Towards A European-Serbian Agreement

By Michael Byrne

In 2015, Serbia became another field of competition between the EU and Russia.

 

Sentiments of fraternal peoples has always actively fueled by both Moscow and Belgrade. A memory aid in the First World War is strong in Serbia so far. The Kosovo crisis of 1999 gave a new impetus to the Serbian-Russian relations. But in recent years, only a few politicians in these countries maintained close contacts. However, since the introduction of the EU sanctions against Russia, Moscow began to actively seek the support and attention of Serbia. In a fairly short period of time to intensify trade contacts. First of all, it is about the supply of Serbian food products to the Russian market, the sale of which in the last year increased by 40%. Belgrade also asked for assistance in the modernization of the Russian Federation of its military equipment and weapons. Military cooperation is largely due to the strengthening of the position of NATO in the Balkans and Montenegro's invitation to become a new member of NATO. Serbia, like Russia, reacted negatively to such an extension, since, in its view, violated military balance in the region. Belgrade believes that strengthening military cooperation with Moscow and purchase additional weapons must balance the situation. Moreover, Serbia - one of the few European countries that refused to impose sanctions against Russia in response to the annexation of the Crimea. And chairing the OSCE in 2015, Belgrade tried to avoid the Crimean issue, never having voted for the condemnation of the annexation. This position is all the more surprising, since the principle of territorial integrity has always exalted the Serbian government as the cornerstone of the whole system of international relations. Sanctions against Russia became one of the most difficult elements on the path to Euro-Serbian agreement. How to write the Serbian media, this issue is on the agenda of the negotiations and could become a serious obstacle to the planned next year, the next chapter in the negotiations with the EU. Therefore, in Belgrade, hoping for normalization of relations between Moscow and Brussels in the near future. According to the Serbian diplomats, Russia did not interfere too much in the process of European integration of Serbia. Is that the envoys of Moscow during his visits quite frankly about the potential benefits of the Russian-Serbian cooperation in the event of Serbia's membership in the EU. But statements by some Russian experts were more than categorical. Closer ties with Russia, not the EU chooses and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. It is supported by right-wing parties, as well as the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which has close ties with the Moscow Patriarchate. Curiously, the current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić at once and he began his career in the camp ultranationalists, but today it is considered to be the most ardent champion of the European perspective of the country. Some diplomats from European countries, expressed the view that Serbia could become a bridge between the EU and Russia if Brussels will be able to develop close ties with Belgrade without insisting on the break of contacts with Moscow. Otherwise, Serbia could become the second Ukraine, which Brussels once too pressured. In informal conversations Serbian diplomats confirm that sanctions against Russia and recognition of independence of Kosovo - two issues on which Serbia is not ready to make any concessions for the sake of EU membership. The status of Kosovo - a long-term issue constraining the country's European integration. The Serbian government insists that the decision on the status of the region, whose independence Belgrade does not recognize, should not be linked to negotiations on membership in the European Union. Back in September 2012, the then Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule refuted the view that the EU will demand recognition of Kosovo as a condition for joining the European Union. Further successful negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade with the mediation of Brussels became an additional positive signal. A number of EU Member States (Greece, Romania and Spain) still have not recognized Kosovo's independence. At the time, Kosovo's Foreign Minister suggested that the two countries joined the EU at the same time, otherwise he feared that Serbia will block Kosovo's always the prospect of European integration. However, in Belgrade such a proposal finds no response. Serbs believe that Pristina is far behind in the integration with the EU and the non-recognition of Kosovo by five member states can become an insurmountable obstacle. Questions of relations with Moscow and Pristina will take place through the further integration of a red thread. But while the members of the EU there is no consensus on these issues at the Belgrade still room for maneuver.

 

 

 

 

18.12.2015

 

 

 
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