Serbia in danger of seeing EU accession derailed; energy supply also in question

Serbia’s walk along the edges of EU toleration/acceptance/support continued this weekend with the EU again voicing disapproval and implying that Serbia has put eventual EU accession in jeopardy at the same time that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic begged for energy crisis support for both Serbia and the Balkans as a whole.

With regard to the former, the past three weeks have been an endless tit-for-tat between Serbia and the EU, primarily over Serbia’s refusal to consider recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. This has come concurrently with pressure from the EU and US for Serbia to redefine relations with Russia—which has been met with 1) Serbia’s adamant refusal to recognize Russian referendums in Ukraine, which was welcomed by the EU (while pointing out that this argument is in line with its refusal to recognize Kosovo independence, which was not) and 2) a new plan to improve bilateral cooperation between Russia and Serbia, which clearly was not something the EU nor the US had seen on the cards.

The above moves have hardly ingratiated Serbia into the EU’s good books, and now EU parliamentarians have suggested suspending accession altogether.
Noted first by the regional service Novinite, the EU has now published a draft report which clearly states that the EU should “make progress on accession talks with Serbia only if the country accedes to EU sanctions against Russia.”

This focuses on the fact that although Serbia stated it would not support Russia’s illegal referendums in Eastern Ukraine, it has not levied or participated in sanctions against Russia.
Yet not only could Serbia see EU accession delayed, the draft went further to suggest that the hammer may come down on current EU funds, with “all EU funds” for Serbia to now come under review.

This likely puts Vucic and the government of Ana Brnabic in a quandary  Although Serbia has been an outlier with consistent GDP growth and investment since the war on Ukraine began, Europe and the US are facing a potentially sharp recession, driven largely by world instability and energy prices.

Serbia will not be immune here, and on Oct. 1 Vucic went so far as to ask for energy support in the form of EU funds for not only Serbia but the Balkans. Yet considering the destruction of Nord Stream pipelines through apparent sabotage and the bleak outlook for the old countries of the EU, including German, France and now even Italy—countries which will not only deal with price hikes, but which may physically run short of gas for heating purposes for their citizens—this plea is likely to fall for now on deaf ears.

This may be even more the case, considering Vucic’s history of attempting to do deals with Russia, as in fact he announced that a gas deal had been reach with Russia only in May of this year, with the president trumpeting at the time that Serbia would receive gas at the “most favourable price in Europe,” according to Radio Free Europe.

This was followed on May 30 of the signing of said contract—a move that came precisely at the moment that EU heads were negotiating among themselves new, harsher sanctions against Russia. And shortly after the three-year deal was signed, Vucic admitted that gas and oil flows may come to a complete stop by November, due in part to EU sanctions.

Which means the much ballyhooed tightrope walk continues, as Serbia continues to go its own way.


Photo credit by: Leon E. Panetta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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