The key issue on agenda of recent EU - Western Balkans Summit in Sofia was accession of five Balkan states and “one territory” (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and separatist Kosovo) to the European Union in 2025. Spain’s participation in the event was questioned yet at the preparations phase, since the country has not recognized Kosovo’s independence and has reaffirmed its stance after Catalonia’s independence referendum. As a result, Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy did not attend the Summit unlike Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Did the Summit make Serbia’s prospects to join European Union more certain? Stevan Gajic, a researcher at the Institute of European Studies in Belgrade, has answered this question talking to EADaily.
The EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Sofia last week was another humiliation for Serbia and Serbs. The summit hinted Belgrade that it is required to recognize separatist Kosovo in exchange for nothing but dim prospects of accessing an organization that is due to split after Brexit.
What was especially humiliating is that a group of EU member-countries that have not recognized Kosovo, including Spain, were against calling the summit “Western Balkan Six,” at the same time, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was making an impression that he had nothing to do with that. By attending the summit, he has practically recognized Kosovo as a political subject. Meantime, by protecting its aspirations and the international law, Spain protected Serbia’s interests more than its legal representatives did. The summit could be even cancelled due to Madrid’s stance. If Serbia stood its ground, it could happen. The central issue on agenda of the summit was prospects of the Balkans States to access EU.
Serbia was not on agenda, it was “in the menu.” Today, the West treats Serbia the same way it once treated Turkey calling it “the sick man upon the Bosporus.” For the West, Serbia is a remainder of Yugoslavia that needs to be dismembered finally. The key ally of the West in this undertaking is Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who has seriously damaged the international image of his country and its efforts to maintain sovereignty over Kosovo and Metohija by attending the summit. Vucic has once again proved how different his and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic’s policies are. The latter does its best to make countries recall their recognition of Kosovo independence.
Differences of the government and the Church over Kosovo issue are evident. Serbian Orthodox Church published “The Message of the Holy Assembly of Bishops on Kosovo and Metohija" against disintegration of Kosovo and Metohija, despite President Vucic’s constant statements on a concession that will help Serbia not to lose everything and Albania not to get everything. Albanian and Western mass media openly write about this. The Church is against separation of Kosovo and any form of recognizing its independence. Bishops compare Vucic’s steps with high treason.
Speaking of the West’s plans on Western Balkans, it is worth mentioning that the Serbian president’s plans fully coincide with EastWest Institute NGO’s report “Time for action in the Western Balkans.” The EastWest Institute, together with the National Committee on American Foreign Policy issued the report in New York in May. It contains some recommendations for U.S. politicians. An insight into the document has revealed some evident similarities with Vucic’s policy of transferring Serbia’s sovereignty to others. At first, the report explains why the Western Balkans are so important. The next chapter calls NATO the key security factor and urges efforts to stop “dangerous separation” in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
What does it mean? It means that the two parts of BiH – Federation of BiH and Republic Srpska must not be separated. From their point of view, Republika Srpska should “be lost” in BiH. The report also shows concern for Russia’s influence in the region and strongly recommends Serbia to “decisively commit to EU.” This is the idea of the Summit in Sofia. They expect Serbia to refuse from its sovereignty and betray Kosovo in exchange for no guarantees that EU will one day grant membership to Serbia. It is not certain when it will happen and within what borders.
The report addresses the role of Turkey and China in Balkans as well. President of France Emmanuel Macron has recently made a statement in EU urging to stop influence of Russia and Turkey in the region. At the same time, he made it clear that EU will not be expanding until there is certainty inside the organization. He believes that the last expansion has just damaged EU and new memberships will not be used either for EU or for new members. He meant Serbia and Montenegro, first. I agree with him fully, as the truth about Serbia’s accession to EU is that they will try to involve it into NATO as soon as possible. Here is another important moment – the reaction of Russia that supports Vucic despite his anti-Russian policy. Vucic attended Victory Parade in Moscow in May. For what did he deserve to be invited? Maybe, it was because he did not provide diplomatic status to the staff of Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis. Maybe, it was because of supporting Montenegro’s story about Russia’s alleged complicity in the so-called coup d’état.
Anyway, he was invited and given a seat near Vladimir Putin as an honorable guest. Unlike Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Vucic did not even wear St. George Ribbon. Nevertheless, when visiting Srebrenica (area of mass killings of Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina war in 90s – EADaily’s note) and when there was need to humiliate the Serbian state and Serbs once again, he wore the symbol of “genocide,” though Serbia does not recognize the events in Srebrenica as genocide.
Actually, President Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic have been consistently pursuing an anti-Serbian and anti-Russian policy in line with the above Atlantic strategy. Another important thing about the above report is that it calls “to stop a slow slide to a frozen conflict.” What does Vucic say? He says we do not want a frozen conflict. Actually, he desires coincide with the goals of the report “Time for action in the Western Balkans.” Even though Vucic-initiated “internal dialogue on Kosovo” showed that over 90% of Serbia’s intellectuals – professors, experts in various areas say that at the moment a frozen conflict is better than any other solution damaging Serbia’s interests. The Serbian Orthodox Church speaks against singing any document that can be interpreted as recognition of Kosovo.
Vucic speaks Russian well, smiles to journalists and has gained their positive attitude, but one should look at his actions not words. Meantime, his actions show that during the so-called coup in Montenegro, he was ambivalent about allegations against Russia, he did not provide diplomatic status to Russian employees of the Humanitarian Center in Nis, and even failed to wear St. George’s Ribbon when he was invited to the Victory Parade in Moscow, perhaps not to offend Ukrainians.
For some unknown reason Russia keeps supporting Vucic’s anti-Russian policy. Hence, Russia should not be surprised if Serbia recognizes Kosovo, joins NATO and impose sanctions on Russia. Let’s not say that Serbia has betrayed anyone. It is not about Serbia. It is about its president fighting against entire Serbian population, against Church, most of intellectuals he asked to express their views on Kosovo, and against public opinion. Vucic himself admits that 80% of Serbian citizens would choose Kosovo if they were required to choose between it and EU.
The Summit in Sofia, which Spanish prime minister did not want to attend because of participation of separatist Kosovo, but president of Serbia attended and shook hands with leader of separatists Hashim Thaci, showed that Serbia is actually an occupied state. I think the major problem is that Russia agrees with this even if it does not support it. Vucic needs to travel to Moscow to show the Serbian people – see, Russia is with us! This is a signal that Russia approves his actions and that he knows what he does by signing “legally binding agreement with Pristina.”