Serbia continues foreign policy "balancing act"
During the first 100 days in office, the Serbian government led by PM Aleksanadar Vučić was trying to build good relations with countries in both East and West.Source: B92
The country's officials have repeatedly underlined that Serbia wants to be a full member of the European Union, but does not want to damage the friendly relations with Russia.
Such statements were heard also as Serbian officials visited Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, while Serbia was promoted as a good investment destination.
"These visits, combined with internal reforms, certainly make Serbia a point that foreign capital will be interested in. Of course it will be very important for Serbia to maintain internal stability of the exchange rate, external debt, balance of payments and so on, because capital takes all this into account," said former ambassador, now university professor Predrag Simić, and added:
"It seems to me that if Serbia persists in such a successful foreign policy and reforms, it can be expected it will become an attractive place for foreign investment."
Nevertheless, Serbia's attitude towards the Ukrainian crisis has brought about frequent calls from Brussels to harmonize Serbian foreign policy with the EU. Belgrade has so far successfully balanced its position, but the big test is expected next year, when the country takes over the presidency of the OSCE.
"This is a significant role to coordinate an important international organization. I think that every country wants it. It would have been much better it if (presidency) happened in a calmer situation, but for that reason I think it is a great challenge for us and our country," said former ambassador to Ukraine Dušan Lazić, who now heads the Forum for Ethnic Relations, and added:
"So far, our attitude towards East and West has held water, but I do not think it can last for a long time."
Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić warned recently that Serbia's position on Ukraine - to respect its territorial integrity, but not introduce sanctions against Russia - "meets with resistance from countries that want a faster entry of Serbia into the EU," while Prime Minister Vučić said that Serbia has "a fair, responsible and serious foreign policy."
Head of the negotiating team with the EU Tanja Miščević told B92 that Serbia has a clearly defined foreign policy and the strategic goal of joining the EU, but that the country has the right to present its arguments to Brussels expressing its views regarding "world events."
"Even when a country joins the EU, it has the right to have stronger and better ties with some of the world's countries. It is not unusual for some important countries, including the founders of the EU, to have very good relations with Russia. Problems arise with crises, because then some (countries) react in one, and others in another way," she said.
Asked whether Serbia would have to "adjust its policy towards Russia" - that is, impose sanctions - Miščević said:
"The great thing about the common (EU) security and foreign policy is that you can keep your reasoned position. It should not be an excuse not to harmonize at all, but when you have a good argument can have a stance. Messages that are being sent to us these days say that you must be very clear and precise on why you cannot do something. Why you cannot impose sanctions, why cannot harmonize a law with EU rules..."
The head of the negotiating team believes that Brussels will accept Serbia's arguments, while "the question remains whether they will completely like it."
"Certainly our position - that the most important thing is to establish peace - is no different than that of EU members. It is not just about Ukraine, but also about Gaza. There is no need for any particular alignment there, there we support the EU position," Miščević concluded.