Serbian presiden tells FT that frozen conflicts can "melt"

Aleksandar Vucic has told the Financial Times that "frozen conflicts are never frozen because at some moment they melt."

Source: Tanjug
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(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

And when that happens, it is a catastrophe for everyone, according to the Serbian president.

Vucic also announced continued reforms, which have already led to three years of budget surpluses, and remains convinced that only an agreement with Pristina will bring lasting peace to the region, which, according to the newspaper, is "still suffering from the consequences of wars in the wake of Yugoslavia's collapse."

"Those who think that it is possible to contain a frozen conflict - it is never frozen because at some moment it melts. And when that happens it is a catastrophe for everyone," Vucic said in an interview conducted after the Orthodox Eve ceremonies - celebrated on January 6 in Serbia - at the Presidency building in Belgrade.

The Financial Times writes that Vucic on the occasion hosted "some of those accused by the west of threatening the region's tenuous peace - among them was Bosnian Serb strongman Milorad Dodik, who has been under US sanctions for two years because of 'a significant risk of obstructing the implementation of the Dayton accords', which ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war," but also Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic - "pro-Russian politicians from Montenegro "whom prosecutors "indicted them for allegedly organizing a coup in 2016 to try to prevent the country’s accession to NATO."

"Notwithstanding such ties," the article continues, "western diplomats have placed their faith in Vucic, once a hard-line nationalist."

The newspaper goes on to state that "many Serbs" consider Kosovo "the cradle of their Serbian Orthodox faith," and that "an array of Vucic’s domestic opponents, from left-wing leaders to hard-line nationalist conservatives, have attacked him for considering territorial compromise with Pristina."

"I know that Serbs for the most part are against solving the Kosovo problem and everything I say is against what the Serbian public wants. But opposition leaders are not in a position to accept reality. They don't have a plan, the only important thing for them is to call me a traitor and that everything stays the same. But I do not care about that," Vucic said.

He is quoted as saying that economic development and trade, and a Kosovo deal, would help stability in the region, and adding:

"If we will be able to connect with each other economically and in other ways we have a chance to be successful nations. Otherwise it will be a disaster for all of us. Everybody is leaving the region... that is why we need desperately to change the overall atmosphere in the region. If we do not do it, I don’t see a way out, no rays of hope at the end of the tunnel."

"Vucic’s critics argue that western powers are so keen to see a deal that they have been reticent to criticize democratic backsliding in Serbia, with critical voices largely excluded and an increase in violent rhetoric," the Financial Times writes.

The article recalled that Vucic served as information minister under Milosevic "and introduced fines for journalists and media critical of the former Serbian strongman" - but that he now say he has reformed, and "dismissed opposition complaints that the public broadcaster RTS does not give critical voices enough airtime."

"They have time on RTS in a way that no one had it in previous times. They have their presence on, I don't know, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. Speaking about big TV shows, they are always present. I don't know what they want. Whenever they make a protest they have more reports on RTS than us," Vucic said, and concluded:

"The problem is that whenever you hear (their complaints), it is all about media. The opposition lacks real politics and real ideas."

Politics

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