The Brief – Russia’s hub at the heart of Europe –

The European Union has gone to great lengths to sanction Russia for its military aggression against Ukraine and the war crimes committed there.

Some of the sanctions are very painful for EU countries, as many of them depend on Russian fossil fuels and other resources – and shutting down businesses is usually bad for both sides.

But there is a country in the heart of Europe, a candidate for EU membership, which has no such problems.

And this country is actively destroying the efforts of the EU.

Although Belgrade is strongly advised to align itself with EU foreign policy, under President Aleksandar Vučić Serbia is fast becoming a haven for Russia.

Serbia refuses to impose sanctions on Russia. It maintained its flights to Russia and its national carrier increased its seat capacity by using larger planes.

Thus, Air Serbia continues to serve destinations in Russia, while EU airlines and vice versa Russian airlines are not allowed to fly between the two regions.

Additionally, sanctions-hit Russians have reportedly moved from Western Europe to Serbia, and many are buying up property in a country seen as Russia’s new haven in Europe.

Sources in Belgrade told the author of this Brief that real estate prices are skyrocketing, which is not good news for potential Serbian buyers. But more generally, the flow of Russian capital to Serbia is a boon for Belgrade at a time when other countries, including the EU, are facing high inflation, mainly due to the war.

Serbia continues to receive Russian gas via Bulgaria. Russia has cut off deliveries to Bulgaria, but as promised by the Bulgarian Prime Minister, this has no impact on Russian deliveries further down the pipe to Serbia and Hungary.

Is the EU stupid? Why does the European Commission continue to support Serbia and even speak of the “need to accelerate European integration”?

Most German, French, Italian and Spanish citizens support Ukraine’s EU membership, while the majority of these countries oppose Serbia’s European path.

Only one word – profiteer – can describe Serbia’s attitude in the Ukrainian context. In times of war, such an attitude amounts to flouting the spirit of solidarity, the true backbone of the EU.

Serbia’s loyalty is far from certain. A Serbian professor and security expert said that if Putin was a candidate in the Serbian elections, he would get more than 70% of the vote. At the same time, only 20% of Serbs view the EU positively.

Victory of Russia Day, May 9, was celebrated in Belgrade with portraits of Putin and “Z” symbols, one of many Serbian parades supporting Russia in recent months.

Finally, for Vučić, a character from Jekyll-Hyde, loyalty seems to be an empty word. Its balancing act with the EU has been successful so far as the EU has always been willing to look the other way for geopolitical considerations.

“He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard,” US President Harry Truman reportedly said of the brutal Nicaraguan dictator Somoza.

Is Vučić “our bastard” or Putin’s bastard? Your guess is as good as ours.

Precisely because of geopolitics, this time Serbia’s freedoms with EU foreign policy can no longer be ignored.

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The roundup

EU member states must step up their preparations for a possible major disruption to Russian gas supplies, according to the draft conclusions of an EU summit meeting scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week ( May 30-31).

In reaction to the economic consequences of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission has postponed by one year, to 2024, the new application of its budgetary rules.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be prepared to use force to defend Taiwan, capping a series of critical comments about China in Asia that an aide said represented no change in US policy towards the island. autonomous.

Greece said on Monday it had stopped around 600 migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea into its territorial waters from neighboring Turkey, in the biggest entry attempt this year.

The French Presidency of the Council of the EU suggests not to stray too far from the Commission’s proposal concerning the determination of the status of platform workers but could share the same ambition as the European Parliament concerning algorithmic management.

From the European Commission, to the European Investment Fund, to banks and venture capitalists, to social enterprises, money changes hands several times before reaching its final destination.

Citizens endorsed their recommendations at the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFOE). EURACTIV traveled to Strasbourg during the final COFOE ceremony to interview citizens and explain the next steps of such an experiment.

Be careful with…

  • Economy and finance ministers discuss economic and financial consequences of sanctions imposed on Russia
  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the World Economic Forum
  • High Representative Josep Borrell receives General Robert Brieger, new President of the EU Military Committee

The views are those of the author.

[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]

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