Time has come for the West to get tough with Serbia

EU and US have been generously trying to accommodate Serbia and have received very little in return – it is a sad state of affairs

By Harry Bajraktari

Serbia’s President Vucic signed in 2020 an agreement with the United States and Kosova, in the Oval Office of the White House, in the presence of the President of the United States.

He did not implement much of that agreement, especially moving the Serbian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, stopping the derecognition campaign against Kosova, stopping the import of the Chinese mobile technology.

Now diplomats from EU and US want us to believe that Vucic will implement an agreement in a small lake town in North Macedonia, which he didn’t even deign to sign and is on record saying that he does not intend to sign it in the next four years.

The agreement was negotiated for twelve hours of negotiations, in the summit of Ohrid, hosted by the European Union with a strong support by the United States, and in the end, the parties left without signing the document. The Prime Minister of Kosova, Albin Kurti was ready to sign it, but Vucic refused once again and denied the hosts an historic signing ceremony.

Surprisingly, the two EU negotiators declared in a statement for the media that signatures were not needed and that an agreement was reached and valid. US diplomats have criticized Kurti publicly and have delayed or threatened to cancel funds and projects with Kosova, while singing public praises to Vucic and promising a new chapter in US investments in Serbia.

EU funded with great fanfare the funding of the railway reconstruction in Serbia and have generously helped Serbia to cover any consequence from the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, despite the sweet deals Russia has provided to Serbia on energy and the fact that Serbia remains the only European country that refuses to enact sanctions against Russia.

The next day, after Vucic walked out of the summit refusing to sign the “adopted” agreement, the US Ambassador praised him on Twitter for his “courage.” It is almost a joke.

I have seen explanations that the agreement will have to be implemented for Serbia and Kosova to move up in the process towards the membership in the European Union, but the real chances for joining the EU are too far ahead in time if they will ever be materialized at all.

Vucic used to be a minister of propaganda under Milosevic. Today, he is still using Milosevic’s playbook. Milosevic pretended he could not sign peace agreements because then the “real nationalists” would revolt and oust him. Vucic too pretends to have his hands tied because of the nationalist political pressure. However, just like Milosevic then, Vucic has a strong grip on the Serbian society and his political power is cemented. He is a full-fledged autocrat who faces insignificant opposition, has crushed the free press, and uses the nationalist wing as an excuse.

It is sad to see the West falling in the same trap almost 30 years later. As with Milosevic and later with Putin, they thought they could coalesce and appease these dictators, making them stakeholders to regional and global peace and security. However, dictators need crises, they need external conflicts to remain in power and destroy respective oppositions in the name of nationalism and national security.

Vucic will not implement an agreement that he hasn’t signed, just like his signature in the Oval Office was not binding to him. The United States and the European Union have used the carrots on Serbia for too long. Instead of saving the sticks for Kosova, their greatest ally in the region, they should start being tough on Serbia. Talk to Vucic in the only language he understands. If war in Ukraine didn’t make this clear, I don’t know what will.

The West needs to find the courage and apply some real pressure to Vucic or he will keep making a mockery of this negotiation process.

One Response to “Time has come for the West to get tough with Serbia”

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  1. Shqipe says:

    You are absolutely right, Mr Bajraktari : The West needs to find the courage and apply some real pressure to Vucic or he will keep making a mockery of this negotiation process .ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: THIS NONSENSE MUST STOP!