At the sitting held on 28 April 2021, the members of the European Integration Committee considered the European Parliament Resolution of 15 March 2021 on the 2019-2020 Commission reports on Serbia.
At the beginning of the sitting, the attending were addressed by National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic reminding them that the European Commission’s annual report on Serbia was considered in the plenum in December last year, which was the first time that the National Assembly considered a document by the European Union institutions on Serbia.
"With today's sitting, we are already paving the way for a good and useful democratic practice of talking about all the important positions of the European Union institutions in an open debate our parliament. I am sure that this will have a positive impact on our EU accession process overall because it shows that we threat the attitudes and recommendations of the highest EU institutions as responsibly as possible by giving them due attention in our parliament", said Dacic.
The National Assembly Speaker said it was good that in a significant part of the Resolution the European Parliament noted the progress of the reforms in Serbia, especially in terms of economic development, regional cooperation, dialogue with Pristina, the position of national minorities and minority social groups. However, he pointed out the critical and even negative assessments made in the Resolution, because he believes that most of them are baseless.
“Expressing a critical opinion is not a problem, it is an integral part of our relationship, what is important here is to separate critical opinion from material untruths expressed about certain topics, so I think it is important, when talking about certain texts of the various resolutions adopted in Brussels, that they follow the real situation in Serbia, and I think that today's debate should draw the our colleagues’ attention to the shortcomings present in this Resolution that harm Serbia and the European Parliament as well", said Dacic. That is why he emphasised that Serbia is open to conversation and providing adequate information so that everyone in Brussels has the opportunity to find out the factual situation on issues of vital importance for our country.
Dacic said that the Resolution notes that the practice of passing laws by urgent procedure should be stopped, which was a frequent objection of the European institutions in previous years.
The National Assembly Speaker Ivica Dacic was followed by the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Sem Fabrizi who addressed the gathering via a video link, welcoming this type of parliamentary debate and emphasising the good work and significant activity of the European Integration Committee. He stated that the EU Delegation in Serbia supports the work of the Parliament, which is a strong voice that accelerates Serbia’s European integration process. Fabrizi also praised the initiative of the European Parliament and the National Assembly to be mediators in the inter-party dialogue.
In the continuation, European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Serbia Vladimir Bilcik presented the European Parliament Resolution on the 2019-2020 Commission reports on Serbia via video link.
Bilcik pointed out that the Republic of Serbia sends a signal of serious commitment European integration to the European Union. He mentioned Aleksandar Vucic's recent visit to Brussels as another indicator of the work invested in the process. He said out that restrictions on movement are in force within the European Union, with the hope that, as soon as conditions for travel outside of the European Union are met, there will be opportunities for the MPs to exchange visits.
Bilcik congratulated Serbia on the excellent results achieved in the vaccination process, adding that the focus must be on achieving collective immunity, i.e. motivation to vaccinate a sufficient number of citizens to get a chance to finally defeat the pandemic. The key to this challenge lies in conducting an encouraging campaign and sending a positive message to citizens, Bilcik said. He added that in addition to the pandemic, the European Union is also focused on enlargement and invited the MPs to visit the European Parliament when the coronavirus situation stabilises, where they will have the opportunity to exchange views and experiences. Bilcik stated that his role is, among other things, to present the voice of Serbia in the EP, adding that the Resolution should not be taken personally, that it has its positive and negative criticisms that deserve a constructive approach. He emphasised that in drafting the Resolution itself, he tried to defend his initial position as much as possible, which further shows that the role of the EP is to support Serbia in aspects where it has shown good results and give constructive criticism where necessary. He pointed out that the EP supports the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which has been restarted, and that Serbia approaches this issue openly and committedly, as well as that 539 members of the European Parliament had supported this Resolution, with the message that the European Parliament supports Serbia's European path.
Bilcik also spoke about the improvement of the election process in Serbia, inter-party dialogue, position of national minorities, reform of the judicial system and the freedom of the media.
MPs Djordje Milicevic, Nemanja Joksimovic, Predrag Rajic, Dr Muamer Bacevac, Dubravka Filipovski and Milan Radin took part in the ensuing discussion. They agreed that Serbia’s strategic goal is full EU membership, adding that the Serbian administration is investing great efforts in the reform process in the area of the rule of law. They reminded the attending of the successful visit of the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic to Brussels, when it was agreed that the EU would work on the realisation of the capital infrastructure project of building a high-speed railway from Belgrade to North Macedonia.
Serbia is very committed to regional cooperation, dialogue with Pristina, the position of national minorities and minority social groups, concluded the members of the Committee. They also emphasised the cooperation with the National Convention on the European Union and civil society. The Committee members pointed out that the National Assembly regularly holds committee sittings, public hearings and on the last Thursday of the month the MPs have the opportunity to ask members of the Government of the Republic of Serbia questions.
They also said that the Serbian leadership has behaved excellently in the fight against the pandemic, emphasising the successful implementation of vaccination in Serbia where the citizens are offered four types of vaccines. They went on to add that two COVID hospitals have been built as well. Serbia has shown its solidarity by enabling the vaccination of citizens from the region.
The sitting was chaired by the Committee Chairperson Elvira Kovacs and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Milan Radin, Ana Miljanic, Vesna Rankovic, Predrag Gajic, Nemanja Joksimovic, Ilija Matejic, Viktor Jevtovic, Dubravka Filipovski, Ana Pesic, Milan Urosevic, Ljiljana Malusic, Dusica Stojkovic, Stanislava Janosevic, Dusan Radojevic, Djordje Milicevic, Dr Muamer Bacevac and Samira Cosovic.