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MEPs urge EU leaders to make Serbia a candidate for EU membership
Committee : Foreign Affairs
MEPs on Thursday welcomed the recommendation by EU ministers to grant Serbia candidate status and hope it will be endorsed by this week's summit. In a resolution adopted by the foreign affairs committee, they call for accession negotiations to be opened as soon as possible, on condition that Serbia continues its reform process. The committee also adopted resolutions on the progress of Montenegro and of Bosnia and Herzegovina towards possible EU membership.
"Serbia is now stepping on the long European road", rapporteur Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SL) said during the debate on Wednesday. The resolution points out that Serbia has achieved a fully satisfactory level of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) by handing over the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić.
Relations with Kosovo and reform of judicial system
MEPs welcome the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on inclusive regional cooperation reached on 24 February. However, they remain "seriously concerned" by the developments in north Kosovo in the second half of 2011 and by the attacks against the NATO Kosovo force (KFOR). The committee reminds the Serbian government of its obligation to do everything in its power to prevent this kind of violence.
MEPs note the reforms to Serbia's judiciary and prosecution service but they still call on the Serbian government to increase its efforts to ensure the independence and professionalism of these sectors, which "should undergo deep and broad reforms". They also call on the authorities to ensure that the High Judicial Council acts transparently, independently and to full capacity without any external pressures.
Montenegro's progress noted but corruption remains an issue
In their second resolution, MEPs note the significant progress made by Montenegro and welcome the European Council's decision to aim at starting accession negotiations in June. They also commend Montenegro for its role in strengthening good neighbourly relations with other Western Balkan countries. "Montenegro is a champion of regional co-operation," rapporteur Charles Tannock (ECR,UK) said during the debate on Wednesday.
However, the resolution underlines the need for efforts to implement the reforms, most importantly to combat corruption and organised crime. This "will remain essential throughout Montenegro's accession process", the text states.
The committee also highlights the problem that women in Montenegro continue to be severely under-represented in parliament, in top government posts and in decision-making positions in the public and private sector. The resolution encourages the Montenegrin authorities to step up their mainstreaming of gender-equality policies and introduce the principle of equal pay.
More concrete steps needed in reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina
MEPs are concerned about the limited progress with stabilisation and socio-economic development made by Bosnia and Herzegovina as a potential candidate for EU membership. Their resolution encourages the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities to take further concrete steps to put the country firmly back on track towards the EU, saying the state must have the legislative, budgetary, executive and judicial powers needed to meet EU accession criteria.
According to rapporteur Doris Pack (EPP, DE), there are two big questions to be solved: "One is the military property and state property is the other. Once those are cleared up, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be ready to set out on the road to Europe", she said in the debate.
The vote on the resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina is scheduled for the plenary session in March in Strasbourg, the one on Serbia is scheduled for the plenary in Brussels in the end of March, and the one on Montenegro for the April plenary.
In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)