EU continues to pressure Serbia over sanctions, but also immigration

In a continuation of the EU’s latest Serb-bashing encouragement moves, EU representatives said during the weekend that the country must dam the canal of illegal immigration or risk current access for its citizens to the EU through the ongoing visa-waiver program—although concurrently a European MEP noted that EU negotiations will not be stopped.

With regard to halting the visa-waiver, this was put diplomatically by current EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who said that this is nothing she would “exclude” although she hoped for “good cooperation.”

EU monitors have recorded more than 106,000 illegal entries to the EU through a route that crosses Serbia, which is a 170-percent increase from the previous year. Critics have noted that Serbia does not require visas to a number of countries that would typically face such requirements, and that this includes both Syria and Afghanistan. Likewise, criticism has been leveled that Serbia does not require visas from citizens whose countries do not recognize Kosovo independence.

That said, there is a great deal of irony here, as Serbia—like many Balkan states—was put under intense pressure in 2015 when former German Chancellor Angela Merkel de facto waved entry requirements to the EU for any claiming refugee status with an open-doors policy that many warned could “tear the EU apart.”

And seven years later, with the EU having faced Brexit, sharp resistance to migrant quotas and the eventual bad-boy posturing of Hungary (with some also claiming the same of Poland)–this argument is perhaps not one to forget.

Meanwhile, the EU has harped on Serbia’s failure to sanction Russia and recognize Kosovo—not to mention its lagging reforms with regard to press freedoms and human rights.;So much so that a European Parliament draft resolution indicated that the Serbian accession track should be suspended.

Yet even EU representatives may now be recognizing that this is a step too far—especially as Serbia is in a precarious position with regard to energy supply, as it has previously largely been dependent on Russia. On Friday, EU rapporteur for Serbia Vladimir Bilcik stated that negotiations to join the EU will not be suspended, although the Serbian government, headed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, must do more to fall in step with EU foreign policy, as cited by www.blic.rs.

Even so, the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee has now effectively made sanctions against Russia a key condition to continue accession negotiations.

Photo credit: Photo of EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson by News Oresund, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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