European Parliament representatives will attempt to help bring back dialogue to the Serbian parliament, which the opposition has boycotted for months. The first meeting of European and Serbian parliamentarians in Belgrade is to take place in early October, six months before the country’s next general election.
Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojković told the chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee, David McAllister, that the engagement of MEPs in restoring dialogue between Serbian parliamentary parties was “welcome.”
At a press conference on Wednesday (18 September), Gojković voiced hope that a discussion would soon be launched on ways to organise the meetings in parliament and on the discussion topics, adding that the idea was for the first stage of the talks to start on 9-10 October.
She would preside over the dialogue, with the participation of a group of European Parliament representatives, while at a later stage, representatives of all parliamentary parties will be invited.
The next election in Serbia, an EU candidate country, is due in the spring of 2020. But many parties are unhappy with election conditions, the media environment, and society in general have already announced their plans to boycott the polls, including the Alliance for Serbia, which brings together the leading opposition politicians.
“We are all aware of the deadlines before us and we will focus, in the first stage, on discussing themes that are well-known to all political actors and the public, namely conditions for the elections coming up in March 2020. That pertains to the media, the voter roll, campaign financing and similar topics,” said Gojković.
During a visit to Serbia in late August, McAllister recalled that he had conveyed the EP’s readiness to help already in February.
The EP will continue to work on finding common ground, if our mediation is expected by all involved, McAllister said, adding that “it takes two to tango” and that dialogue also required two or more partners.
A few days after McAllister, an EP delegation headed by Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein also visited Belgrade.
The objective was for the EP delegation to “hear out” the representatives of the main political parties so as to understand the political atmosphere in Serbia and identify specific issues that could help improve political dialogue in the Serbian parliament.
The Alliance for Serbia described McAllister’s initiative as a welcome, but too late for the election due next March.
Bosko Obradović said the Alliance was ready to respond to the EU’s invitation but stressed that the terms remained the same – implementing all the recommendations made by a team of experts of the One Out of the Five Million association, which is behind the months-long protests in Serbia.
He said the Alliance would not respond to any “invitation sent by Maja Gojković”. “But if we receive an invitation from the EP, we are ready to take part in the talks,” Obradović said.
Dragan Đilas, head of the Party of Freedom and Justice, one of the members of the Alliance for Serbia, also said they would only take part if invited by the European Parliament.
The Movement of Free Citizens welcomed the EP’s readiness to mediate and called on all opposition parties to join the dialogue despite the previously declared boycott.
Its leader, Sergej Trifunović, invited McAllister in late August to mediate negotiations on fair elections in Serbia.
In an open letter, Trifunović urged McAllister to organise a dialogue under EU auspices between the Serbian authorities and opposition, involving civil society organisations and journalist associations, in order to reach an agreement on a realistic framework for holding the 2020 election.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Benjamin Fox]