Brussels warns Vucic: Sanctions against Russia or return of visas
Warnings have arrived from the European Union that Serbia urgently needs to harmonise its visa policy with Brussels, as many migrants who come to the Union do so via Serbia, for which they do not need a visa.
Despite the daily complaints of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his followers about the difficult situation in which Serbia finds itself, the impression is that, for the first time, the international community has pushed this same President to the wall. It is Vučić’s own fault that he has found himself in such a situation, that is to say, he is responsible for the fact that Serbia is now where it is. For years, he has been involved in one way or another in delaying a solution for Kosovo. He stubbornly avoided leading Serbia more strongly and boldly towards the European Union. Sitting on two chairs, as was said colloquially years ago. He deliberately strengthened the nationalists and the right, with obvious sympathies for the East. Now it’s all coming to a close.
The European Union has long had instruments in its hands with which it could let everyone, including Vučić, know that he overplayed at their expense. Perhaps in the future, someone will explain to us why it gave in and went over everything that the government did in Serbia since the second half of 2012. There is a lot going on now and there is no need to look for answers and excuses in the past.
New headache – visas for brothers from Russia
Out of the blue, information arrived from the European Union that Serbia may remain without visa liberalisation because of its policy. This is a measure that nobody in Serbia hopes for and nobody would like to see happen. Many interpreted this as a cautionary measure because of Vucic’s persistent refusal to allow Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine, but then came the explanation that it was a migrant crisis.
From Brussels came warnings that Serbia urgently needs to harmonise its visa policy with the Union because many migrants who come to the EU do so through Serbia, for which they do not need a visa. It is also about countries such as India and Iran, where there are no military conflicts, but where the increase in migrants to Europe is registered every day. And now the problem arises…
If Serbia does not want to harmonise its foreign policy with Brussels, justifying that it is not yet obliged because it is far from EU accession, avoiding to impose sanctions on Russia, then it is quite logical to synchronise its visa policy with the Union, as it itself enjoys visa liberalisation. However, it is not only India and Iran on the list, but also Russia. Citizens of Russia need a visa to enter the Member States of the Union, and so we come to the point where Vucic will have to, by harmonising visa policy with Brussels, introduce visas for his brothers and sisters from Russia. Here’s a new headache for Vucic…
Moscow “doesn’t believe in tears” for a long time
His stubborn refusal to impose sanctions on Russia is justified by the fact that Serbia strictly observes international law, which, according to the same Vučić, no longer exists, pursuing an independent policy and fighting for Serbian national interests. There is, of course, the reference to the flagrant violation of international law when it comes to Serbia because of Kosovo, but also Serbia’s experience with the sanctions, which have affected the ordinary people more than policyholders.
Brussels tried hard and managed to find a way to bring Belgrade into the lobby for the introduction of sanctions, and Vladimir Putin and Moscow will definitely not like that. If Vučić is to be believed, Serbia will soon harmonize its visa policy with the Union, and Vučić will have to decide whether he will risk depriving his citizens of the visa-free regime with the Union for the sake of love for Moscow, or whether the Russians will simply have to go to the Serbian embassy and consulates for visas entry into Serbia.
Moscow has long shown that it “does not believe in tears”. The fact that Serbia has voted several times in the UN to condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine has not gone without comments and reactions in Russia, of course negative. It is not just acknowledged. Russian media have long been talking about Serbia preparing to impose sanctions on Russia. And Vucic said Serbia will try to withstand all the pressure until its vital interests are threatened, and then it will have to…
Russian gas as blackmail capital
In this regard, we can only guess how official Moscow will react to Serbia’s introduction of visas for its citizens. It is unlikely to have any understanding of such a thing. Some in Serbia are thinking that if Russians and Serbs are already such good friends, why Moscow would not be understanding and Serbia would introduce sanctions. They certainly won’t hurt Russia, but Russia is looking out for itself. For the first time, it is clearly condemned by a large part of humanity and uses every opportunity where some dissonant tone is heard, and that is more than clearly heard from Belgrade.
And Russia will continue to look after itself on the issue of Kosovo as long as it suits it. Putin will not hesitate to recognise Kosovo tomorrow if the international community recognises Russia’s Crimea and the breakaway parts of Ukraine. This is politics. And we should not condemn Putin, but all those in Serbia who prefer Russia to Serbia. Russia has a lot of blackmail capital when it comes to Serbia. It is about gas, which Serbia gets only from Russia, and at a bargain price. Putin must have had a much bigger picture in mind when he set the price of this gas for Vucic and thus put him in an almost hopeless situation. We are not sure whether the harmonization of the visa policy of Serbia and the Union will affect Serbia being left without that gas, but we are sure that Moscow will not sit idly by in this situation.
The views expressed in this text are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Al Jazeera.