European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said in the European Parliament on Oct. 19 that the EU would not be whole until it built in the Western Balkans into it, as, in addition to geography, it shared the same interests, values and history.

Varhelyi explained to MEPs in the EP's Foreign Policy Committee the European Commission's annual report on the progress of reforms in partner states in the Western Balkans, saying that some progress had been achieved in the region, but that deficiencies still existed in the areas of rule of law, judicial independence, freedom of the media and curbing corruption and organized crime.

Responding to MEPs' questions, he stressed that Serbia had confirmed its devotion to reforms and that it was on its way to changing its constitution but that, "Serbia must bolster and deepen its battle against corruption and organized crime and strengthen reforms in the area of the freedom of the media." He also stressed the importance of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and said that "all unilateral and unharmonized actions must be avoided."

In its yearly Progress Report, which was presented on Oct. 19, the European Commission has called on Serbia to invest additional effort in the implementation of all previously achieved agreements with Kosovo and contribute to reaching a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on normalization of relations, which is urgent and crucial for progress of both Serbia and Kosovo on their EU paths.

The report says that Serbia, generally, has been actively participating in regional cooperation and has remained committed to bilateral relations with other EU candidate countries and the neighboring EU member states. However, the report says, the relations with Montenegro have been marked with constant tension.

The Report states that Serbia has made “limited progress” in freedom of expression, while verbal attacks, threats and violence against journalists are still concerning. In the part addressing fundamental rights, the report notes that Serbia has a legal and institutional framework for the exercise of these rights, but underlines that Serbia “needs to ensure the framework is consistently and efficiently implemented.”

The European Commission suggests the opening of Cluster 3 (Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth) and Cluster 4 (Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity). It notes that the Serbian government has fulfilled a number of important criteria under these two clusters.

Source: Beta

Photo: EU