Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Wednesday, 28 March 2012 15:18 UK

Serbia urged to come to terms with Kosovo

Serbia has been urged to "abandon all illusions that one day Kosovo will be a part of the Serb state again", during the annual debate on Serbia's EU membership prospects.

The progress report - published at the end of 2011 - contained the recommendation for Serbia to formally become an EU candidate country, which was backed at the March summit of EU leaders.

The report said that the ex-Yugoslav country had made good progress in developing its economic and political structure, and had made "far-reaching" judicial reform.

Speaking during the debate on the report on 28 March 2012, Hungarian centre-right MEP György Schöpflin said Serbia needed to "come to terms with its neighbours".

Belgrade continues to refuse to recognise the independence of Kosovo, which broke away in 2008.

However a UN resolution in September 2010, in which Serbia dropped its demand to reopen negotiations on Kosovo's status, signalled Belgrade's willingness to compromise.

Serbia's EU prospects improved after the arrest on 26 May 2011 of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect, General Ratko Mladic.

MEPs welcomed the decision to give Serbia candidate status, and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said it was leading to "winds of change" across Serbia's political institutions.

There were calls for Serbia to do more to protect its large number of ethnic minorities, including Hungarians, Romanians and Albanians.

However Portuguese MEP Paulo Rangel urged people "not to forget the Serb majority".

"We should not forget Serbia's identity and its absolute right to be a European country," he concluded.

The progress report was voted on during the daily voting session on 29 March 2012.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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