On Friday 10th June, during a two-day tour of the Balkans, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić of the right-wing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) publicly clashed during a press conference held in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. While it is common for national leaders to butt heads over numerous geopolitical issues, the tensions between the leaders of Germany and Serbia were especially notable because they arose following strong disagreements over two key issues – the political status of Kosovo and the sanctioning of Russia.
The Ongoing Kosovo Crisis
Earlier in the day, Scholz appeared in the Kosovan capital of Priština to appeal to both Kosovo and Serbia to normalise their geopolitical relations 23 years after the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. Scholz also informed Kosovo and Serbia that the two territories could only hope to become European Union member states if both regions recognised the other as independent states. Curiously, Scholz would ask Kosovo to recognise Serbia as independent, given the fact that Serbia is already an independent sovereign state.
Kosovo, on the other hand, is a land holding the status of a disputed territory within the Republic of Serbia, according to international law – specifically the United Nations Resolution 1244, which ended the Kosovo War in 1999 and explicitly stated that Kosovo was to remain an autonomous province within Serbia. Furthermore, Kosovo cannot join the EU unless it officially becomes a member of the United Nations. Currently, it does not even hold the status of an observer state.
Upon being asked what he thought about Scholz’s demand that Serbia formerly recognises Kosovo as an independent state if Serbia itself wishes to become an EU member state eventually, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić firmly – and seemingly angrily – stated:
“So that you can understand that [Serbia’s position]: We do not respond to pressure in this way – that someone threatens us and then you have to do something…What was said regarding mutual recognition is also a surprise for us… We have so far not heard that from anyone in Europe… As much as you like [the territorial] integrity of Ukraine, that much we love Serbia’s [territorial integrity].”
Part of Vučić’s statement is slightly misleading, as it has been well-known for years that formal recognition of Kosovo as an independent state had always been a critical condition for Serbia’s admission into the European Union as a member state.
Serbia’s Choice: Russia or the West?
Alongside his demand that Serbia recognises Kosovo as a pre-condition of joining the European Union, Scholz also made a second unsurprising demand from Vučić – that Serbia officially aligns its foreign policy with that of the EU and immediately join the bloc in imposing sanctions against Russia. According to Scholz and other high-ranking EU officials, such a move is officially expected of Serbia, as the country is an official EU candidate state. Naturally, given Serbia and Russia’s centuries-long traditional ties, Vučić’s response to Scholz’s demand was a firm rejection. Scholz also told the press that Serbia should come to a formal decision on the matter of sanctions against Russia as soon as possible, expressing a quite clear “sooner rather than later, please” attitude.
Vučić further added – again with his trademark bluntness and confrontational attitude – that he believed that there was little difference between NATO’s attack against Serbia in 1999 during the Kosovo War and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Subsequently, he hinted at his belief that the EU and NATO are displaying hypocrisy on the matter. So why, according to Vučić, should Serbia listen to an effectively anti-Serb globalist bloc when it comes to sanctioning a country that supported Serbia during NATO’s unprovoked attack in 1999 – an attack which predominantly targeted civilian infrastructure far away from the warzone that was Kosovo?
Another critical point to note is that Kosovo remains an unrecognised state without UN membership mainly because of the veto powers that Russia and China hold at the UN. Without formal Russian and Chinese recognition, Kosovo cannot become a UN member state, ultimately stopping the so-called breakaway state from becoming an independent country.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in late February, the Serbian Government has consistently stated that it will not impose any sanctions against Russia and that Serbia will remain militarily neutral, choosing to align with neither NATO nor the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). However, Serbia’s representatives at the United Nations have formally condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of another nation’s territorial integrity. This is as far as Serbia’s rhetoric against Russia has gone, as the majority of the political parties in Serbia and the overwhelming majority of the Serbian public strongly support Russia as a nation and are openly against the imposition of sanctions against the Russian people. The common view in Serbia is that the actions of the Russian government and the popular sentiments of the Russian people are not the same.
The popular response to the invasion itself in Serbia is far more mixed, with the majority of pro-Russian protests and marches in Serbia supporting the Russian people suffering under the Western sanctions than the actual invasion of Ukraine itself. The mainstream media in the West, however, does not recognise this distinction, choosing to label the Serb people collectively as pro-invasion and anti-Ukrainian, thereby further demonising the Serb people in the eyes of the mainstream media.
Geopolitical Cognitive Dissonance Over Serbia
Within the pro-EU camp, Olaf Scholz and his centre-left government are considered to be one of Serbia’s strongest partners regarding Serbia’s accession to the EU. However, some pro-EU governments have since been having second thoughts, with French President Emmanuel Macron and his liberal government – one of the most radically pro-EU governments in Europe – harbouring increasingly sceptical feelings about allowing Western Balkan nations in general into the bloc. In a change of heart from his initial angry outbursts against Scholz and his statements over Kosovo and anti-Russian sanctions, Aleksandar Vučić suddenly found himself attempting to appeal once again to Scholz and the EU:
“We [Serbia] have full confidence in the words of Chancellor Scholz when it comes to the fact that he really puts a high priority on the accession of the Western Balkan states… I know that Chancellor Scholz is very serious about this. We can actually learn something, and the atmosphere can improve”
Serbia’s position in European geopolitics in 2022 is undoubtedly one of the most complex on the continent. Serbia is experiencing a problematic dilemma over its future path, as its declared neutrality – especially regarding the war in Ukraine – is seemingly unacceptable to the globalist West (i.e. the EU and NATO). With their mentality of “You’re either with us or against us”, the EU and NATO will effectively consider Serbia to be a collaborator with Russia, even if the former nation chooses to remain militarily and politically neutral, as it has done since the end of the Second World War. Although Serbia continues to allow commercial flights to and from Russia as per usual and has recently renewed a gas trade deal with Russia at enviably low prices for another three years, it is exceptionally far-fetched to label Serbia a collaborator with Russia with regards to the war in Ukraine, as Serbia does not provide any military aid to either Ukraine or Russia. Furthermore, such a narrow-minded position held by the EU and NATO is already antagonising the Serb people even more so than ever, with anti-Western sentiment in Serbia rising to record levels even among pro-EU circles in the country. A recent opinion poll by IPSOS held in the more pro-EU cities in Serbia has shown that for the very first time, Serbs in these areas are predominantly against joining the EU, with 44% being against membership, 35% in favour of membership and 21% unsure.
Serbian Support for Russia
Opinion polls, however, do not need to be held to determine the sheer level of support that the Serb people express towards Russia and have done throughout the centuries (although it must be stressed that this powerful support is for the Russian people and nation; Serbian public opinion over the invasion of Ukraine itself is far more mixed). That said, in this day and age, numbers and statistics are especially important, and according to another recent nationwide poll, 84.7% of Serbs are against joining the EU – if the condition is to recognise Kosovo as independent – 87.2% are against Serbia militarily aligning with NATO, and 82.1% are against the imposition of sanctions against Russia. For added context to the significance of these statistics, over 85% of Serbia’s population is ethnically Serb.
As things currently stand, Serbia’s natural choice would be to either remain neutral or to align itself fully with Russia, seeking even closer cooperation with the CSTO, which Serbia is currently an observer state of. Regardless of Serbia’s decision, the EU and NATO’s complete disregard for Serbia’s own political and territorial sovereignty, as well as its freedom to determine its own path in the future, has arguably played a crucial role in driving Serbia even further away from co-operation with the West and giving the Serb people even more reason to align themselves with the nation which has supported it throughout the centuries, even if the majority of Serb people still harbour mixed-to-negative views towards the invasion of Ukraine itself. With all this said, Olaf Scholz’s failure to understand Serbia’s complicated position and lack of respect for the nation’s prior decision to remain militarily neutral will have the entirely opposite effects that the EU and NATO intended for the small Balkan country. Scholz’s failure should also serve as a lesson to the EU, NATO and their other globalist partners that challenging sovereign nations’ political independence and freedom to determine their own future will only serve to drive them away from such blocs. Such challenges to sovereignty factored into the United Kingdom’s vote for withdrawal from the EU in 2016 and the antagonisation of Poland and Hungary over their stances against migrants and LGBT propaganda. If things continue the way that they are – although it has been the case for decades now – Serbia will be next on the EU and NATO’s own list of “unfriendly countries” and Serbia will ultimately have no other choice than to join Russia in creating its own list of “unfriendly countries”, thereby destabilising the geopolitical situation in Europe even more so.
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