We are very much surprised by the recent claims by Serbian PM Vučić that the EU is paying individual organisations to wage a campaign against the Serbian government. We strongly reject these baseless claims.

The EU stands by independent and courageous journalism and freedom of speech across Europe and beyond. Freedom of expression is a basic principle of democracy.

In its endeavour to support freedom of expression, the EU, among other actions, provides financial grants to independent and non-government organisations throughout the region on a competitive basis and following strict procedures. All grantees have full editorial independence and are solely responsible for the content of published material.

The EU expects the Serbian authorities to ensure an environment supporting freedom of expression and of media.

Media criticism (such as that of BIRN) is essential to ensure the proper accountability of elected governments; governments should in turn be ready to act on such criticism in a constructive and transparent fashion, rather than trying to stifle it.