EU attacked by Serbian politicians for pro-government bias

Presidential candidate Sasa Radulović claims the EU unfairly favours incumbent Premier Aleksandar Vučić. [Necenzurisano]

Serbian presidential candidates are criticising the EU, blaming it for tolerating the authoritarian leanings of the government’s candidate and current Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, in exchange for stability and concessions over Kosovo. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

The criticism usually comes from the extreme right and nationalist bloc in Serbia, including the Democratic Party of Serbia, the Serbian Radical Party and the Dveri movement, who are in principle anti-European, and generally pro-Russian.

This time, the criticism also comes from the candidates of the so-called democratic bloc, who point to the EU’s leniency towards the government.

The harshest critic is the candidate of the Enough is Enough movement (Dosta je bilo – DJB) and its leader Saša Radulović. This month, after Kosovo decided to appropriate real estate  within its self-declared national boundaries, he claimed that the EU is turning a blind eye to both non-democratic practices in Serbia and the “stealing” of property in Kosovo by the state.

“Not only (does) Europe turns a blind eye and tolerate this theft, but also actively supports the catastrophic government of the (Prime Minister) Aleksandar Vučić, by getting involved in the presidential campaign of this prime minister, who abuses his position,” Radulović said, as this move by Priština coincided with Vučić’s trip to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin.

Brussels' Balkan approach: Little carrot, broken stick

Once staunchly pro-EU, Kosovars are losing patience with Brussels, which they accuse of prioritising Serbian accession over their own sovereignty, warns the mayor of Kosovo’s capital, Shpend Ahmeti.

Radulović’s party, Enough is Enough, also said that in democracies it is unthinkable for the prime minister to run for the presidency without resigning, while it doesn’t bother Mogherini and Merkel to meet with the Serbian premier during his presidential campaign.

In the statement, Enough is Enough also said that the EU bureaucracy “lost the compass” and sacrificed all of its proclaimed values for short-term interests substantially contrary to the interest of citizens of Serbia

Ex-ombudsman Saša Janković, who is now running for the presidency as an independent candidate, said at the beginning of March that the EU justifies politics in Serbia totally opposed to European values, meaning democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Janković outlined that he will, therefore, return prizes he received for promoting EU values and standards in Serbia.

“I will bring back the prize not because I don’t believe in Europe and European values. On the contrary, I will do it to defend those values, that are not only European but also Serbian,” Janković said. He received prizes for the promotion of European values in Serbia three times – two times by the European Movement in Serbia, and once by a local NGO.

Serbian confidence in accession process declining

Support for EU accession among Serbians is falling, and it may be a result of a loss of confidence in the chances of being admitted, a recent poll by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) shows. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Candidate Vuk Jeremić, Serbia’s former foreign minister, who also served as president of the UN General Assembly in 2012-13 and is a founder of the NGO CIRSD, missed the meeting with Mogherini on 3 March in Belgrade, as he hoped to begin his presidential campaign with a visit to Kosovo. By taking such a step, according to public opinion, he showed his priorities.

Jeremić is known as nationalist, although he was educated at Harvard and Cambridge, and was in the pro-European Democratic Party.

The elections are to be held on 2 April, there are 11 candidates registered, with the polls giving significant advantage to the candidate of the governing coalition, Aleksandar Vučić, who is leading his campaign as prime minister, after he surprisingly decided to run for the presidency to secure the victory of his Serbian Progressive Party SNS.