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Kosovo needs to make rapid reforms in the rule of law, protection of minorities, administrative capacities and trade to allow for launch of EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) talks, said Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Thursday. The SAA, which defines rights and obligations of both parties until the EU membership, would create new opportunities for regional integration of Kosovo, MEPs added.

In a resolution drafted by Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA), MEPs welcome the European Commission's finding, in its October 2012 Feasibility Study, that the EU can conclude an SAA with Kosovo despite member states' differences on Kosovo's status. Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus have not yet recognized its independence.

MEPs encourage these countries to recognise Kosovo and ease economic, social and political relations with its citizens. By a slim majority, the committee said that the designation "Kosovo" can be used without prejudice to positions on its status. This amendment is in line with the Council's conclusions on Kosovo.

After the western powers overseeing Kosovo declared it fully independent on 10 September 2012, the Council authorised the Commission to open negotiations for a framework agreement with Kosovo on its participation in EU programmes.

North Kosovo

The Kosovo authorities must step up efforts to reach out to the Serbian minority, especially in the North. Kosovo Serbs must in turn play a constructive role in politics and society, using all possibilities offered to them by the Kosovar constitution, says the resolution.

Partitioning Kosovo is not an option, say MEPs, adding that local responsibility and "ownership" of reconciliation is paramount.

Poor record on fighting corruption and organised crime

The Kosovo authorities must show the political will to fight high-level corruption and organised crime, which is flourishing especially in the North of Kosovo, MEPs say.

They point to the Court of Auditors' October 2012 report,  which lists several cases in which Kosovo authorities have not followed EU recommendations on fighting corruption and say EU member states should look for ways to include Kosovo in Europol and Interpol.

Clearer priorities and appropriate staffing for EULEX mission

The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) must, focus more closely on the repression of high-level corruption and organised crime. It must be appropriately staffed, and clearly defining its aims would improve its efficiency say MEPs.

They also urge Kosovo and its neighbours to fully cooperate with EULEX Special Investigative Task Force, set up to look into allegations in a December 2010 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report  linking senior Kosovo politicians to criminal gangs involved in human organ trafficking.

Plenary vote in March

The resolution, which the committee approved by  42 votes to 9 with 12 abstentions, is to be put to a vote by the whole House at the 11-14 March Strasbourg session.

In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)