The Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia is concerned about the statement made by Aleksandra Djurovic, Ambassador of Serbia to the Council of Europe (CoE), at the organization’s 4th Summit on May 17, in which she pointed out that “Serbia is in a situation to consider the further meaning and modality of its membership in this organization, by the decision to start the procedure for Kosovo’s membership.” Such announcements by government officials pose an additional risk to Serbia’s deeply breached human rights protection commitments.

The Council of Europe is an international organization whose mission is to uphold the highest standards of fundamental rights and freedoms and to promote the growth of democratic societies, which depend on peace. The most important act of this organization in the context of the protection of human rights is the European Convention on Human Rights and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights.

Serbia must ensure that all citizens enjoy basic human rights, as well as access to their protection mechanisms, which would be jeopardized and prevented by the decision to leave the CoE. We believe such a choice may jeopardize Serbia’s future EU membership as well as its advancement in the economy, democracy, and society.

Particularly concerning is Ambassador Djurovic’s statement that the reason for “consideration of the meaning and modality of membership” is the application for Kosovo’s membership in the Council of Europe. We remind that Serbia has committed itself by the Ohrid Agreement not to hinder Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, and such statements are to the detriment of good neighborly relations between Serbia and Kosovo. 

Additionally, Serbia missed the chance to support Ukraine and condemn Russia’s aggression by not voting to create a compensation registry, a method for determining the harm caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, at the same conference.

We extend a plea to all members of society, including political parties, individuals, the media, and other NGOs, to prevent Serbia from leaving the CoE because doing so would pave the way for dictatorship, putting an end to European integration process, and lead the economy of our country to collapse. 

At a time when citizens’ trust in the European Union (EU) is declining as well as their interest in Serbia’s EU membership, we need to join forces that emphasize the importance of joining this alliance with strengthening the European perspective, especially among young people.