EU accession talks with Serbia should start without delay, provided the government keeps the reform process on course, said Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Thursday. Voting on the Commission's 2012 progress report on Serbia, they stressed that starting the talks in June 2013 is achievable. Serbia was granted EU candidate status on 1 March 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.
Reforms: quality matters
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 2, with 2 abstentions, adds that both authorities and the media must report responsibly on corruption investigations.
Pursuing dialogue with Kosovo
MEPs welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at the highest political level, including a recent meeting between prime ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci. 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.
Protecting the rights of minorities
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.
Plenary vote in March
The resolution is set to be put to a vote by the whole House at the 11-14 March plenary session in Strasbourg.
In the chair: Ioan Mircea Pascu (S&D, RO)