The West or Russia: “Vucic, it seems, is preparing to change course”
“If it were made known to Belgrade that it has to decide between Moscow and Brussels – and that the EU offers more than a murky accession perspective – Vucic will not hesitate for a moment,” writes the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
“Moscow reacts with threats to indications that Belgrade is reconsidering its policy towards Russia,” writes the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung about the events of the previous days.
It is recalled that at the beginning of the week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandar Grushko said in Belgrade that the introduction of sanctions against Russia would be “suicide” because it can be seen that the countries that have introduced sanctions are threatened by an energy crisis and an increase in the price of food.
“Behind that is not a change in Belgrade’s direction,” the newspaper writes, “but Brussels’ pressure on this candidate country to join the EU’s foreign policy line.” This could stop the Serbian policy of swinging between East and West, which has been going on since the end of the Yugoslav wars.”
“The EU countries are by far the most important trading partners and investors for Serbia, gas comes from Russia at a discount, and China builds bridges and runs mines. From all three partners, the Serbian army supplies weapons for its ever-growing arsenal. But now the sharp conflict between the West and Russia is narrowing Belgrade’s room for maneuver,” states the article signed by former long-time Belgrade correspondent Andreas Ernst.
It is recalled that more and more voices, especially from the European Parliament, are demanding the termination of accession negotiations with Serbia if Belgrade does not change its course. It is added that Serbia has supported all resolutions condemning Russian aggression in the UN, but refuses to introduce sanctions.
“Thus, the country has isolated itself in Europe and, like neighboring Hungary, is seen in Brussels and elsewhere as a rebellious element,” writes a respected Swiss newspaper.
It is said that EU pressure reveals differences among ministers in Serbia. Thus, Minister Zorana Mihajlovic “condemns Russian aggression without reservation and points out that the world is divided into two blocs”. On the other hand, the “nationalist hardliner” Aleksandar Vulin rejects Russia’s “betrayal” and calls for an end to European integration.
“Admittedly, what ministers like Mihajlovic or Vulin think or say is not decisive. President Aleksandar Vucic has the last word in this matter as well. And he, it seems, is preparing the country for a change of course”, Ernst assesses in the text.
He is reminded of Vucic’s “typical too long monologue” in which he hinted that Serbia will resist the pressure until it becomes too big.
“The rapid change in Serbian Visa policy shows that Western pressure is effective in the new geopolitical context,” the paper notes.
Namely, after the citizens of Tunisia, India or Burundi – who do not need a visa for Serbia – increasingly used flights to Belgrade to go to Western Europe and seek asylum, Serbia started returning Visas. Neue Zürcher Zeitung reminds that certain politicians in Bern or Vienna have insinuated that the Serbian Visa policy is actually the “long arm” of the Kremlin, which wants to flood the EU with migrants through Serbia. “But it turned out to be a conspiracy theory,” the paper writes.
According to the author, the change in Serbian Visa policy shows that the EU still has a lot of influence in the Balkans. “But she would have to be ready to make clear demands and offer attractive rewards,” adds Ernst. And this is equally valid for the issue of sanctions against Russia or the Kosovo issue.
“If it were made known to Belgrade that it has to decide between Moscow and Brussels – and that the EU offers more than a vague accession perspective – Vucic will not hesitate for a moment”, the text concludes: “Vucic, like almost all Serbs, knows that the economic and political progress of the country are on the way to the West.”