EU accession talks with Serbia can start before June 2013, MEPs say

European Union accession talks with Serbia should start without delay, provided the government keeps the reform process on course, members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee said on February 7 2013.

Voting on the European Commission’s 2012 progress report on Serbia, they emphasised that starting the talks in June 2013 is achievable. Serbia was granted EU candidate status on March 1 2012.

The committee commended Serbia on the conduct of its parliamentary, local and early presidential elections in May 2012 and praised the new government’s commitment to preparing for EU membership. The government should pursue reform and concentrate on the judiciary, combatting corruption, ensuring media freedom and protecting all minorities, they say.

The reform of the judiciary should focus on quality rather than speed. The judges, prosecutors and police must be duly trained, not least because of extensive changes in the legislation and in order to step up the fight against corruption, says the resolution, prepared by Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SI).

The text, passed by 61 votes to two, with two abstentions, adds that both authorities and the media must report responsibly on corruption investigations.

MEPs welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade- Priština dialogue at the highest political level, including a recent meeting between prime ministers Ivica Dačić and Hashim Thaçi. The parliaments and civil societies of both Serbia and Kosovo must be more extensively involved, in the dialogue and its outcomes need to be better communicated to strengthen its credibility, MEPs added.

Serbia must also dismantle the parallel institutions that it maintains in North Kosovo, the committee insisted.

The Serbian authorities must do more to ensure that national, ethnic and cultural minorities are effectively protected throughout Serbia’s territory, are fairly represented in public administration, judiciary and police and can have access to quality education in minority languages, said MEPs.

The authorities should also increase knowledge and understanding of LGBT rights in the country and combat homophobia. MEPs hope that the Belgrade Pride Parade, banned by the government in 2012, can take place in 2013.

The resolution is set to be put to a vote by the whole House at the March 11 to 14 plenary session in Strasbourg.




The Sofia Globe staff

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