In the face of Serbia’s repeated refusal to impose sanctions on Russia since 2014, nine Members of the European Parliament have urged the European Commission to ask the EU candidate country once again to align its foreign policy with the EU or otherwise face consequences: temporary freeze of EU accession negotiations and withholding of financial support.
In a letter sent to European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice-President Josep Borrell, nine MEPs from the liberal pro-European “Renew Europe” political group expressed their deep concerns about Serbia’s disregard towards its commitments as an EU candidate country to align its foreign and security policy with the European Union.
“We have always been aware of Serbia’s substantial economic, social and cultural ties with Russia, which have led Serbian authorities to maintain an ambiguous attitude regarding their true intentions to honor the commitments made in the framework of EU accession. In recent years Serbia has strengthened its cooperation with Putin’s regime, especially in the field of energy, and military-technical cooperation, tightened its relationship with Lukashenka in Belarus and received generous arms donations from both,” the letter published by MEP Klemen Grosejl reads.
Serbia has beefed up its military capability with Russian fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and other heavy weapons in recent years.
MEPs authoring the letter further point at the Serbian government’s tight control over the media, its spread of fake news against the EU and in glorification of Putin.
This regular media attitude towards the EU comes in contradiction to the EU being the largest donor, and the biggest investor and trading partner of Serbia.
“We are firmly convinced that Serbia is displaying a dangerous drift towards authoritarianism that is starkly at odds with its parallel quest to join the European Union, and this ambiguity has reached its culmination with the refusal to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression on Ukraine,” MEPs state.
Serbia was pressured into signing an UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine after resisting EU pressure for over a week. President Vucic and all other leaders have never explicitly condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine in their public appearances. On the contrary, they have downplayed the UN resolution and stressed that Serbia will not impose sanctions on Russia.
In addition, Belgrade is the only European city to rally twice in favor of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We therefore urge the Commission to call once more on the Serbian authorities to join the EU’s common position on Russia. Should Serbia choose to ignore this call yet again, we ask for a temporary freeze of EU accession negotiations with the Serbian government and the withholding of the financial support toward the country, until it engages in credible, tangible and unequivocal actions aimed at aligning its statements, policies and values to those of the European Union,” MEPs highlighted.
The request comes after repeated unsuccessful EU calls on Serbia for sanctions against Russia since it took over Crimea in 2014. The European Commission is not obliged to heed the MEPs call and reduce its leniency on Serbia. In fact, following Serbia’s signing of the UN resolution condemning Russia and its refusal to impose sanctions, French President Emmanuel Macron assured President Vucic that Serbia will be the first country to enter the European Union.
“Serbia has every right to follow Putin’s model if it wishes to do so, but it must be clear about its intentions and stop pretending to have serious EU membership aspirations. Serbia is free to decide in which direction it wants to go, but it cannot continue to be considered as a trustworthy interlocutor and cannot continue to benefit from pre-accession financial assistance until it has made up its mind,” the letter concludes.