What began as a flap between countries may well have been turned into a political victory for both Ukraine and Serbia, with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announcing that Serbia again fully backs Ukrainian territorial integrity, with the press of both countries noting that Serbia has now joined the “Crimean Platform”—an Ukrainian program dedicated to the “liberation and reincorporation” of Crimea.
For his part, Vucic stated through Instagram posts that he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed not only Ukraine, but the current situation in the ethnic-Serb dominated districts of North Kosovo. Vucic added that Serbia believes Ukrainian territory to be inviolable “since the beginning of the war.”
The statement comes as a stark contrast to behind-the-scenes headbutting that resulted in Vucic pointing out that Ukrainian recognition of Kosovo as an independent state could cause it to “lose everything.”
Just what “everything” was remained in question, but clearly there was potential for friction–with this having been brought to the fore by an open letter signed by 10 parliamentary foreign committees and some 50 European MPs called for the US and EU to pressure Serbia over Kosovo. More interesting is that the letter was initiated by the chairman of the Ukrainian committee on foreign policy, Oleksandr Merezhko, as well as by a UK MP, Alicia Kearns.
Yet the letter seemed a thing of the past by Aug. 23, as also noteworthy is that Serbia joined the Crimean Platform, a Ukrainian government initiative and even currently being held in Kyiv with the goal of supporting both the liberation and the re-absorption of Crimea. During the opening of the event Aug. 23, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba noting new participants as being Bahrain, Serbia, East Timor, the United Arab Emirates, the Danube Commission, UNESCO and the World Tourism Organisation, as reported by European Pravda.
Noted among guests were Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo as cited by the publication.
The above is seen by some pundits, as well as even local Serbian media as a political shift away from Russia by Serbia.
“The leaders of the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova and EU officials agreed on a declaration in which, among other things, they give ‘unwavering support’ to Ukraine, but also condemn war and other crimes, such as attacks on civilians and destruction of infrastructure,” noted Serbian Monitor.
“Plus, the declaration contains condemnation of early and subsequent war crimes committed in Ukraine and support for prosecuting all those responsible for such war crimes,” the publication noted. As Serbia is one of the signatories of this declaration, it could be considered a novelty in the country’s foreign policy.”
That said, other pundits noted that the declaration is no different than what has already been declared by the United Nations, which has been previously backed by Serbia.
Still, the joint statements may come as a relief to (or a rebuttal) to European politicians in the wake of a joint letter written by European MPs criticizing Vucic, the EU and the US on Kosovo.
The previously mentioned open letter had caused Vucic to react angrily, with the Serbian president stating that he considered Zelenskyy more intelligent than Merezhko and adding that if Ukraine recognized Kosovo as an independent state it would “lose everything in one day.”
The basis of Vucic’s argument lies within the logic of inviolable borders—which he has pointed out applies to both Ukraine and Serbia. Vucic has steadfastly refused to state that Kosovo is not part of Serbia and has often criticized the actions of NATO during the Kosovo war, which led to a state of Kosovo independence—which is not recognized by all EU countries—and in which the country hosts NATO troops to keep the peace.
Photo by Das österreichische Außenministerium, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.