Serbia Caught Between a Hammer and an Anvil: Vučić’s Difficult Decision on EU and Russia Relations
Serbia is Russia’s closest ally in Europe and has refused to impose sanctions on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine. Media reports have said a Serbian state arms factory recently delivered some 3,500 missiles for the Grad multiple rocket launchers used by both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić finds himself in a peculiar situation with regard to his stance on the Russian-Ukrainian war and Serbia’s relations with Kosovo. He must decide whether to embrace Europe or to attempt to maintain a balance between Serbia's application for EU membership and its close relations with Russia, its Slavic ally.
Vučić's opponents are infuriated by his refusal to make a decision and his failure to support Western sanctions against Russia. Dimitar Bechev, a visiting fellow at Carnegie Europe, argued that despite the brutal war in Ukraine, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has yet to change his course. He observed that Belgrade has become populated with affluent and middle-class Russians taking advantage of the daily flights, visa-free regime, and lax residency rules.
Prior to departing Belgrade for Munich, Vučić spoke to Serbian television, conveying that Serbia was in an extremely difficult situation. And when asked by Politico whether the moment had arrived for Serbia to avoid getting flattened, he responded: “You’re going to get one sentence from me: Serbia will remain on its EU path. Okay, draw your own conclusions. But I think you understand me.”
On Monday, an EU-brokered and US-supported plan, which was tacitly accepted by Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, was proposed to help foster better relations in the long run. EU High Representative Josep Borrell declared after chairing the talks in Brussels that “more work is needed,” and the two leaders would reconvene the following month.
At the Munich talks, Kosovo was a topic discussed between Vučić and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with an issue of contention being the formation of an association of municipalities in Kosovo that are mainly populated by Serbs and disagreements regarding the amount of authority it should have. The Americans were eager to listen to our perspective.
0. “Russia seeks explanation from Serbia over delivery of rockets to Ukraine” Morning Star Online, 3 Mar. 2023, https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/russia-seeks-explanation-serbia-over-delivery-rockets-ukraine
1. “Russia pressures Serbia over alleged arms for Ukraine” EURACTIV, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/russia-pressures-serbia-over-alleged-arms-for-ukraine/
2. “Politico – Vučić stuck between a rock and a hard place” Serbina Monitor in English, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.serbianmonitor.com/en/politico-vucic-stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/