Izetbegovic Says “Serbian World” is a Threat

SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic on Thursday (26.05) said the danger of the Greater Serbia project in the Balkans has not ended and that cooperation between the Bosniaks and Croats is essential to prevent it, but that it doesn’t exist as HDZ BiH party has decided to cooperate with Banja Luka and Belgrade. 

Addressing a special meeting of the main committee of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) in Sarajevo on the 32nd anniversary of the party’s establishment, Izetbegovic said that the idea of a Greater Serbia has continued to live in the “Serbian World” project constructed in Belgrade as a version of the “Russian World” as imagined by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. 

Separatism and attempts to destroy BiH as conducted by the Serb member of the Presidency, Milorad Dodik, is a constituent part of that scenario, underscored Izetbegovic. 

A logical response in the fight against that Greater Serbia project, Izetbegovic said, would be cooperation with the “Croat factor,” in BiH and with Croatia because whenever that cooperation existed, the situation in BiH stabilised in everyone’s favour. 

That is not succeeding with the incumbent leader of the HDZ BiH, Dragan Čovic, because, Izetbegovic said, the largest Croat party in BiH has decided to achieve its political objectives by pressuring Bosniaks and cooperating with Dodik, as well as creating Serb-Croat collusion that includes Zagreb and Belgrade while flirting with Russia, undermining the position of the High Representative to BiH and weakening the international factor which is stabilising the situation in BiH. 

Izetbegovic said that SDA will not and cannot agree to any amendments to the election law that would bolster discrimination of BiH citizens, dividing them into legitimate and illegitimate ones, and that would “create a two-third majority rule of ethnocentric Serb and Croat parties” over the Bosniaks. 

EU Expects Serbia to Join Sanctions Against Russia

President Aleksandar Vucic said that European Union Council President Charles Michel expects Serbia to join in the sanctions against Russia. Speaking after a meeting with Michel, Vucic said that the EU Council president “expressed in a very strong way the expectation and wish for Serbia to join in imposing sanctions against the Russian Federation”. “I informed him of our political stands”, the Serbian president added.

The Serbian President said that Michel’s visit at this moment is of great importance to the future of the country. He said that he is grateful to Michel for always being prepared to hear the Serbian side and devoting special attention to the Western Balkans.

“We discussed Serbia’s European path and I stressed that our goal is full membership in the EU. I want to tell the citizens of Serbia that this is not just an emotional issue but a matter of reason”, Vucic said. He said the importance of the EU is reflected in the fact that trade with the Union accounted for more than 60 percent of Serbia’s foreign trade in 2021, totaling 30 billion euros, and the fact that it is the biggest foreign investor.

Asked if quicker accession to the EU means recognition of Kosovo, Vucic replied saying: “If you think you can get cheese for free – you will never get it because free cheese only exists in a mousetrap”. He added that the issue is not recognition but a comprehensive agreement on normalization.Michel told the news conference that he is in Belgrade to confirm that the EU is fully committed to Serbia’s accession negotiations and wants to expand the dialogue and cooperation, and promote peace, stability, and security.

He said that the war in Ukraine has shaken up Europe. “The time has come after COVID to recover our economies and protect each other… We have to speed up integration… We want the citizens of Serbia and partners in the region to have benefits. My visit sends a strong signal of close cooperation between Serbia and the EU”.

He said that the EU invests in Serbia and its people. “Your projects become ours, your future is our common future which is why the EU is the leading investor”. Michel elaborated that the European Geo-Political Community that he proposed would help ease accession for EU candidate countries by providing a platform to exchange views at the highest level and increase mutual political understanding. He added that it’s important to have that political format right now, enabling a common commitment to specific challenges.

Kosovo Insists on Mutual Recognition

Kosovo Foreign Minister Donika Gervala Schwartz said that progress can be achieved in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue only if Kosovo and Serbia recognize each other. “Kosovo should recognize Serbia and Serbia should recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Only then can we resolve all other issues bilaterally”, she told Al-Jazeera Balkans.

According to the foreign minister, progress is possible only if the two sides approach the dialogue seriously. “Everyone, even Serbia, knows that mutual recognition is at its center”, she added.

Gervala Schwartz said that Pristina will sue Serbia for genocide and added that “the aggressor should approach the victim and apologize for crimes committed”.

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.