Croatian MEPs said during a debate in the European parliament about Serbia's progress on Wednesday that Belgrade needed to ensure a better treatment of ethnic minorities, underlining the importance of resolving issues of border, the fate of the missing persons and war crimes trials.

Andrej Plenkovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said Serbia needed to secure an adequate representation of ethnic minorities and the use of minority tongues in education institutions. He also pointed to the issue of missing persons.

Another HDZ representative, Dubravka Suica, said Serbia needed to adjust its foreign policy to that of the EU about both Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She also underscored the issue of the missing people.

Tonino Picula of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) also addressed these issues, stressing that Serbia needed to improve bilateral relations with its neighbours and work on the remaining bilateral issues, such as the border, the fate of the missing people, succession, minority rights in its northern province of Vojvodina and the law on war crimes trials.

Marijana Petir of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) criticised Serbia for violating the rights of Croats, stressing that if Serbia wanted to continue its EU path it should immediately amend the law on the organisation and jurisdiction of state bodies in war crimes proceedings.

She also warned about the fact that in the past several months Serbia had shut down several media houses airing programmes in the Croatian language as well as in the languages of other ethnic minorities.

Ruza Tomasic of the Croatian Conservative Party (HKS) said that Serbia's EU entry talks were a good opportunity for resolving outstanding issues with Croatia, underscoring that despite the opening of the first negotiating chapters there had been no changes in Serbia's policy.

She said Serbia invested minimum efforts in normalising relations with Croatia, adding that the issue of missing people, the acknowledgement of the existence of camps for Croats in Serbia during the 1990s war and the restitution of property and cultural goods still remained opened.

During the debate, Tomasic address EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, saying that he could not ask that bilateral issues be left out of the negotiations, if the the negotiations were the only way to resolve those issues.

The European Parliament is expected to take a vote on resolutions on progress of Serbia and Kosovo on Thursday.

During Wednesday's debate, a majority of MEPs praised progress Serbia and Kosovo made so far on their EU path, notably dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

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