International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Bilcik report on Serbia-Criticism over Russia, concern over Vulin

January 24, 2023

The European Parliament's (EP) Standing Rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, published a draft report on Serbia that is to be debated by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and then by the EP.

At the very beginning Bilcik welcomes the fact that European Union (EU) membership continues to be Serbia’s strategic goal and underlines the fact that progress on the rule of law and fundamental rights, the normalisation of relations with Kosovo and alignment with the EU common foreign and security policy will determine the dynamics of the accession process.

Bilcik says he regrets Serbia’s continued low level of alignment with the EU common foreign and security policy, in particular in the context of the Russian war on Ukraine and underlines the fact that, as a candidate country, Serbia must adhere to the EU’s principles and policies, and that “alignment with a warmongering autocratic regime is unacceptable.”

Noted is Serbia’s alignment with the EU in voting in favour of relevant UN General Assembly resolutions and Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. Bilcik regrets, however, the fact that Serbia has consistently failed to align with the EU’s restrictive measures against Russia and deplores Serbia’s close relationship with Russia. He regrets the fact that “key components of Serbian foreign policy run directly counter to EU positions, including the signature of agreements setting out joint foreign policy priorities between Serbia and Russia for 2023-2024 and meetings with senior officials from Russia who are on the EU sanctions list,” reads the draft report.

Bilcik is concerned by the appointment of the Director of the Security Intelligence Agency (Aleksandar Vulin), who is known for his anti-EU and pro-Kremlin rhetoric.

In regard to democracy and the rule of law, Bilcik notes the approval of the amendments to the Serbian constitution and stresses that the reform process should continue as a matter of priority.

Bilcik “welcomes the adoption of measures on improving the electoral conditions and media environment ahead of the April 2022 elections as a result of the inter-party dialogue facilitated by the European Parliament and welcomes the readiness of the National Assembly to continue this dialogue,” reads the report.

The EP Standing Rapporteur urges the Serbian authorities to intensify their efforts to safeguard human rights.

Bilcik “condemns the opening of an RT (formerly Russia Today) office in Belgrade and the launch of its online news service in Serbian and urges the Serbian authorities to counter hybrid threats and align with the Council’s decision on the suspension of the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT and calls on Serbia to fight disinformation.”

He also expresses concern about the delayed implementation of the media strategy and the related action plan and urges the government to increase the transparency of media ownership and financing and ensure the independence of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM).

“Bilcik regrets the fact that the REM awarded four national frequencies to channels that have a history of violating journalistic standards; calls for the fifth licence to be awarded through a transparent and impartial process,” reads the draft report.

The EP Standing Rapporteur welcomes the holding in Belgrade of the first-ever EuroPride march in south-east Europe, adding that he “regrets the contradictory communication by the Serbian authorities, including the initial ban on the march.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/bilcik-report-on-serbia-criticism-over-russia-concern-over-vulin/

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