MEPs urge Serbia’s politicians to refrain from hate speech in light of protests

NEWS 04.06.202313:15 0 komentara

The European Parliament’s co-facilitators of the Parliamentary Dialogue Process with the National Assembly of Serbia, MEPs Vladimir Bilcik and Matjaz Nemec, and former MEPs Knut Fleckenstein and Alojz Peterle issued a statement following their recent visit to Belgrade, urging Serbian political actors to "be civil, refrain from hate speech," and "treat those with a different opinion with due respect and humanity" in light of the ongoing anti-violence protests in the country.

Here is the full Statement of the European Parliament’s co-facilitators of the Parliamentary Dialogue Process (PDP), as published on the EP website:

„Holding a fully-fledged round of talks together with the Speaker and the political factions in the Serbian Parliament, launching a process to enhance the functioning of what should be the heart-chamber of a parliamentary democracy, that was the original intention of our visit to Belgrade/Serbia.

Within a few weeks, the situation on the ground has now changed dramatically. The country is in a situation of great emotional distress and political uproar.

People across Serbia, and we all, are deeply shaken by the tragic events which unfolded on 3 and 4 May and which led to the loss of many innocent lives. We paid tribute to the victims at Vladislav Ribnikar Model Elementary School and we remember those who were killed in Mladenovac and Smederevo. We join their families and friends in the mourning for their loved ones. We share their deep sorrow and intense feeling of loss.

Already on 8 May, at the opening of the plenary sitting in Strasbourg, the European Parliament stood with the citizens of Serbia in a moment of silence to jointly commemorate the innocent victims and setting a sign of compassion and solidarity. Two days later, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on the 2022 Commission report on Serbia. Among others, the resolution calls for the independence of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM), for political pluralism in the public broadcaster RTS and for stopping the dissemination of hate-speech and disinformation through national media outlets, press and electronic media. These days in Belgrade we could clearly observe that the positions adopted by the European Parliament reflect many of the concerns which worry wide parts of the Serbian public.

Many citizens are currently expressing their genuine unease about the direction in which the country’s political culture is sliding. They are anxious about the brutalization of the discourse in the public and also in the parliament itself. As the protests are on-going this weekend in Belgrade, it is crucial that all act responsibly, so that citizens can express their opinions peacefully, safely and without fear. We count on the police and the authorities to fulfil their duty and secure a safe space for these protests.

A special responsibility lies with political actors. We call on all of them to live up to the moment, to be civil, to refrain from hate speech, to treat those with a different opinion with due respect and humanity. We especially call on the media to act responsibly and objectively, and observe professional journalistic standards and ethics.

In the talks we have held these days in Belgrade with representatives of the governing majority and with those of the opposition, with Vladmir Orlic, the Speaker of the Serbian National Assembly, and Prime-Minister Ana Brnabić, we could grasp the need for a genuine and fair dialogue at eye-level.

The institutions must set an example of good democratic culture, a culture build on dialogue, fairness and respect. The parliament must be the forum where public discourse amalgamates and where the future of the country, including the desired EU-Membership, is debated and decided seriously, orderly and respectfully. At this moment, many have unfortunately noticed that the quality of the debates is further deteriorating. This is a worrying development. It only underlines the original purpose of our mission, namely to co-facilitate a genuine dialogue process among all political actors in the Serbian Parliament, in order to strengthen this institution and work together towards making it a beacon of parliamentary culture. This should be in the interest of all democratic forces in Serbia.“

We hope that we will be able to return to Belgrade soon. Given the necessary conditions, we want to start engaging in the Parliamentary Dialogue Process with all political groups in the Serbian Parliament and continue our institutional cooperation.