The topic of Radio Free Europe’s (RSE) latest Most was whether the West knows what it wants in the Western Balkans. The interviewees were Vesna Pusic, former Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Zarko Korac, who was Deputy Prime Minister at the time of the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
Omer Karabeg: ”After the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the West is much more concerned with the Western Balkans than before. However, despite the significant involvement of the West, the situation in the region is deteriorating. Does the West have a strategy to stabilize the Western Balkans,” Omer Karabeg asked.
Vesna Pusic: ”I don’t think there is at the moment, but, unlike the situation before the Russian aggression against Ukraine, today in the European Union (EU) there is a clear awareness that the Western Balkans is a security issue for Europe,” Vesna Pusic stated.
”This awareness also exists in the current United States (U.S.) administration, although they largely expect the EU to come up with some concrete idea. It is clear to everyone that the old approach is no longer valid, which is based on the assumption that the EU has such a strong attractive power that it is enough to induce politicians in the countries of the Western Balkans to meet the conditions for membership,” she added.
Giving in to autocrats
Omer Karabeg: ”I have the impression that the West is trying to stabilize the situation in the region by constantly giving in to authoritarian leaders. This, in my opinion, is best seen in the example of Serbia. The West is afraid of losing Serbia as the largest country in the region and is constantly making concessions to Aleksandar Vucic while Vucic makes moves that suit the Russians.”
”Wasn’t the appointment of Aleksandar Vulin, who openly supports Russian interests, at the head of the intelligence service a finger in the eye to the West? And the West has no response to Vucic’s move. It all boils down to the fact that the West is calling on Serbia for the hundredth time to impose sanctions on Russia, and Vucic is answering them for the hundredth time that he will not do it,” Omer Karabeg said.
Vesna Pusic: ”This attitude towards Vucic and Serbia is a remnant of the old approach of the EU towards the Western Balkans. The old approach was based on the fact that Serbia is the largest country in the Western Balkans and potentially and actually the biggest destabilizer of other countries in the area. Therefore, Serbia should be won over and, when Serbia identifies itself with the EU, all other countries will automatically follow suit and the problems will be solved,”Pusic said.
”This approach turned out to be superficial, as any attempt to please dictatorial figures and regimes always ends badly, given that they interpret it as weakness, rather than a hand of reconciliation,” she added.
”Namely, my opinion is that Serbia has a place in the EU regardless of Vucic. Serbia is part of Europe and will never be a Russian governorate. The only question is how to achieve that,”she further stated.
The only chair
”Will the West lose Serbia,” Omer Karabeg asked Zarko Korac?
”It is not easy to answer that question. Of course, Europe is Serbia’s natural environment. But this political set has been poisoning Serbian citizens in the media for 10 years. That is why a large number of Serbian citizens support Russia in the war in Ukraine, which is scandalous in itself. Youtube channel bans Russia Today while that program is spreading in Serbia,” Korac explained.
”Russia is certainly not the way out for Serbia. The fate of the country depends on whether a group of people, consisting of Vucic and several of his truly inferior associates, will understand that the policy of sitting on two chairs no longer exists and that Serbia must choose the only chair that remains, which is the EU,” Korac concluded.