European Western Balkans

BCSP presents the “Serbia and Hungary – Hammering Democracy” analysis

Vučić and Orban; Photo: Tanjug

BELGRADE – Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) published the “Serbia and Hungary – Hammering Democracy” analysis about their political and economic cooperation, but also their common characteristics.

The document points out that Hungary is currently Serbia’s closest international partner, as well as that bilateral relations between the two countries are no longer marred by any disputes and their political and economic interests increasingly coincide.

“The values underpinning the administrations of both countries have converged to such an extent that a similar modus operandi is evident in their attitudes to issues such as democracy, the rule of law, institutions, foreign policy priorities, political opposition, the media, non-governmental organisations and the migrant crisis”, BCSP states.

Political and economic cooperation of Serbia and Hungary

The analysis cites numerous meetings between Serbian and Hungarian officials, especially Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

“The personal friendship between Vučić and Orbán was highlighted at all of these meetings, as were the excellent relations that the two countries had cultivated, which were particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic,”, reads the document.

It is added that economic relations between Serbia and Hungary go hand in hand with the two countries’ political relations.

“The transport of goods between the two countries continued throughout Serbia’s state of emergency uninterrupted. According to Viktor Orbán, trade between the two countries saw unprecedented growth in 2019. Last year it amounted to 2.5 billion euros”, BCSP points out.

In addition, the most important projects concerning the two countries were singled out, namely the construction of the Belgrade-Budapest railway, the construction of the “TurkStream” gas pipeline and the cooperation of energy companies.

Common characteristics

It is highlighted that the latest Freedom House report removed Serbia and Hungary from the list of democracies and instead categorised them as hybrid regimes, in grey zone between democracies and full-blown dictatorships.

“A decline of democracy and the rule of law is characteristic of both countries. The state of emergency exposed the openly authoritarian tendencies of both governments”, reads the analysis.

In addition, the gray economy, the capture of media by the authorities and the funcioning of non-governmental in a extremely hostile political environment are features of both the Serbian and Hungarian authorities, the document points out.

On the other hand, it is stated that Hungary is one of the main proponents of the European integration of the Western Balkans and of Serbia in particular, but that relations toward the EU by both countries have recently shown a tendency to criticise the EU response to the crisis and to praise the Chinese approach.

“European institutions have yet to find an effective means of reversing the undemocratic trends overseen by Vučić and Orbán. Europe has for years turned a blind eye to the gradual degradation of Serbia’s institutions, the decline of democracy and the rule of law and the stifling of freedoms, allowing the country to develop into a stabilotocracy. In the case of Serbia’s northern neighbour, where all of this took place alongside open confrontation with the autonomy of universities, non-governmental organisations and internet freedoms, European institutions responded mainly verbally and declaratively”, it is stated in the document and added that these reactions are not surprising given the difference in the interests involved but also the limited number of mechanisms available to the EU to sanction such conduct.

At the end of the document, it is underlined that Serbia should develop and nurture the best possible relations with all of its neighbours for political, economic, ethnic, cultural and other reasons.

“Hungary is important for Serbia because of historical and unbreakable family and human bonds and that it is unacceptable that the governments of these two countries are using bilateral cooperation to consolidate their own power, to destroy democracy and dismantle the liberal order”, concludes the analysis.

The author of “Serbia and Hungary – Hammering Democracy” analysis is Marko Drajić, Advocacy and Project Manager at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. The analysis can be found HERE.

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