In interview to Voice of America (VOA), the Deputy Assistant Secretary at US Department and a special envoy for the Western Balkans, Mathew Palmer said, that Washington is concerned about the “current trends in Serbia” regarding the last elections, anti-government protests across the country, but also about the Finance Ministry Department for suspecting of Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism’s financial probe into Serbian journalists’, media and NGOs’ accounts.
“We noticed the Freedom House report, which put Serbia among the countries with a hybrid regime. Freedom House is a well-respected organization which uses the methods recognized in the world”, said Palmer, commenting on the ‘Countries in Transition’ FH report published in May.
He added that the people in Serbia did not have many choices in the elections on June 21.
“We wanted the opposition to take part in the elections, but it claimed the election conditions were not fair enough for it to participate. We are worried about the lack of opportunity for the opposition parties and their representatives to appear in the media. That particularly applies to the public broadcaster – RTS TV. We would like some changes to happen and that Serbia’s public has a chance to choose among different options”, Palmer told.
Referring to the Finance Ministry’s investigation of NGOs, journalists and media, he said the move would not help Serbia on its proclaimed road to the European Union membership.
“We are also concerned about the perception of selective implementation of the law which targets the civil society and investigative journalist. That could only make Serbia’s way to the EU more difficult”, Palmer warned.
He confirmed that the USA “strongly supports Serbia’s European perspective and its bloc’s membership. But, for that to happen, Serbia needs to qualify and to carry out democratic reforms. We hope that Belgrade and Serbia see us as partners in that process and there still is a lot of work to be done”.
Referring the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalization of relations, Palmer announced that “an agreement would ideally lead to mutual recognition.”
Palmer mentioned the situation in Montenegro ahead of general elections, promising Washington’s help in fighting disinformation and warning people about its external nature.
“A part of that aid is technical, but also in developing abilities for the surveillance of the sphere where the information comes to so that the disinformation can be recognized. We also will help in developing counter-narrative”, Palmer clarified and added the aim was to make it difficult for “the sides which use that information for inciting mistrust.”
In this respect, NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (STRATCOM COE) has published in May analysis of mechanisms used by the Russian information agencies and media to spread the narrative aiming at slowing down the Western Balkans’ Euro-Atlantic integration and cause the polarization of the peoples in the region.