BRUSSELS – The European Parliament (EP) Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted on Tuesday the package of amendments to the draft resolution on Serbia put forward by EP Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister, thereby rejecting the proposals by Croatian MEPs to set solving of open issues with Croatia as a condition for Serbia’s EU accession.
The compromise amendments were harmonized among parliamentary groups, after a total of 222 amendments were made to the original draft by EP Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister, so in the end there were only 21 of them.
The compromise amendments lay greater stress on the respect for freedom of the press, minority rights and the role of the independent institutions.
Moreover, the amendment by Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee Eduard Kukan calling for the opening of the first chapters in Serbia’s EU accession negotiations, has also been accepted.
Kukan’s proposal reads that aside from the technical conditions for the opening of chapters, the European Council should take into consideration the political context of Serbia’s relations with the EU.
Although the request for Serbia to join sanctions against Russia is still in place, the compromise amendments also read that the traditionally strong economic, social and cultural relations between Belgrade and Moscow and Serbia’s potentially important role in solving the Ukraine crisis in the capacity of the OSCE chair should be taken into account.
The parliament stresses the need for transparency and responsibility in the work of state institutions, and supports the work of the ombudsman and the commissioner for information of public importance, states a separate amendment put forward by Kukan.
The authorities are requested to fully cooperate with the ombudsman and the commissioner, to protect their independence and provide the administrative and financial conditions for their unimpeded work.
At the suggestion of MEP Tanja Fajon, Serbia is called to provide access to the archives of the Yugoslav People’s Army and the Serbian State Security Services in order to help find out the truth about the tragic events in the 1990’s.
The EP also adopted Fajon’s suggestion to include a more decisive demand in the resolution urging the authorities to create conditions that will enable full freedom of expression and prevent the pressures, threats and attacks on journalists. Regarding the implementation of the set of media laws, the Serbian authorities are urged to focus on the sustainability and financial stability of public broadcasters, regional and local media.
The EP specifically commended the role of police in ensuring safety of the participants of last year’s Pride Parade in Belgrade, and called for the stepping up of efforts to prevent discrimination against all minorities, and creating conditions for equal representation of women in political and economic institutions.
The debate on amendments held in the Committee yesterday was marked by the discussion between the Croatian MEPs and most other members of the Committee.
The Croatian MEPs voiced dissatisfaction with the fact that the proposed amendments did not include their demands on Serbia not to launch legal proceedings for war crimes committed in Croatia, to find all the missing persons, and to correct the border on the Danube.
They also demanded the resolution to once again condemn the temporary release of Vojislav Seselj from the ICTY and the lack of a clear condemnation of his views by Belgrade officials, but the compromise amendment only states that the Serbian authorities should refrain from the anti-European rhetoric.
On the other hand, most members of the EP, including McAllister, were of the opinion that Croatia’s bilateral issues with Serbia should be resolved on that same level, and not by attempting to hinder Serbia’s EU integration.
McAllister stated that the demands put forward by the Croatian members of the EP referred to bilateral issues, and that there were obviously different legal views regarding jurisdiction over war crimes.
Simon Mordue, a director within the European Commission working on enlargement issues, said the Commission supported McAllister’s report and did not agree with the requirements the Croatian members of the EP wished to impose on Serbia.
The Commission believes that the issue of jurisdiction over war crimes is a bilateral one and that demanding that Serbia change the law related to that would create a bad precedent, he stated.
Many members of the EU have similar laws on universal responsibility for war crimes, and the proposed resolution already mentions regional reconciliation as an important part of Serbia’s EU integration, Mordue pointed out.
McAllister said at the end of the debate that he was in favor of opening chapters 23 and 24 of the accession talks with Serbia as soon as possible, as well as Chapter 35, which refers to Kosovo.
The final version of the document will be adopted at the EP plenary session in Strasbourg in March.
EP resolutions are not binding, but the European Commission and the Council of the EU have to take them into consideration when making their decisions.