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European Law Monitor NewsPolitical reforms welcome, but full ICTY cooperation needed from Serbia, say MEPs

Parliament welcomes recent political events in Serbia, such as a new constitution, the formation of a new government, and the signing of a visa facilitation agreement with the EU. Nevertheless, MEPs underline that full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the arrest of the four remaining indicted war criminals, is a pre-condition for the signing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).

The Parliament notes that "the future of Serbia lies in the European Union," and that it "deserves special commendation for the peaceful resolution of a series of difficult challenges over the past year," including the independence of Montenegro, parliamentary elections and the formation of a new, pro-European government. It also "welcomes the completion of technical negotiations on an SAA," and the signing of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements on 18 September 2007.
Nevertheless, Members note that "corruption, particularly in the police and the judiciary, remains a serious problem," and that the Constitutional Court is not functioning, which is "not conducive to the development of democracy" in the country. The report also says that "a resolution to the status of Kosovo will both consolidate stability in the Western Balkans and facilitate the integration of the region into the European Union."

The ICTY and the legacy of the war

The report "welcomes the Serbian Government's desire to cooperate with the ICTY, which opens the way to further cooperation with the EU, but stresses that this cooperation must rapidly lead to further results." It reminds Serbia that "signature of the SAA is conditional upon full cooperation with the ICTY," and notes that in case arrests are made after this year (at the end of which the ICTY is currently envisaged to close), "it would be necessary to consider extending the mandate" of the court. Parliament also calls on the Commission to "initial the SAA without further delay," once the ICTY criteria have been met.
In addition, MEPs say "Serbia must honestly confront its recent past in order to progress," and call on the Serbian Parliament to "adopt a declaration denouncing the genocide in Srebrenica." The report also calls on Serbia 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."

Minority rights

The House underlines the need to find durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). MEPs also emphasise "the importance of ensuring that EU assistance is delivered both 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."
Both of these points are especially relevant to the areas of Vojvodina and Sandzak, which have large ethnic Hungarian and Bosnian populations, respectively. On the former, the report commends Serbia on improved inter-ethnic relations, and calls on it to "promote peaceful coexistence" amongst the different ethnicities there. On the latter, the House notes with pleasure that minorities are now represented in both the executive and the legislative bodies, but insists that more needs to be done to curb further radicalisation in the region. In general, the Parliament says that "the legal framework for the protection of minorities needs to be improved further" and is concerned by "persisting discrimination against the Roma community."

Further information: Relations between the European Union and Serbia