Unheeded Since 2014, EU Repeats Calls For Serbian Sanctions On Russia

By: - April 7, 2022

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The European Commission has reminded President Aleksandar Vucic of its expectation that Serbia change its supportive stance toward Russia after his victory in last week’s elections.

In a statement regarding April 3 presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi repeated the same reminder the European Union has been leniently sending to Serbia since Russia took over Crimea in 2014.

“At a time of unprovoked and unjustified Russian military aggression against Ukraine, a sovereign, independent country, we expect Serbia as a candidate country negotiating its accession to the EU, to progressively align with EU positions, including declarations and restrictive measures, in line with the EU-Serbia Negotiating Framework,” they stated.

President Aleksandar Vucic has refused to condemn the latest Russian aggression of Ukraine in any of his public appearances, although Serbia was pressured by the EU to sign a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion.

Shortly after the vote, Vucic downplayed the resolution in Belgrade, but nevertheless received high praise by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama for having allegedly “unified the Western Balkans with the West” through this vote. Rama and Vucic have been increasingly close allies since 2014, when the Albanian leader first visited Belgrade.

Serbia argues that it’s not obliged to align its foreign policy with the European Union until it becomes a member, despite currently being a front-runner for EU accession. In a show of gratitude for Serbia’s vote in favor of the UNGA resolution, French President Emmanuel Macron reassured Vucic that his country will be the first in line to join the EU.

Serbia has easily managed to resist lenient EU reminders since 2014, when Russia took hold of Ukraine’s Crimea, to align its foreign policy to that of the EU. It has instead directly refused to impose any sanctions at all against Russia.

The closest ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Europe, Vucic has repeatedly made headlines in Russian and Chinese press for blasting the European Union’s alleged lack of support for Serbia while praising Russia and China’s help. In fact, the EU is Serbia’s largest donor and trade partner.  

As it is the case with their last statement, the EU has repeated the same refrain for years in a row: “The EU is Serbia’s main political and, by far, economic partner. During these unprecedented times, the EU is committed to continue to support Serbia’s economic recovery, energy, food security and society, including through the significant support made available under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.”

In line with the fact that Belgrade has so far been the only capital in the world to hold rallies in support of the Russian aggression of Ukraine, Putin was the first to congratulate Vucic on his victory in elections, stressing their future work to strengthen the “strategic partnership” between the two countries.

Amidst an ever-increasing military cooperation in defiance of the EU and NATO, as well as abundant Russian support with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, military vehicles and other heavy weapons for Serbia, the European Union has so far made blind eyes and deaf ears to heed calls to have Serbia restrained.