Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has promised German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Serbia will not spoil peace and stability in the Western Balkans.
“Serbia will not be the cause of any problems in the region,” Vucic told Scholz in Berlin on Wednesday, adding that “the Western Balkans will have peace and stability as far as we are concerned.”
The statement comes amidst concerns in the region over Serbia’s armament from Russia and China, and worries that Russia’s closest ally in Europe might provoke conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina where considerable Serbian minorities reside.
Responding to Scholz’s call for stakeholders to avoid conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Belgrade-backed Serb leader Milorad Dodik is working to dissolve the country, Vucic said that “he does not think that one side is to blame for the problems”.
Vucic reiterated that Serbia will maintain its path towards the European Union but that pressure to recognize Kosovo has never been “more difficult” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments on Kosovo had made the situation “additionally complicated” for Serbia.
Putin drew parallels, albeit ungrounded, between Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2018 and the Ukrainian regions of Donbass declaration of independence and recognition by Russia.
Chancellor Scholz clearly stated that the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, which has been ongoing since 2011 with little results, should result in an agreement that includes mutual recognition.
Vucic also noted that he had clearly understood the German government’s request for Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia. Vucic has resisted similar calls by the EU since the 2014 invasion of Crimea, arguing that Serbia does not have to align its foreign policy with the EU before becoming a member. However, the invasion of Ukraine has increased pressure on Russia’s strongest ally in Europe.
Under strong EU pressure, Belgrade has agreed to support two UN resolutions condemning the Russian invasion and voted in favor of Russia’s suspension at the UN Human Rights Council. However, at home Vucic and all Serbian leadership regularly praise Putin and ties between the two states. Serbia remains one of the few countries in the wider European continent who refuse to impose sanctions.
Vucic and Kurti attended an informal dinner with EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak, their first meeting in about one year since their last one in Brussels regarding the dialogue.
Kurti insists for the dialogue to include mutual recognition, which is categorically refused by Serbia.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, after a brutal war waged by the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic, in which Vucic was a minister of propaganda.
“In this respect, I can not say that there is progress. There is no distancing from Milosevic, there is no distancing from Putin, and in addition to old attitudes there is also disorderly conduct [by Serbia],” Kurti told Kosovo’s public broadcast on Wednesday.
The dialogue is expected to resume this month, with negotiation teams attempting to set the ground for a meeting between the two leaders in Brussels.
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