"There is no alternative to dialogue" and pragmatic cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo, Suzana Grubjesic, Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister for European integration told the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday. She asked MEPs to back Serbia's pledge to meet conditions for setting a starting date for EU accession talks. Serbia was granted EU candidate status on 1 March 2012.
Serbia needs to get a starting date for EU accession talks, possibly by the end of the Irish Presidency, to "maintain the momentum of reforms in Serbia and make the process of EU integration irreversible," Ms Grubjesic said. She stressed that her government, formed after May 2012 elections, was committed to reform as recommended by the European Commission's progress report.
Parliament's draft resolution on Serbia's 2012 progress report, drafted by Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SI), also calls for a starting date to be set as soon as possible, provided Serbia keeps its reform promises.
While the MEPs recognized the positive results of Serbia's reforms and the new government's constructive stance on the high-level dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, they underlined the need to step up the fight against corruption, immediately bring Article 359 of the Penal Code (on "abuse of position") into line with EU law and better protect LGBT persons and other vulnerable groups.
Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SI), Parliament's rapporteur on Serbia, said the government's approach to fighting corruption was "a bizarre story." "Feeding the investigation results to the media is not acceptable, it is a shame," he exclaimed.
Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) said the media were central to the fight against corruption and organised crime and asked what Serbia intends to do "to address the lack of transparency of media ownership."
High-level dialogue with Pristina
"Kosovo will never be part of Serbia again," said Bernd Posselt (EPP, DE), stressing that the place of both Kosovo and Serbia was in the EU. He asked Ms Grubjesic to pay particular attention to special border crossings for local populations.
Asked by Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT) if she could confirm that the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia would meet as part of the high-level political dialogue, Ms Grubjesic said it was intended to hold such a meeting, but that no date had yet been set.
Resolutions to be voted in February
The Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on the draft resolutions on Serbia and Kosovo at an extraordinary meeting on 7 February. The plenary vote is expected in March.
In the chair: Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT)