AFET/DROI Visit to Serbia

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, joined by the Human Rights Sub-Committee travelled to Serbia on 23-24 September, in the framework of the preparations for the annual progress report on Serbia.

Mr Elmar BROK (EPP, DE), the Chair of the Committee, led the 10 Member delegation, that saw the representation of most political groups in the European Parliament and included Mr Christian Dan PREDA (EPP, RO), Mr Lars ADAKTUSSON (EPP, SE), Mr Tonino PICULA (S&D, HR), Afzal KHAN (S&D, UK), Jozo RADOS (ALDE, HR) and Ulrike LUNACEK, Vice-President of the Parliament (Greens, AT), on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mr Laszlo TOKES (EPP, RO), Andrey KOVATCHEV (EPP, BG), and Soraya POST (S&D, SE) on behalf of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights.

The Members met Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the Speaker of the Serbian Parliament Maja Gojkovic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dacic, Minister responsible for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, the Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, Members of Committees of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, of Human Rights and Minority rights, Commissioner on refugees and leaders of the opposition. Furthermore, they had fruitful discussions with representatives of civil society, of the media, and of international organisations.

The Members held very good discussions during their visit. They welcomed the work undertaken by Serbia in the context of the migration crisis that is dramatically affecting the whole of Europe, stressing that in these critical times the EU should show solidarity and keep up the fundamental values it is built on. “No country alone, be it a EU Member State or not, can run away from this problem. We have to solve it together otherwise we all lose“, said the Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok, during the meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Vucic. “We see with sympathy the constructive and responsible role that Serbia has played and is playing in the migration crisis despite the fact that it is not yet a member state”, he continued. The delegation welcomed the decisions of the European Council to support non-EU countries and refugee camps more strongly. They called for a joint registration method at the external borders of the EU to be developed.

The Members found that a significant step forward was made with the Agreements reached on 25 August in the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue. Whereas these, and previously reached agreements, should be fully and swiftly implemented in good faith, the progress demonstrated is a basis for opening the first negotiating chapters. Members call on Member States to proceed to do so before the end of the year, noting that starting negotiation on Chapters 23 and 24 will contribute to adoption of reforms and strengthening of democratic institutions in Serbia.

Members also expressed strong concern for the deteriorating situation of the media, stressing that freedom of expression and of the media is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. The independence of the judiciary should also be strengthened and set as a priority. Members expressed their full support for the office and work of the Ombudsman (Protector of the citizen) as the national human rights institution, which should be able to fully serve Serbian citizens and their human rights.

Finally, the Members expressed their dissatisfaction at the decision of the Croatian government this morning (24 September 2015) to close the border to all Serbian citizens and cars in addition to cargo. This measure taken today seems unjustifiable as a new counter-measure. The Members felt reassured by Prime Minister Vucic that Serbia would not take retaliatory measures against Croatian citizens and called for a moderate response to the current crisis.

On 24 September the Members of the AFET delegation travelled in the afternoon to Pristina. The DROI delegation, led by Mr Tokes, continued its meetings in Belgrade with representatives of the National Minority Councils, the Commissioner for equality. They also visited the info centre for migrants and the Roma settlement Orlovsko naselje.

Für weitere Informationen:
Elmar Brok MdEP, Tel. +32 2284 7323