EWB Interview, David McAllister: Threats, violence and intimidation against journalists remain an issue of concern

Source/Author: European Western Balkans, Nikola S. Ristic
Source/Photo: Photo: www.mc.rs

SARAJEVO, 06.04.2017. – We spoke to MEP David McAllister, Standing Rapporteur on Serbia and Chair of AFET and discuss his view on the Western Balkan six prime ministers summit in Sarajevo, his work in the European Parliament, Savamala case, freedom of media in Serbia and the latest visit of HRVP Federica Mogherini to the Western Balkan countries. 

European Western Balkans: What do you think about the summit of the Western Balkan six prime ministers in Sarajevo? Do you expect that the tensions between the countries could be decreased after it?

David McAllister: The Prime Ministers put an emphasis on their commitment to the EU accession perspective and pointed out that sincere devotion to the process of reconciliation is essential for the stability of their common region. Constant exchanges between the leaders of the six countries is important to resolve pending bilateral issues. This was a helpful symbol we needed at this moment.

EWB: Does the fact that you have become the chair of AFET could influence your work as the standing rapporteur on Serbia? Will you follow the latest developments in Serbia with the same precision?

DM: Becoming the chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) does not have a negative impact on my work as standing rapporteur for Serbia. It is the other way around. The knowledge I gained as standing rapporteur for Serbia has had a positive impact on my work as the new AFET chair.

EWB: Savamala Case has finally become a part of the Serbia report. How much is this case important for Serbia and its European path?

DM: The European Union has always made clear that the rule of law is at the heart of Serbia’s accession process. The implementation of the action plans for chapter 23 and 24 remains key. In this context, the Members of the European Parliament took note of the controversial events in Belgrade’s Savamala district and encourage the Serbian authorities for their swift resolution.

EWB: Serbian CSOs are concerned about media freedom and human rights in the country, beside the fact that Serbia is making progress in the accession talks. What are your thoughts about this issue?

DM: The freedom of media is a constituent element of democracy. Observers I speak to in Belgrade and Brussels are concerned about deteriorating conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression in Serbia. Threats, violence and intimidation against journalists remain an issue of concern. The European Parliament has been clear about the necessity of creating a media friendly environment in all six Western Balkan countries.

EWB: Do you think that HRVP Mogherini’s visit to the Balkans had some impact on the current political situation in the region? How would you asses it?

DM: The Western Balkan countries are facing tough political challenges. With her visit, HR/VP Mogherini underlined the strong support of the EU for the region. Staying on the European path means stability and security for the Western Balkans. Federica Mogherini found the right words in her speech to students in Skopje:”I am telling you ‘be impatient!’ and ask for what you want and try to work for what you want. I am not telling you to wait for better times; I am telling you to engage, stay positive, stay positive and consistent and do not let frustration turn into cynicism, violence, or divisions.” I have nothing more to add.