good progress on its strategic goal to join the EU with 14 negotiation chapters now opened, two of them being provisionally closed. With all energy focused on adopting and implementing reforms, in particular in the rule of law chapters and on the normalisation of relations with Kosovo, more chapters could be opened in the months to come. The European Parliament stands ready to further support Serbia on its European path.”
MEPs welcome the legislation passed within Kosovo’s European Reform Agenda, but express concern at the lack of cross-party consensus and lingering political polarisation, which continues to adversely affect the path to sustainable reform.
To bring Kosovo closer to the EU, visa liberalisation is vital without undue delay. MEPs welcome that the European Commission has confirmed that the visa liberalisation benchmarks have been fulfilled. This comes notwithstanding critical concerns about Kosovo’s under-financed judiciary, widespread corruption, elements of state capture and undue political influence and problems with due process, which all need to be addressed beyond the progress made on meeting visa liberalisation requirements.
The resolution takes note that five EU member states have not yet recognised Kosovo and invites them to do so, since this would ease relations between Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia. The text was approved by 393 votes to 139, with 71 abstentions.
EP rapporteur on Kosovo Igor Šoltes (Greens/EFA, SL) said: "It is important for Kosovo to stay on its path towards EU integration. However, it is important for the EU to acknowledge that Kosovo has fulfilled all required criteria for visa liberalisation and the EU should respect that fully. Therefore, visa liberalisation should be granted to Kosovo as soon as possible. Kosovo's government should continue with implementing reforms and focus all its energy on them functioning in practice as well. It is important for Kosovo to continue its fight against corruption and organised crime, but also to strengthen its efforts to have an independent and fully functional judiciary system.”