Less Than Half of Serbians Support EU Membership

Less than half of Serbians support the country’s membership in the European Union according to a poll by the Institute for European Affairs.

The Institute said that its latest poll showed that 45 percent of Serbians want the country to join the EU compared to a 2016 poll when 55 percent said they favor membership. It said that support for EU membership is the lowest it has ever been but that the evaluation of Serbia-EU relations is higher than in previous polls. It shows that 60 percent of the polled said that Serbia benefits from cooperation with the EU while 27 percent said it does not.

Hungary and Greece are viewed as the most friendly of the EU member states while Croatia, Great Britain, and Germany were listed among the greatest enemies of Serbia in the EU.

This was the Institute’s seventh annual poll in cooperation with Ninamedia. It was conducted in the first half of March among 1,228 people. The average grade for Serbia-EU relations was 2.85 of a possible 5.0 with 8.2 percent of the polled giving those relations a negative grade.

The Institute states that the 45 percent who support EU membership are highly educated and live in urban environments. A total of 43 percent expressed their view that they don’t want Serbia to join the EU and 12.3 percent were undecided.

The poll also showed that 43 percent of the public feel that they are not getting enough information about the EU while 39 percent said that they think they do. Asked how they would vote in a referendum on EU membership, 41 percent said they would vote yes, 39 percent would vote no and 13 percent said they don’t know.

Vucic Would Decide in 60 Days But Not On Sanctions On Russia

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic said that the US Senator Chris Murphy accurately conveyed his words in his blog post about making a decision in 60 days, but he added that this did not refer to introducing of sanctions on Russia. 

“Call me in sixty days. Check to see if I’ve done what I am telling you I will do”, the senator quoted Vucic as saying at the end of their meeting in Belgrade. 

Answering the questions of the journalists after the military exercise „Shield 2022″ on Saturday (30.04), Vucic explained that that part of the conversation „concerned a specific project”, but he did not want to say what kind of project it was. 

“I reckon that you would be the happiest if I imposed sanctions on Russia, because all those you supported, you and your owner, want that”, Vucic told N1’s reporter and said that his questions made no sense. 

When it comes to mines produced in Serbia that were seen at the Ukrainian battlefield, Vucic said that the mines were delivered earlier, before the war broke out. 

“Do you want to ban us from producing mines and weapons, it is not the production of ballet shoes, it is weapons, I do not understand what you want from us, what you are passing on to us, is it that we are the only country that does not arm anyone, what is the meaning of this issue”, the president told reporters. 

Vucic also noted that he, as the president, will make decisions in the interest of Serbia in the next five years. 

“I really care about the Americans, I really care about the Russians and Europeans, even if I were left all alone in the world, I would only work for the benefit of my country”, said Vucic. 

Serbian and Kosovo FMs Criticized by UN Security Council

The foreign ministers of Serbia and Kosovo traded accusations at a UN Security Council session which debated the latest report on the UN Mission in Kosovo.

Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic told the session that the authorities in Pristina were “manifesting malignant nationalism towards the Serbs in Kosovo”. With the goal of initiating an exodus of the Serbs. He said that the situation in Kosovo was far from normal and stable.

The UN Security Council heard a regular semi-annual report on UNMIK from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Selakovic said that the Kosovo authorities were ignoring Serb political representatives in institutions and taking decisions without them.

“Politically staged investigations and court proceedings are creating an atmosphere of insecurity”, he added. He warned against laying equal blame on the two sides in crisis situations. According to Selakovic, the causes of the problem have to be identified and a message sent to the people in power about the need to establish inter-ethnic trust by having Kosovo institutions abide by and implement agreements.

“The statements from Pristina are a message to the Serb people that they should not count on their collective rights”, he said and recalled that Serbian nationals living in Kosovo were not allowed to vote at elections for the first time since 1999 confirming what he said is the discriminatory character of the authorities in Pristina. UNMIK chief Caroline Ziadeh told the UN Security Council that the leaderships in Belgrade and Pristina should engage more constructively in the European Union-mediated dialogue which has led to “significant results on various practical issues” but added that a comprehensive normalization of relations is still out of reach.

Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervala accused Serbia of being the biggest threat to the stability of the region. “Serbia is the greatest threat to the normalization of relations and the stability of the region”, she said adding that “Serbia remains Russia’s satellite” which is the main cause of instability in the Western Balkans. Gervala told the UN Security Council that Serbia is continuing to arm itself, that “all the countries of the region are facing danger from Serbia … which has military prepared to attack”.

She claimed that the recently reported assaults on Kosovo police officers near border crossings with Serbia were “terrorism” and blamed the Serbian authorities for them. “Those attacks came from the territory of Serbia and would be impossible if (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vucic did not tolerate them”, Gervala said. She said that Serbia has to accept the reality that Kosovo is an independent state.

Serbia-RS Ties are Stronger Than Ever

President Aleksandar Vucic said that the links between Serbia and the Republika Srpska (RS) entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina have never been stronger.

“The ties between Serbia and the RS have never been stronger and no one will ever be able to disrupt them”, Vucic said in an Instagram post after his meeting with Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency Serb member Milorad Dodik in Belgrade. The meeting took place a day after Vucic met with the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina Christian Schmidt and expressed disagreement with his latest decision which, Vucic said, does not contribute to stability in the region.

Vucic said they discussed “all important issues, understood the difficulty of the position the Serb people, and agreed to support the RS in both economic and all other areas”.

“Peace and stability in the region are the fundamental interest of Serbia and the RS as is the common stand on political issues important to the Western Balkans and Europe”, the post said.

Dodik is quoted as telling Vucic that he personally and the RS are under great pressure in Bosnia-Herzegovina with Vucic responding that he can’t accept sanctions for the RS leadership and would help the Serbs with respect for the integrity of the RS within Bosnia-Herzegovina. Vucic and Dodik agreed to hold a meeting of the new Serbian and RS governments in Banjaluka.

The UK Sanctions Dodik for “Undermining Legitimacy, the Functionality of BiH”

The UK Government has announced the first UK sanctions under the Bosnia and Herzegovina sanctions regime against tripartite BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik, as well as the President of the country’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Zeljka Cvijanovic, for “undermining of the legitimacy and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. UK sanctions mean that Dodik and Cvijanovic will be unable to travel to the UK or use or access any assets they may have in the UK.

“These two politicians are deliberately undermining the hard-won peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Encouraged by Putin, their reckless behavior threatens stability and security across the Western Balkans. With these tough sanctions we are showing that the enemies of peace will be held to account”, said the UK Foreign Secretary.

“These are not sanctions against Republika Srpska and its citizens. These are sanctions against two individuals who have acted irresponsibly with the power entrusted to them”, a press release by the British Embassy in BiH said.

According to the press release, the sanctions regime allows the UK to designate individuals who:

– undermine or threaten the sovereignty, territorial integrity, international personality, or constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina,

– its peace, stability or security,

– obstruct the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (GFAP),

– or any other action, policy, or activity that undermines the GFAP.

Komsic Challenges High Representative to Either Act Now or Resign

Bosnia’s Croat Presidency member Zeljko Komsic called on International Community’s High Representative in BiH Christian Schmidt on Thursday (07.04), to repeal the unconstitutional Law on Immovable Property adopted by the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska entity (NARS).

“This is the third time that anti-constitutional laws have been passed contrary to the decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court and the opinion of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). If the High Representative does not have the courage to put anti-constitutional laws out of force, he should step down”, Komsic stressed.

The unconstitutional Law on Immovable Property of the RS was previously adopted by the National Assembly, and today it was signed by the President of that Bosnian entity Zeljka Cvijanovic.

Earlier on Thursday Schmidt said the unconstitutional Law does not affect the legality of the ban on disposal of state property and thus does not change the existing legal situation, adding that it must be repealed immediately.

SNS Will Have 121 Parliamentary Seats, the Main Opposition 37

After unusually canceling news conferences before the polls closed on Sunday (03.04) night, Serbia’s Election Commission (RIK) continued publishing results on its website, showing 58.54 turnouts based on 90.6 votes counted and the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) winning 43.2 percent securing 121 seats in the 250-strong country’s Parliament, and Aleksandar Vucic winning his second consecutive term in the first round.

According to RIK’s results, the opposition ‘United for Belgrade’s Victory’ won 13.3 percent of the votes, or 37 mandates, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) coalition 11.6 votes or 32 mandates, and the right-wing opposition coalition ‘Hope’ (Nada) 5.3 percent of the votes, or 14 parliamentary seats.

Three more coalitions and parties crossed the three percent threshold: the green-left ‘We Must’ opposition coalition with 4.4. percent of the votes or 12 mandates, right-wing ‘Patriotic Bloc’ with 3.8 percent or ten mandates, and “Oath Keepers’ with 3.7 percent or ten seats.

Hungarian, Bosniak, and Albanian minority parties will have 14 deputies in a new Parliament. RIK said on its website that other parties failed to cross the three percent threshold.

Based on 91.8 percent of votes counted, RIK said that Aleksandar Vucic won 59 percent of the votes at the presidential elections, cementing his second term in a row. His main opponent, Zdravko Ponos of the ‘United for Serbia’s Victory’ coalition, won the support of 18 percent of the people who cast their ballot. Right-wing coalition ‘NADA’ candidate Milos Jovanovic was in third place with 5.9 percent of the vote, followed by ‘Patriotic Bloc’ candidate Bosko Obradovic with 4.4 percent and ‘Oath Keepers’ party candidate Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski with 4.3 percent of votes, RIK added on its website. According to the REC data, the turnout was 58.6 percent.

Pristina Hasn’t Decided to Ban Serbia’s Elections in Kosovo

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Wednesday (23.03) he would not say “the Government of the Republic of Kosovo has made a decision not to hold Serbia’s elections in Kosovo,” adding there was no agreement on the issue yet.  

Kurti said he expected „a normal exchange of letters, a request from Belgrade, which Kosovo would consider,” adding that did not happen. 

“The European Union was not satisfied that I did not accept that everything be completed within the recommended exchange of letters between liaison officers. I am convinced an agreement should be reached through the exchange (of the letters) between the Government of Serbia and the Government of Kosovo. We are the highest instances of the two countries, and as such, we should agree on holding elections. This issue got a different direction. We express our regret, but I can’t say anything more than that,” Kurti said. 

EU Council Extends Restrictive Measures in BiH

The Council of the European Union has adopted on Friday (18.03) a decision extending its framework for restrictive measures in view of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina until 31 March 2024. 

“The European Union will therefore keep its ability to impose targeted restrictive measures on individuals or entities who undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Restrictive measures can also be imposed against those who seriously threaten the security situation in the country, or undermine the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace”, the Council said in a press release

It said that the Restrictive measures framework provides for a ban on travelling to the EU for natural persons, and an asset freeze for individuals and entities. In addition, EU persons are forbidden from making funds available to those listed. For the time being, no individual or entity is subject to restrictive measures within this framework. 

“The Council reiterates its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective as a single, united and sovereign country. The Council deeply regrets the prolonged political crisis in the country, urges a full return to the State institutions, and calls on the country’s leaders to refocus on the implementation of the reforms necessary to advance on the EU path, including the constitutional and electoral reform and in the field of rule of law”, the statement said. 

The Situation in BiH is a Political Issue, Not a Security Threat

Despite the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina being worrying, it is a political issue, not a security crisis, British envoy to the Western Balkans Stuart Peach told Hina news agency, adding that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a “challenge” that must not spill over in the Balkans.

While stressing that the situation in BiH is a political, not a security issue, Peach welcomed the recent increase in the number of EUFOR troops in BiH from 600 to 1,100. He called it a “visible demonstration of presence.”

“The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is worrying. Of course, it is a political situation, a political issue, not a security crisis. We have to work together to prevent that from happening”, said the former senior commander of the British Air Force and former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Peach was appointed British envoy to the Western Balkans in December 2021. Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently a potential candidate for EU membership while neighboring Serbia has been in accession talks with the EU for eight years, but with reforms to bring the country closer to the Union, Belgrade’s relations with Pristina will be key he said.

However, Peach pointed out that the United Kingdom “encourages all governments in the region on their Euro-Atlantic path and the path towards the EU because they think it provides the best hope for the people in the region for a better future, free from war.”

“We respect if the countries in the region do not want to join NATO, but those who want to should get that opportunity”, Peach said, adding that the same goes for joining the EU.