European Western Balkans

FP: How Aleksandar Vučić Became Europe’s Favorite Autocrat

Aleksandar Vučić; Photo: European Union

WASHINGTON – The EU is undermining its credibility by choosing stability over democracy in Serbia, writes the Foreign Policy in its latest article.

Taking look at the report from the British House of Lords who stated that the European Union has chosen “stability over democratic values” in the Western Balkans the article explains that “most post-Yugoslav governments have  become “stabilitocracies” rather than democracies — and nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in Serbia.”

“President Vučić is a reformed ultranationalist who served as Slobodan Milošević’s minister of information in the final days of the Yugoslav wars, a role that involved fining journalists who criticized the regime and banning unfriendly TV networks. In recent years, he has presided over a period of alarming democratic backsliding,” it is written in the article.

It is also stated that on the surface, “Serbia is still a democratic society with nominally free elections and a political opposition”, but Vučić’s control over Serbia’s centers of power is so complete and the democratic process “is so skewed in his favor that dissent poses no threat to his rule,” adding that he managed to suppress the media by taking control of main income stream – advertising.

As one of the examples, the Foreign Policy mentions daily newspaper Danas, who has lost so many advertisers that fell from 32 pages down to 24, “despite offering the cheapest advertising space on the market”.

However, the EU officials such as Johannes Hahn, Angela Merkel, Sebastian Kurz and others, have been “more than happy to look the other way as Vucic tramples on the “European values” that they purportedly hold so dear,” reads the article.

“The EU’s tolerance of Vučić may be politically pragmatic and an easy way of maintaining stability in the Balkans, but it’s also deeply cynical. Indeed, the EU is undermining its own moral authority.”

Balancing between Russia and the West might be one of the reasons the EU is willing to look on the other side.

Although Serbia has strong religious and historical ties with Russia, the EU buys nearly 10 times as many Serbian exports as Russia does, so it seems obvious why the country is resolute on its EU path. However, it is stated that Moscow could also benefit from this.

“Serbia in the EU is a gain for Russia; they don’t expect more. The status quo — political links plus some economic cooperation — suits Moscow,”  Dimitar Bechev, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center tells Foreign Policy.

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