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EP Resolutions Press Balkan to Continue Reforms

By Maja Živanović (BIRN) - European Parliament resolutions on five Balkan countries that have either opened accession negotations – or hope to do so – stressed the need to speed up reforms – while hailing Macedonia’s potential breakthrough with Greece.

Members of the EU Parliament vote during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 28 November 2018. EPA-EFE/Stephanie Lecocq

European Parliamentarians adopted country resolutions on Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania on Thursday, underlining that each one must improve its results on issues related to judiciary and media freedom.

During the debate, Albania’s progress was highlighted on judicial reforms. However, MEPs remain concerned over the high level of corruption in Albania, the slow pace and inefficiency of the justice system. Rule-of-law deficiencies and cumbersome regulatory procedures continue to deter investment, it was said.

The resolution on Kosovo called for “visa liberalisation … without undue delay” in order to bring Kosovo closer to the EU. MEPs expressed concern at the “lack of cross-party consensus and lingering political polarisation, which continues to adversely affect the path to sustainable reform” in Kosovo.

The resolution also noted that five EU member states – Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Slovakia and Romania – have still not recognised Kosovo and invited them to do so, saying this would ease relations between Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia.

In the discussion on Macedonia, MEPs said that Macedonia’s progress in reaching a deal with Greece on its name was the most important event in the Balkans in 2018.

The resolution also urged Hungary to extradite Macedonia’s ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who fled the country to avoid a two-year jail sentence and other trials.

MEPs also called on Macedonia to intensify the fight against money laundering and conflicts of interest, shield the judiciary better from political interference and address remaining rule-of-law problems.

Montenegro was urged to prioritise problems with the rule of law, media freedom, corruption, money laundering, organised crime and its associated violence.

On Serbia, MEPs called on the Belgrade authorities to step up reform of the rule of law, intensify the fight against corruption and organised crime and continue to reform the public administration to make it more politically neutral.

The resolution emphasized “the multinational structure of Kosovo and Serbia”, urged Serbia to help solve the murder of the Kosovo Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic – and reminded it of the need to align its foreign and security policy with the EU, including on Russia.

Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since 2005 but has not yet opened accession negotiations.

Serbia, Montenegro and Albania are all candidate countries.

Kosovo is recognized as a potential candidate country.

The resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina, another potential candidate country, was not on the agenda, because the post-election process of forming governments in the country has not finished.

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