Serbia is taking a big risk and it is undeniable that it is giving itself negative points. What could be the reason for its prolonged decision to impose sanctions? There is only one thing – Serbia is not independent in relation to Russia. The Serbian leadership is under the control of the Moscow leadership, Dr Dusan Janjic, Director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, tells Pobjeda.
Maneuver and consequences
Asked how much room for manoeuvre remains for Serbia – after the European Parliament resolution calling into question further aid and spending of EU pre-accession funds after the imposition of sanctions against Russia – our interlocutor reiterates that this is about Russian control inside Serbia:
Kosovo is certainly not that argument. Either control through corruption, or through blackmail and highly sophisticated intelligence work for Moscow’s centres of power, both military and civilian, which goes through both the government and the highest authorities. It is clear to all that Serbia is in Moscow’s sphere of interest, and this has had far-reaching consequences for Serbia for decades. The fact that they will buy a month or two with a policy of delay and tactics does not solve Serbia’s problems, but portends decades of severe problems – Janjic concludes.
Janjić notes that it is obvious that Serbia is trying to buy time, citing as an example the statement by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić calling for a harmonisation of foreign policy and stressing that Chapter 31 on EU accession is not yet open. This is a relevant matter from the point of view of the accession process.
Serbia is not obliged to impose sanctions until Chapter 31 is opened, and there is also confusion on the part of the European Commission – because in the meantime, the accession programme has changed and whole clusters are now being opened. The European Parliament does not know the EU rules or does not respect them, or they were counting on Serbia to impose sanctions like Kosovo, BiH and Montenegro, explains Janjic, stating that he does not know why Serbia needs another month or two.
Buying time gains nothing, except the excuse that public opinion – which is turned against Russia because of the media’s shameless propaganda – needs to be prepared for the imposition of sanctions. But this Russian propaganda is getting stronger, because two weeks ago, the Russian portal RT went live.
Nothing will change in the next month or two, and objectively Serbia is only losing time by buying time with this tactic on Kosovo and sanctions, Janjic believes.
EU aid in question
The Serbian leadership was not worried by the fact, cited by the EP, that EU aid, which Serbia uses abundantly, will be called into question if its foreign policy is not aligned with the EU. Instead, the public paid more attention to the statement by the Russian Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Bochan-Harchenko, in which he announced that Gazprom was open to renegotiating with Serbia if it also needed additional quantities of Russian gas, and that the price for Serbia was “very low and very favourable”. However, this gas price is not known.
The fact that the EU is Serbia’s largest donor and has given Serbia almost four billion euros in grants through various projects is questionable, as is the fact that, thanks to pre-accession funds, between 200 and 250 million euros flow into Serbia every year. In fact, Serbia receives the most European money of the countries in the region, but who cares as long as the taps are not turned off.
The Freedom and Justice Party’s initiative in the Serbian Parliament to impose sanctions against Russia has not yet been submitted to the Members of Parliament. Borko Stefanovic, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who tabled the initiative, said that if sanctions are not imposed, Serbia is in real danger of putting more than ten thousand companies in a difficult situation, which automatically puts at risk the 300 thousand workers who work in EU companies, as well as trade with the EU, which now accounts for 60% of Serbia’s total foreign trade. What is “under the table”: How serious and achievable is the EP resolution, as it does not oblige Member States to strictly follow it, but even the imposition of sanctions against Russia “would not endanger Russia, they would be of a modest scale,” Stefanovic said.
Janjić said that it only makes sense to extend the sanctions during the New Year holidays.
Maybe Serbia will achieve something in that month and a half or two, I don’t know, maybe there is something “under the table”, but objectively it will have to use sanctions or a more serious issue will be raised, which is the opening of possible clusters in the future for Serbia – Janjic says.
I do not believe that they have fallen into the trap of Slobodan Milosevic’s way of thinking – that Russia will suddenly win or that there will be a split in the EU. This will not happen, the war will continue, Russia will not win. In that sense, they should buy 20 years, not a month, two or three, as long as the confusion about the cluster lasts. With this attitude, they are exposing the country to negative political points in the eyes of those who should decide on Serbia’s membership of the EU – says Janjic./Pobjeda/