EU Parliament calls for Serbia to change its stance on Russia

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

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The European Parliament wants Serbia to reconsider its position toward Russia. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Serbia has maintained close ties with Vladimir Putin’s country despite the EU’s stance.

This Wednesday, MEPs approved an annual assessment report regretting that Belgrade has not aligned with EU sanctions following Russia´s invasion of Ukraine. The text was adopted by 523 votes in favour, 78 against and 34 abstentions. 

But the MEPs are asking the newly elected government, coming from the 3rd April elections, to “urgently align” with the EU’s decisions against Russia.

“I think there is real urgency here, particularly in the case of Serbia, to make some important domestic choices on this ground. 

Because it is a country that has always looked in different directions when it comes to its foreign policy. But I think now it is time to decide where it stands. And I hope Serbia will make a clear decision in direction of Europe”, said the MEP in charge of the report, Vladimir Bilcik, from the EPP.

Since 2014. Serbia has been in negotiations with the EU to join the block. But its close relations with Russia could add a new obstacle to dialogue.

The differences have extended to several issues. The report also regrets the lack of progress and even backsliding in rule of law, media freedom, and the fight against corruption. But are hopeful as the newly elected Serbian parliament is more pluralistic.

And according to MEPs involved in the process, this is the time to deliver on reforms in order to make progress on accession.

The agreements “are being put into question”

The relationship of Serbia with its neighboring country of Kosovo is also one of the main issues in the negotiation. Kosovo, which belonged to Serbia until its declaration of independence in 2008, is a potential candidate to join the EU. 

But Serbia, as well as five other countries in the EU, do not recognize the independence of Kosovo. The European Parliament is urging Serbia to work on the normalization of relations with Kosovo. 

And the MEPs also have a message for Pristina

“Concerning the relation with Serbia, we included the need to improve relations not only on the political level but furthermore we paid special attention to the level of citizens: supporting people to people contact, multilingualism and the social-economic integration of Kosovo Serbs”, said Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, from The Greens.

“The text of the report highlights the need to normalize relations with Serbia based on mutual recognition as a priority and as a precondition for EU accession of both countries. The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has not been very high on the agenda. 

The agreements which have been reached in the past are being put into question, which shows a lack of serious engagement and that was criticized by many individual MEPs.”

Kosovo’s road to the EU visa-free regime

The European Parliament voted in favour of Kosovar citizens to be granted the right to enter the Schengen area without the need for a visa. 

Kosovo has seen a rise in its political stability and a greater commitment to its European path the past years, a reason why the MEPs asked the Council to “urgently” adopt a visa-free regime.

For von Cramon-Taubadel, the Member states are the ones to blame for the issue.

“The visa liberalisation is still blocked at the level of the European Council, not here in the Parliament, not in the Commission.”

The Netherlands and France are blocking a decision that was expected in the last EU-Balkans Summit at the end of June in Brussels.

“We really tried our best to unblock the situation”, said the MEP.

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