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Procedure : 2007/2126(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0325/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0325/2007

Debates :

PV 24/10/2007 - 12
CRE 24/10/2007 - 12

Votes :

PV 25/10/2007 - 7.11
CRE 25/10/2007 - 7.11
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0482

Texts adopted
WORD 73k
Thursday, 25 October 2007 - Strasbourg Final edition
EU-Serbia relations
P6_TA(2007)0482A6-0325/2007

European Parliament recommendation to the Council of 25 October 2007 on relations between the European Union and Serbia (2007/2126(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council by Jelko Kacin on behalf of the ALDE Group on relations between the European Union and Serbia (B6-0202/2007),

–   having regard to its resolution of 29 September 2005 on the defence of multi-ethnicity in Vojvodina(1) ,

–   having regard to the report of 2 March 2005 on the fact-finding mission by its ad hoc delegation to Vojvodina and Belgrade,

–   having regard to the establishment of the Republic of Serbia as the successor to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro following a referendum in Montenegro on 21 May 2006 in which independence was favoured,

–   having regard to the new Serbian constitution adopted by popular referendum on 28-29 October 2006,

–   having regard to the Commission's 2006 Progress Report on Serbia of 8 November 2006 (SEC(2006)1389),

–   having regard to Serbia's accession to NATO's Partnership for Peace on 14 December 2006,

–   having regard to the outcome of the Serbian parliamentary elections on 21 January 2007,

–   having regard to the judgment of 26 February 2007 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro,

–   having regard to the Council of Europe's Venice Commission Opinion No. 405/2006 on the Constitution of Serbia, of 19 March 2007,

–   having regard to the formation of a new government in Belgrade on 15 May 2007,

–   having regard to the five key objectives of the new Serbian government, presented on 15 May 2007,

–   having regard to the resumption of the negotiations on an EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) on 13 June 2007,

–   having regard to the conclusions on the Western Balkans of the General Affairs Council of 12 February and 18 June 2007,

–   having regard to the report of 18 June 2007 presented by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to the United Nations Security Council concerning Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY,

–   having regard to the exchange of views with the ICTY Chief Prosecutor at the meeting of Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs of 26 June 2007,

–   having regard to the agreement between the EU and Serbia for the proper enforcement of property rights with a view to achieving both political and economic stability,

–   having regard to Rule 114(3) and Rule 90 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6-0325/2007),

A.   whereas the future of Serbia lies in the European Union,

B.   whereas Serbia is an important factor for stability and prosperity in the region, with the prospect of EU membership providing a major incentive to reform,

C.   whereas Serbia is a signatory of the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA) and has recently completed the technical negotiations relating to the SAA; whereas Serbia's accession to the WTO may be concluded before 2008,

D.   whereas seventy per cent of those Serbs who voted are in favour of EU membership and two thirds of citizens voted for parties belonging to the democratic camp,

E.   whereas Serbia has a new government which is pro-European and pro-reform,

F.   whereas Serbia's successful resumption of the SAA negotiations could serve as a further example of the positive changes in the Western Balkans, influenced, inter alia , by the EU,

G.   whereas genuine efforts have been and should continue to be made to overcome the divisions and attitudes of the past to promote a European future for the citizens of Serbia,

H.   whereas in 2006 the Serbian economy showed strong growth (around 5,8%) and a growing volume of foreign direct investment; whereas, however, concerns remain regarding the current account deficit, which continues to grow, and the high unemployment rate (around 20,9% in 2006),

I.   whereas corruption remains a serious problem in Serbia, and whereas on Transparency International's 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, Serbia had an average score of 3,0 (on a scale ranging from 0 "highly corrupt" to 10 "highly clean"),

J.   whereas two of the six fugitive war crimes indictees wanted by the ICTY have recently been arrested and transferred to The Hague and four remain at large, including Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić,

K.   whereas the Serbian public is not sufficiently informed about the extent of the crimes committed in the recent wars, most notably in Srebrenica,

L.   whereas the wars in Yugoslavia have profoundly altered the social fabric of Serbia and have prompted, inter alia , the emigration of large numbers of the political and intellectual elite and the influx of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), together with the return of the veterans traumatised by the violence of the 1990s,

M.   whereas the disintegration of Yugoslavia had devastating consequences in terms of loss of life and human suffering, thereby making inter-ethnic reconciliation a factor of paramount importance in securing stability in the region,

1.  Believes that Serbia deserves special commendation for the peaceful resolution of a series of difficult challenges over the past year, including the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, fair and free parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government with a pro-European engagement;

2.  Welcomes the completion of technical negotiations on an SAA between the Serbian Government and the EU after a 13-month break; encourages both parties to make all the necessary arrangements in order to avoid technical delays prior to signature of the SAA, so that the signature can take place before the end of 2007; regards the signature of the SAA as an important step in the road towards EU accession;

3.  Welcomes the Serbian Government's desire to cooperate with the ICTY, which opens the way to further cooperation with the EU;

4.  Takes note of the briefing presented by the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, Carla Del Ponte, to the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the EU, meeting in Luxembourg on 15 October 2007; calls on Serbia to resolve the still open issues concerning full cooperation with the ICTY in connection with the forthcoming visit of Ms Del Ponte to Belgrade; calls on the Commission, once those issues have been resolved, to initial the SAA without further delay;

5.  Congratulates Serbia on its recent progress in cooperating with the ICTY, which has made it possible for the SAA negotiations to be resumed and for the ICTY's Chief Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, to give a positive assessment regarding Serbia's cooperation with the Tribunal; welcomes the arrest and transfer to The Hague of Zdravko Tolimir and Vlastimir Đorđević, the assurance of Prime Minister Koštunica to Carla Del Ponte that "more arrests are likely" (including ex-Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić), and the creation of new structures aimed at centralising all activities to apprehend fugitives, including improved transparency of the National Security Council; welcomes the cooperation between the authorities of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro in facilitating the recent transfers to The Hague;

6.  Reminds Serbia that signature of the SAA is conditional upon full cooperation with the ICTY, and that this should lead to the arrest and transfer of all remaining indictees, whilst noting that the recent arrests prove that the Serbian authorities are able to find and apprehend indicted war criminals; stresses that full cooperation with the ICTY is not only an international obligation but also a key step towards achieving lasting reconciliation in the region; to this end, calls on the Serbian parliament to fulfil its commitments arising from the above-mentioned ICJ judgment and to adopt a declaration denouncing the genocide in Srebrenica;

7.  Believes, given the timetable for closure of the ICTY, which currently envisages the conclusion of trials by 2008, that it would be necessary to consider extending the mandate of the ICTY were indicted war criminals to be arrested after that date;

8.  Notes that the compromise agreement reached at the Brussels European Council of 21 and 22 June 2007 paves the way for a renewed legal basis for the European Union by 2009, creating the necessary institutional setting for future enlargements and enabling the EU and Serbia dynamically to conduct the accession process on the basis of Serbia's development and merits;

9.  Takes the view that resolving the issue of the status of Kosovo will both consolidate stability in the Western Balkans and facilitate the integration of the region into the European Union;

10.  Is pleased to note that Serbia has made significant economic progress since 2000, with an average annual growth rate of 5%; notes, however, that according to the IMF's assessment, this has not translated into a reduction in poverty or in the high unemployment rate (which is over 20%); believes that tackling these problems represents a core challenge for the new government; therefore calls on the Serbian government to make a firmer commitment to employment creation and poverty alleviation and to adopt concrete measures aimed at a more balanced economic development in all districts of the country, with particular attention being paid to underdeveloped south-eastern and eastern parts of the country;

11.  Believes that the further development of administrative structures and procedures can increase trust in the rule of law, strengthen the market economy and encourage economic growth in Serbia; calls on the Serbian authorities to improve the economic climate for foreign investment and transparency in trade relationships;

12.  Is pleased to record that Serbia has a new constitution which includes positive provisions regarding human rights; notes, however, that the legal framework for the protection of minorities needs to be improved further; is concerned about problematic provisions relating, inter alia , to the procedure for appointing, promoting and dismissing judges and prosecutors and the lack of adequate public consultation or parliamentary debate during the drafting process; calls on the Serbian authorities to consider enhancing the scope of territorial decentralisation, in particular vis-à-vis Vojvodina;

13.  Emphasises the importance of ensuring that EU assistance is delivered in a manner which takes into account the current territorial and administrative structure of Serbia and the ethnic composition and traditional economic and cultural relations within the territories concerned, with the full involvement of local and regional authorities; calls on the Commission, the Council and its own competent committees to closely monitor the organising of NUTS 2 level regions in Serbia;

14.  Commends Serbia for the greater transparency achieved in the operation of the government and parliament and for its good administrative capacity; congratulates Serbia on the adoption of the Law on the Budget for 2007 and on the election of an Ombudsman and a Commissioner for Public Information, a Governor of the National Bank of Serbia and the members of the Council of the State Audit Institution; regrets that the nomination of judges for the Constitutional Court is still pending;

15.  Strongly believes that a key human rights issue is to find durable solutions for refugees and IDPs, especially since Serbia is still hosting a very high number of refugees, mostly from Croatia and partly from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and IDPs from Kosovo; deeply regrets that the end-of-2006 deadline for resolving all outstanding issues foreseen by the Sarajevo Declaration on the return of refugees and property reparations, signed on 31 January 2005 by Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro, has not been met and that little progress has been made since;

16.  Therefore calls on the Serbian Government to pursue its efforts to implement the Sarajevo Declaration, including by adopting a clear legal framework covering, inter alia , the right to return to the place of origin and the right to property compensation; urges the EU, its Member States and the international community to remain committed to upholding the rights of refugees, and to provide continuing support to the countries in question, including by earmarking sufficient financial resources to that end; emphasises that the integration or resettlement of IDPs and refugees should not significantly alter the original ethnic balance of an area or region; in this respect, draws attention to the Council of Europe's Framework Convention of 1 February 1995 on the Protection of Minorities;

17.  Recognises the progress made in the fight against organised crime and corruption, which has recently led to many high-profile arrests, whilst noting that corruption, particularly in the police and the judiciary, remains a serious problem and that official investigations into corruption often appear to be politically motivated; points out that corruption is a major obstacle to attracting greater foreign investment, and calls on the Serbian government to implement a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy; considers it necessary to pursue the fight against organised crime;

18.  Welcomes the completion of the transfer of competencies for state border protection from the army to the police as a major step towards meeting EU standards; urges the Council and the Commission to further encourage the Serbian government to carry out substantial reform of the police, the security services and the army, including measures to provide for greater civilian oversight of the military; considers that the reform of the police should take into account the need for minority-language-speaking police forces in regions inhabited by large minority populations;

19.  Believes that promotion of the rule of law and the strict implementation of legal provisions must form one of the government's top priorities; welcomes the judicial reform measures taken to date but stresses the need for this process to be pursued, particularly in relation to the speed of trials, witness protection, the prevention of corruption and the independence of judges; regrets that the Constitutional Court is not functioning, and points out that this is not conducive to the development of democracy and democratic legislation in Serbia;

20.  Welcomes the conclusion of the trial for the murder of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić and supports a recent initiative by the special prosecution to uncover the political motives behind the assassination;

21.  Welcomes the work of the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor but regrets that domestic war crimes trials are undermined by a lack of transparency and political will to trace back the chain of command responsibility beyond the immediate perpetrators to those who issued the orders; believes that the sentences imposed by the Serbian war crimes court on four members of the paramilitary group, the Scorpions, for the execution of six Muslims from Srebrenica did not reflect the heinous nature of the crime; notes that the Serbian President indicated his public regret at the short duration of the sentences imposed;

22.  Believes that the citizens of Serbia are entitled to be told the truth about the recent policies of war and genocide committed in their name, and to have knowledge of the perpetrators of war crimes; believes that Serbia must honestly confront its recent past in order to progress and that coming to terms with the past is an integral part of the road to reconciliation with Serbia's neighbours; calls on the government to re-open the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 2001, not least in order to promote a positive climate in those parts of the country which have been most affected by inter-ethnic conflict; urges the Commission to promote initiatives facilitating people-to-people contacts in the region and to allocate a greater proportion of funds to this end;

23.  Welcomes the Serbian President's apology to Croatian citizens for war crimes committed in Serbia's name during the recent war; regards that apology as an expression of great political maturity and democratic leadership and as concrete evidence of the current government's determination to pursue a policy of friendship and cooperation with its neighbouring countries;

24.  Believes that reconciliation and justice are indispensable for the stability and development of all the countries in the region as well as for their integration into the European Union; urges Serbia's neighbouring countries to follow this model and to condemn any manifestation of ethnic intolerance and racism which takes place in their territories;

25.  Believes that the EU and its Member States should initiate and support programmes aimed at the provision of psycho-social counselling, focused primarily but not exclusively on women and children traumatised by their experiences before and during the war;

26.  Welcomes the recent cooperation between Belgrade and Priština in searching for missing persons from the Kosovo conflict, in particular the recent joint efforts in the district of Raška; calls on the Serbian Government to issue a public report on Mačkatica;

27.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to allocate to the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) sufficient financial resources to enable that organisation to complete its work of identifying all missing persons in the territory of the former Yugoslavia by 2010; believes that the work of the ICMP contributes significantly to the process of truth, justice and reconciliation in the region;

28.  Notes that, according to a survey conducted by the Strategic Marketing Agency for the Students Union of Serbia in 2004, 70% of Serbian university students have never travelled abroad; welcomes the initiatives to provide Serbian students with opportunities to study in EU countries; calls on the Member States to seek new ways of promoting interaction with Serbian people;

29.  Notes that Serbia actively contributes to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations through membership of numerous regional initiatives such as the Stability Pact/Regional Cooperation Council and CEFTA; calls on Serbia to continue to play a responsible role in the region; emphasises that it is in Serbia's best interests to develop and maintain good relations with its regional partners, to enhance effective trans-border cooperation, fully utilising the potential of the national minorities in the border areas, and to participate actively in bilateral, regional and European infrastructural projects; reiterates that the future of all countries in the region lies in the EU;

30.  Encourages the Serbian Government to promote good neighbourly relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina;

31.  Urges the Serbian Government to continue the dialogue with its south-east European neighbours on border issues, given that territorial demarcations between Serbia and Croatia and between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have yet to be established;

32.  Commends Serbia on improved inter-ethnic relations, in particular in Vojvodina where there has been a reduction in, although not a total cessation of, inter-ethnic incidents; calls on the Serbian authorities to take additional measures to promote the development of national minorities in multi-ethnic Vojvodina, to promote peaceful coexistence amongst them and to ensure that the police, the judiciary and other state bodies act on an ethnically neutral basis and, in order to build the necessary trust amongst the population towards those institutions, to ensure that the ethnic composition is adequately reflected in the staff of those authorities; further calls on the Serbian authorities to manage carefully any potential influx of refugees in order not to disrupt the ethnic, cultural, religious, economic and political balance of the region, with a view to ensuring their successful integration into a multicultural environment; emphasises the utmost importance of programmes aimed at tolerance-building between the communities, particularly in Vojvodina; is of the view that EU funding is also necessary for these programmes;

33.  Is pleased to note that ethnic Albanian parties from the Preševo Valley participated in the recent elections for the first time in a decade and that minorities are represented in both the legislative and executive branches of power; believes that Sandžak remains a region of particular concern and calls on the government to work with local political actors with a view to devising policies to curb further radicalisation and divisions within the community;

34.  Welcomes the earmarking of funds in the 2007 budget for projects directly linked to the Decade of Roma Inclusion; is concerned, however, by the overall lack of a systemic policy approach towards improving the lives and living conditions of the Roma, including IDPs and returnees, and by persisting discrimination against the Roma community;

35.  Calls on the Serbian Government to implement in full the National Plans of Action for the implementation of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, both financially and institutionally, in order to devise practical and sustainable solutions for the Roma community; reminds Serbia that the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and the sustainable repatriation of Roma people still living in camps are listed amongst the priorities of the European Partnership with Serbia;

36.  Takes notes of the establishment of an Agency for Human and Minority Rights, directly under the Prime Minister, replacing the former State Union Ministry for Human and Minority Rights; calls on the Prime Minister to pursue a coherent and active minority policy and to ensure that human and minority rights are a priority on the Government's agenda; welcomes the fact that the new Serbian Constitution gives a constitutional basis to the National Councils of ethnic minorities and calls for the adoption of new legislation to provide better regulation for the status, work, and election of these Councils; looks forward to such legislation providing an improved legal framework for the protection of minority rights and the integration of all national minorities into state structures;

37.  Welcomes the adoption of a comprehensive national strategy to combat human trafficking, but urges the Serbian Government to be more stringent in prosecuting cases and ensuring that traffickers receive and serve prison sentences consistent with the nature of the offence;

38.  Believes that the transformation of Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) into a public service represents a step forward, but draws attention to the lack of public debate surrounding modifications to the Law on Broadcasting and shortcomings in the procedure for appointing RTS board members; draws attention also to the need to draw up fully democratic rules governing the allocation of radio and television broadcasting concessions and providing in particular for the possibility of appealing against decisions of the concessionary authority; deeply regrets that there has been no progress in the resolution of cases involving murders of journalists and deplores the recent attempted assassination of a prominent investigative reporter of war crimes and organised crime; demands that the relevant authorities find the perpetrators and thoroughly investigate the crime;

39.  Notes the existence of a well-developed NGO sector and welcomes efforts by the authorities to consult with the civil sector, in particular the special memorandum of cooperation signed by the Serbian Office for European Integration and NGOs and the Council for Relations with Civil Society, established by the President of Serbia, and the Foreign Policy Council, established by the Serbian Foreign Minister, as well as the inclusion of NGO representatives in the state Council for European Integration, chaired by the Prime Minister; calls on the Serbian parliament to adopt legislation to improve the legal situation for civil society organisations;

40.  Condemns the public denigration of civic society actors who criticise the government or draw attention to sensitive issues such as war crimes; deplores a recent spate of politically motivated assaults and warns of the increasing prevalence of hate speech in the media and politics targeted at human rights activists, journalists and politicians;

41.  Welcomes the signing of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements on 18 September 2007 and urges the Council to ensure that they enter into force by the end of 2007; welcomes the adoption of the Law on Travel Documents and notes that laws on asylum, state borders and foreigners are currently in the course of adoption; calls on the Council, with the support of the Commission, to establish a concrete roadmap for visa-free movement and to adopt support measures designed to increase travel opportunities for a greater proportion of citizens, particularly young people; emphasises the importance of mobility for the political and economic development of Serbia, since mobility grants people the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the EU and facilitates Serbia's European integration process; calls for greater participation in life-long learning and cultural exchange projects; invites the Council to consider establishing a common system for managing visa applications in such a way as to lighten the burden on the busiest consulates and to ensure that applications are processed within reasonable deadlines;

42.  Takes the view that the reform of the education system is not only an imperative but also the only way for Serbia to develop a new system of values for younger generations within the present democratisation process;

43.  Calls on the Council, the Commission and all Member States to make concerted efforts to increase EU visibility in Serbia, and urges the Commission to avoid further delay in recruiting staff to its delegation office, including experts to manage IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance) funds;

44.  Calls on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and its Subcommittee on Human Rights to continue to follow the situation in Vojvodina closely, following up the conclusions drawn in the above-mentioned report of the fact-finding mission by its ad hoc delegation in Vojvodina;

45.  Calls on the Serbian authorities to adopt, as a matter of urgency, restitution laws in line with those of other countries, which provide for real-cost compensation when appropriate, instead of government bonds;

46.  Calls on the new Member States to play an active role in Serbia's move towards the EU, allowing Serbia to benefit from their experience of reforms;

47.  Calls on the Serbian authorities to continue approximating EU environmental legislation and standards and to implement and enforce adopted legislation;

48.  Welcomes Serbian membership of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development; calls on the Council to increase twinning and technical assistance programmes, in particular those targeted at young people;

49.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council and, for information, to the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of Serbia.

(1) OJ C 227 E, 21.9.2006, p. 620.

Last updated: 15 August 2008Legal notice