Ambassador Holland underlines continued UK support for the work of OSCE Mission to Serbia, including on media reforms and integration of national minorities.

Neil Holland

Welcome back to the Permanent Council, Ambassador Braathu. Thank you for this comprehensive Report on the Mission’s activities and achievements.

Your Report clearly sets out the political context for the Mission’s work over the last 12 months. The UK welcomes your continued partnership with the Government of Serbia throughout this period, helping Serbia to meet its OSCE commitments and continue on the path of reform. 

The United Kingdom recognises that the work of the Mission in this reporting period had been strongly influenced by early elections and we welcome the formation of a new government on 1 May. The UK notes the preliminary conclusions of the ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the local elections on 2 June, stating that elections were well-administered and offered voters a wide range of political alternatives – though longstanding concerns relating to pressure on public sector employees, misuse of public resources, and media bias remain. We encourage the Serbian government to engage constructively with ODIHR and international partners to swiftly address outstanding recommendations.

The UK recognises that recent months have been dominated by sensitive issues for Serbia, including the adoption of a resolution in the UN General Assembly to create an International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide. We encourage Serbia to work constructively with its neighbours and international partners to address legacies from the conflicts of the 90s, to build a more prosperous and peaceful future for all. We call on Serbia to refrain from any action and rhetoric that threatens regional stability, and to cooperate fully with efforts to hold to account those responsible for the shocking attacks in Banjska last September. We also urge action to tackle cross-border arms smuggling.

The UK welcomes the work of the OSCE Mission this year in improving the integration of national minorities, including through support to National Councils, language training for students and recruitment to the police service. We commend the Mission’s work on advancing media reforms and welcome its continued engagement. We share concerns about the continued polarisation of the media environment and the alarming rise in attacks against journalists. We thank the Mission for its swift interventions, including through its role in the Permanent Working Group for the Safety of Journalists.

The UK also particularly appreciates the Mission’s continued commitment to mainstreaming a gender equality perspective across all areas of Mission activity, including through engagement with parliament and support to universities in implementing gender action plans.

Madam Chair, we regret that it is again necessary to underline the hugely negative impact the continued non-agreement of the Unified Budget is having on the work of OSCE field missions, including through cancelled programmes and staff attrition. It is high time that participating States who are obstructing agreement look beyond a narrow national focus and ensure all OSCE institutions have the funding they need.

Ambassador Braathu, I would like to thank you once again for your leadership of the OSCE Mission to Serbia during this reporting period. I wish you and your team success in your work over the coming year.

Published 13 June 2024