Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs voting on Tuesday once again called on the Council to set a date for starting EU accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They also backed plans for further talks with Montenegro and called on EU leaders to show more commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: starting date needed for talks

MEPs again call on the Council to set a date for the start of EU accession talks, stressing that further delay could create an unreasonable disparity in the region, potentially posing further risks to good inter-ethnic relations. They underline that bilateral issues should be addressed as early as possible in the accession process and preferably before the opening of talks and ask for more concrete results in establishing good neighbourly relations between Athens, Sofia and Skopje.

The committee regrets the deterioration of the country's reputation in relation to media freedom. Safeguarding freedom of expression, with media free from political interference, is a vital challenge of the country it says and calls for more consultation and dialogue about the current media law, as well as efforts to rebuild trust between the government and media.

The resolution drafted by Richard Howitt (S&D, UK) was passed by 48 votes to 4, with 6 abstentions.

Montenegro: backing for swift continuation of accession talks

The committee welcomes the opening of five new accession negotiation chapters in December 2013 and encourages swift continuation of talks provided that reforms are sustained. However, they also underline the need to improve public confidence in the electoral system and democratic structures and call upon the Parliament to accelerate reform of election regulations and political party financing.

MEPs are gravely concerned about an increase in verbal and physical intimidation of journalists and say attacks and threats against them must be properly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. They also say more efforts are needed to combat corruption and organised crime.

The resolution drafted by Charles Tannock (ECR, UK) was passed by 52 votes to 3, with 0 abstentions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: more commitment needed from EU leaders

MEPs are deeply concerned about the continuing lack of a vision shared by the political leaders of the country's three ethnic communities. They stress that constitutional reform, which should simplify the complex and inefficient institutional architecture deriving from Dayton Agreement, remains vital to turn the country into an effective and fully functioning state.

The European Commission should do more to facilitate an agreement on how to implement the European Court of Human Rights' 2009 Sejdić-Finci ruling on discrimination of minorities, MEPs say, underlining that the EU's heads of state and government should display stronger interest and personal commitment to the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina should also be a central priority of the next EU foreign policy chief and the Enlargement Commissioner, they add.

The resolution drafted by Doris Pack (EPP, DE) was passed by 46 votes to 1, with 3 abstentions.

Next steps

The full House will vote on the three resolutions at its first February plenary session (3-6 February).

In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)