The ban—and the fact that Croatia was involved—clearly angered Brnabic, who called the move by Croatia “shameful” and promised that President Aleksandar Vucic would quickly “respond.”
That said, Vucic did comment, as reported by some media, that the ban was not going to go immediately into place, and that a decision on the ban would be delayed until Dec. 1. This, however, was unconfirmed information.
A potential ban puts severe pressure on Serbia, as Vucic has noted that come November the question of energy supplies to Serbia will be doubtful indeed. Vucic has also stated that current gas reserves can handle 70 percent of normal domestic usage for approximately three months.
Meanwhile, the country—while seeing investment and growth unlike much of the EU—has been hit with high inflation, and on Oct. 6, as expected, the Serbian Central Bank raised the benchmark interest rate to 4 percent, the highest it has been in five years.
The move by the EU (and Croatian prodding) to include Russian oil imports in sanctions lists clearly caught Brnabic and others in the Serbian government off-guard, although the EU had already voiced displeasure with regard to Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, as well as a new bilateral agreement with Russia to “smooth” daily cooperation and even the recent debacle surrounding the annual European gay pride parade, which was met with protests from far right groups and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
A draft discussion agreement also suggested that the EU was considering stopping movement on eventual Serbian accession to the EU.
Which means, considering that the EU also wanted to up the ante on sanctions following Russia’s illegitimate referendums and annexations of parts of Ukraine, that Croatia likely did not have to prod very hard.
Likewise, the EU may be unhappy with recent closer cooperation between renegade EU member Hungary, as Hungary’s Viktor Orban noted that his country was not only ready to come to the aid of Serbia with regard to natural gas, but also that Hungary, Austria and Serbia would cooperate to limit illegal migration. Orban has long been an opponent to increased migration from Africa and the Middle East to the EU, and he has in the past defied refugee quotas leveled by Brussels.
Photo credit: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic courtesy of government.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons