“Serbia has to adapt its visa practice to the EU if it wants to become an accession candidate,” stated German Minister of Interior Nancy Faeser, as cited by SchengenVisaInfo.com, continuing a somewhat ironic line of criticism voiced by the EU only days earlier.
The statements come in light of more than 19,000 “detections” of illegal crossings into the EU through a Western Balkan route known to pass through Serbia.
The latest comments add to increased pressure to force Serbia to conform to EU policies. These include 1) a push for Serbia to levy sanctions against Russia 2) anger over protests and minority rights with regard to a called-off gay pride parade in September 3) a ban on Russian oil imports through the JANAF pipeline, which Serbia has alleged was instigated at the last minute by long-time nemesis Croatia 4) a draft bill put together by European MEPs suggesting that the accession process should be suspended altogether 5) an EC report noting some Serbian progress with regard to rule of law, but also stating that Serbia must align itself with EU foreign policy, improve its fight against organized crime and drug trafficking and also drastically improve freedom of speech/press rights in the country.
The immigration comments do at least somewhat smack of irony, considering the EU’s schizophrenic take on immigration since a 2015 decision by then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “open the gates” that some argued would destabilize the EU (and some do indeed still make this argument).
Yet the immigration issue is real, as Serbia has visa-free entry to the EU, but at the same time admits visitors from a number of troubled countries, such as Afghanistan and Syria without demanding visas or vetting.
Meanwhile, there has been pushback on the part of Serbia, with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic signing and agreement to build an alternate pipeline while also announcing on Serbian TV that during the US pushed Hungary (according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban) to open a “second front” against Serbia during the war in Kosovo.
Likewise, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Selakovic has met with UN and EU representatives to point out the aggressive take of Pristina officials against Serbia—which he claimed is undermining compromise on Kosovo—and some politicians are now openly wondering whether or not Serbia belongs in the EU.
This, combined with Russian angles claiming that Serbia is being bullied into sanctions, has hardly made Vucic’s job any easier, although he ha consistently stated that EU accession is a Serbian goal.
Photo: Refugees from Afghanistan in a Belgrade park photo by: Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons