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CEE foreign policy experts warn US, EU on Serbia

| 2023-08-07 2 min read

CEE foreign policy experts warn US, EU on Serbia

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Foreign affairs parliamentary committee chairs from Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries including Czechia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are amongst the signatories of an open letter calling for more criticism of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s Kosovo policy.

The letter to the EU and the US, seen by German outlet Tagesspiegel, says the West is indulgently withholding criticism of Serbia’s nationalist government – which it says is increasingly escalating tensions with Kosovo – and this approach no longer works.

Risks of further escalation.

“Serbia’s attempts to disrupt democratic elections in Kosovo must be publicly denounced as foreign interference and concrete action must be taken to hold Serbia accountable if it continues to undermine free and fair elections,” the letter reads.

“We ask that the international community learn from our past and ensure that we do not pursue Belgrade-centric politics in the Balkans,” adds the message, addressed to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and British Foreign Minister James Cleverly.

‘No Belgrade-centric politics in the Balkans’

“The current approach is not working”, Tagesspiegel quoted the letter as saying on Sunday, 6 August. “We ask that the international community learn from our past and ensure that we do not pursue Belgrade-centric policies in the Balkans.”

The signatories added that Western powers should “consider a policy of deterrence diplomacy in order to prevent a further deterioration in the security situation in northern Kosovo”. Those who stand up for the rule of law and democracy should not be scolded, the letter adds.

Foreign policy experts slam ‘weak’ approach

Recent discoveries of arms depots in northern Kosovo and reports of ongoing arms smuggling across the Serbia-Kosovo border highlight “risks of further escalation”.  according to the letter, as seen by Tagesspiegel. “Kosovo is a sovereign country and a functioning democracy . This fact should form the basis of our common policy towards the current crisis.”

The current policies of the EU, the US and the UK reveal “weak points in our joint approach” that need a “rethink” and a “return to balance and proportionality in dealing with Kosovo and Serbia”.

The letter recalls the arbitrary arrest of three Kosovan police officers and failure to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on the NATO security force KFOR.

The lack of pressure on Serbia after this incident underscores “the current lack of impartiality in dealing with such trouble spots”, the letter argues.

US, German politicians also back stronger policy on Vucic

Serbia has been an EU candidate country for over a decade. The Balkan country submitted its application for EU membership on December 19, 2009, and was granted candidate country status by the European Council on March 1, 2012.

The letter was signed by, among others, the chairs of the foreign policy committees of the Bundestag, Michael Roth (SPD), and the US Senate, Bob Menendez. The signatories also included the foreign affairs committee chair of the UK Parliament.