Last week, the European Commission approved a strategy for 'A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans', promising EU membership to the countries of the region on quite painful terms. Stevan Gajić, Ph.D. in Political Science, a researcher at the Belgrade-based Institute of European Studies, shares his views about the contents of this document and its importance for Serbia.
He is sure that the document says nothing new to the Serbian people. Gajić recalls that the strategy promises EU membership to the countries of the so-called Western Balkans by 2025. However, this is a framework data with no guarantees. EU undertakes no commitments to provide membership to Serbia, but actually requires Serbia to refuse from its statehood, he said to EADaily.
First of all, he said, the EU requires Serbia to recognize Kosovo independence. “Meantime, a president of the country who would leave room for this to happen would violate the cConstitution. The second moment that could be interesting to Russian readers is that Serbia is required to synchronize its foreign and security policy with EU. In other words, Serbia should impose sanctions on Russia. President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić said about this following his meeting with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations in Belgrade on the next day after approval of the strategy,” the Serbian political analyst said.
The expert highlights that Vučić has been enjoying the support by Russia consistently since 2012, but he keeps waging anti-Serbian and anti-Russian policy at the same time. To explain the essence of this policy, the expert suggested recalling the Serbian president’s statement at the press conference with Johannes Hahn.
“And it’s about giving it a name… The issue is much bigger than that, it stretches for hundreds of miles. What is more important are the people living in Kosovo and fixing their status,” Vucic said at the press conference and added that compared to four other countries and one territory, the toughest tasks lie ahead of Serbia. “It’s not our fault, it’s time to make decisions, pay certain prices from the past,” Gajić quoted mass media reports from the event. According to the expert, Vučić redirected the issue from the territorial integrity to the status of the Serbian population. “After the murder of Oliver Ivanovic and arson of the Serbian property, we saw the real status of Serbs in Kosovo and what can they expect in the Albanian state. By that statement, he actually allowed ceding the territory, which he took an oath to defend by placing his hand on the Constitution,” Gajić said.
“He speaks like if Serbs were guilty in something. He pleads guilty on behalf of the people. He said it is time to ‘make decisions that no one had made for centuries.’ With such statement he indirectly announces possible recognition of Kosovo. What did he mean by saying ‘it is about giving it a name’? The constitution says how this territory is called and what state it is part of. A deviation from this even for a millimeter will be violation of the Constitution and entail liability,” the expert said.
Gajić recalled that the president mentioned “five countries and one territory” in his statement, because Spain that has issues with Catalonia does not recognize Kosovo on any terms. This is a problem for Vučić, like Suriname’s decision to recall recognition of Kosovo was. The president has not commented it so far, the expert said.
As regards possibility of Belgrade joining sanctions against Russia, the expert recalled that at the same press conference, the Serbian president said that Serbia is required to coordinate its policy with EU, including foreign policy decisions and restrictive measures. He said such requirement runs contrary to the talks conducted so far and Serbia is experiencing additional political pressure over its relations with Russia. According to the expert, the Serbian president did not say directly that Serbia should impose sanctions on Russia, he called it “restrictive measures.” However, the expert said, everyone knows what it means to synchronize foreign policy with EU.
The new EU-Western Balkans Strategy anticipates Serbia to refuse its statehood and agree on final collapse. If Kosovo gains final independence, this process will not stop, the expert warned recalling the collapse of Yugoslavia after separation of Slovenia and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“I see a more large-scale trend here. President of Serbia Vučić, Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras and Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev work within the same agenda. All the three act against the interests of their own people. Recently, one million people took to the streets, including clergymen, opposing Tsipras’ idea to go on a concession in the issue of Macedonia’s name. Most Macedonians oppose this idea. Despite this, Zaev and Tsipras meet and make concessions. Zaev said he would rename airport in Skopje and highways named after Alexander the Great. Tsipras, in turn, is ready to go on concessions concerning the name of Macedonia (where the word ‘Macedonia’ will be replenished with the geographical or historical characteristic of the area - EADaily’s note),” Stevan Gajić said.
The expert believes this process aims to make Macedonia a NATO member in the short-term outlook and start splitting the country on ethnic grounds, “to let Bulgarians increase their influence on the Macedonian population through the good-neighborhood agreement that Zaev signed with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov; to put Albanians under influence of ‘Great Albania’ like Kosovans. On the one side, Balkan elite seem ready for full capitulation. On the other side, some members of the Western coalition do not welcome this. To maintain its territorial integrity, Spain comes out against accession of the separatist territory to EU,” the political analyst said.
“Yet, no pressure is currently exerted on Belgrade. So, it does not have to make any radical decisions. No one threatens it with sanctions or bombardments,” he said.
Serbia’s president is trying to press the people saying that the country will face mass migration of the employable population, unless it joins EU. “If we recognize Kosovo, the people will live in Serbia, otherwise the entire population to migrate. If we access EU, the people will stay in the country. There is no logic. All the countries in Eastern Europe lost about one-third of their population after accession to EU. Look at the Baltic States. Everyone who had a chance to leave the country left it to wash dishes in London. Romania lost four million people, Bulgaria – two million. Population will be a country that resorts to ‘self-abolition,’ but it will not leave a country that does not accept ‘indecent proposals’ of foes,” Stevan Gajić said.
The expert is surprised to see consistent support to such policy of the Serbian leadership by Russia since 2012, when Tomislav Nikolić, Serbian Progressive Party, was elected as president.
The expert recalled that Russian Ambassador supported Nikolić during his election campaign. “Functionaries from the United Russia Party arrived in Serbia to support Vučić when he was running for president. During Vučić ‘s visit to Moscow in December, Vladimir Putin said Russia would welcome any agreement of Belgrade and Pristina on Kosovo. However, if Vučić agrees to transfer our territory, he can do it without Russia’s support,” the expert told EADaily.
He recalled the statement that Russians cannot be as much as Serb as Serbs themselves are. However, Russians can be better Serbs than Serb betrayers are and the vice versa. He recalled that Kingdom of Yugoslavia gave shelter to tens of thousands of Russians in Serbia. “If Belgrade coordinated its decisions with Moscow then, we would deport them all. Today, their successors return to Russia. I am sure Russia is happy to see them alive and healthy,” the expert said.
Stevan Gajić highlighted the good relations of Russia and Montenegro under Milo Đukanović unless he launched Russophobic policy and the country joined NATO.
“In Serbia, the issue of providing diplomatic status to the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis is no longer on agenda. When Aeroflot sought to buy Yugoslavian Airlines, the deal was failed, Afterwards, UAE bought the company. Why does Russia support such policy after all? Let’s wait and see the result. I am afraid Serbia will recognize Kosovo overnight and the Serbian authorities will let separatists get independence through the notorious ‘legally binding agreement,’ Serbia will impose sanction on Russia and access NATO. Afterwards, we will hear from Moscow that Serbia has betrayed someone,” Stevan Gajić said for conclusion.