At the end of his official visit to Serbia, PACE President Pedro Agramunt has encouraged Serbia – as well as all other states in the region – to strengthen regional co-operation and pursue reconciliation efforts. “Today, South-East Europe needs stability and co-operation as never before,” he said.
“Peace, good neighbourly relations and reconciliation are pre-conditions for the region’s economic development, social stability and advancement on the path of European integration, which is the strategic objective of all states in the region,” the PACE President added, commending the efforts of the Serbian authorities to develop good neighbourly relations with the countries of the region.
“In times of uncertainty, economic downturn, and geopolitical challenges, it is important for all democratic forces to resolutely oppose populist, nationalist and extremist movements which capitalise on citizens’ concerns and fears. This is especially important as we are facing such complex challenges as the refugee crisis and migration management as well as the threat of international terrorism,” the President said.
Turning to the refugee crisis, he commended Serbia’s efforts and constructive approach. “The authorities are doing their utmost to ensure that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants can cross the country in the best possible conditions. Recently, we have seen the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers wishing to stay in Serbia increase. Managing this new situation is a challenge, especially as winter is approaching. We need a comprehensive and pan-European approach to the refugee crisis and the migration phenomenon, based on fair responsibility-sharing and solidarity. I believe the Assembly can provide a platform for launching a debate about this issue, so as to propose the concrete elements of a solution to our member states,” he underlined.
Speaking about the co-operation between the Council of Europe and Serbia, the PACE President encouraged the authorities to make full use of Council of Europe expertise in the fields of judicial reform, the media, constitutional matters, the fight against corruption and the protection of minority rights, in the implementation of ongoing reforms.
“Our co-operation is good but we have the tools to strengthen it even further, in particular within the framework of the Joint Council of Europe-European Union Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey. Our co-operation programmes can help you benefit from the best of European expertise to move forward the EU integration agenda. Together, we can make progress faster,” he said.
Finally, the PACE President thanked the Serbian authorities, at the highest political level, as well as the members of Serbia’s National Assembly, for their support for the Assembly’s #NoHateNoFear initiative in the context of terrorism. “I count on you to promote this initiative further in Serbia as well as in the region,” the President concluded.
During the visit, the President met the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and members of the Serbian delegation to PACE, among others.