Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) made the following statement today in support of the Government of Serbia’s progress in reforming its government, and urging Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić to continue to work to modernize the country’s laws:
“I am pleased to acknowledge the recent progress made by the Government of Serbia and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić’s efforts to strengthen Serbia’s contribution to Balkan stability, including the significant agreement reached in four key areas with Kosovo just this week.
“I strongly urge the Serbian government to continue its efforts to adopt reforms that uphold basic democratic principles, such as modernizing its legal system, respecting human rights, and protecting the rule of law. The State Department’s recent Human Rights Report has also called on Serbia to do more to address corruption, lack of transparency in the government, and independence of the judiciary.
“I am particularly aware that Serbian criminal law – and Article 234 of the Serbian Criminal Code in particular – has been criticized by European Union (EU) representatives and other experts for its abuse by Serbian authorities.
“As the government of Serbia seeks to advance its bilateral relationship with the United States, and as it looks to it EU accession plan, it must prioritize the continuation of reform in its government. I urge Serbia to continue in these efforts, which could include the full repeal of Article 234. At the same time, I also hope for more vigorous efforts leading to effective prosecution of truly outstanding cases like the murder of the three American-citizen Bytyqi brothers in 1999.
“As the ranking Democrat on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe, I have spent my career advocating for human rights, freedom, rule of law, and democracy throughout the world, especially in the Balkans. I am pleased by the progress Serbia and the United States have made in our bilateral relationship, and will continue to work to support the Serbian government as they make efforts to reform.”
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.