European Western Balkans

Serbian government equals EP resolution to Astro-Hungarian 1914 ultimatum and international investigation on elections to „occupation“

Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić; Photo: FoNet

The adoption of the resolution of the European Parliament, calling on the European Commission to send a mission to investigate electoral irregularities during the December elections, has triggered a new wave of anti-European rhetoric from government officials.

“Resolutions come and go – this is not the first, nor will it be the last, but it will forever be recorded that in Serbia there were political parties and people who themselves sought the abolition of the sovereignty of their own country”, stated the Prime Minister of Serbia in her technical mandate, Ana Brnabić, after the adoption resolution on 8 February.

Since then, the dominant narrative of representatives of Serbian authorities is that the resolution of European Parliament is an ultimatum which resembles the Austro-Hungarian one from 1914, and also that the request for an international investigation of the members of the EP, which was supported by the opposition parties in Serbia, is equal to occupation.

„That is equal to occupation and then it quickly slides into the loss of sovereignty and occupation. Serbia will never agree to that, because Serbia is a country of freedom“, said Ana Brnabić on Wednesday, underlining that the Serbian Government will continue to have „excellent cooperation“ with international partners and „do its best“ to implement all ODIHR recommendations.

Miloš Pavković, a researcher at the European Policy Centre from Belgrade, recalls that the call of the European Parliament for an international investigation does not imply an external judicial and police investigation, but an expert mission that will investigate facts and irregularities. According to him, this does not violate the sovereignty of Serbia.

He states that the reason why the outgoing Prime Minister is directly opposed to such a mission and cooperation with the European Commission is that she may be afraid of what the commission might determine.

„Violation of sovereignty is only used as an excuse to refuse any cooperation in this area. The main question is not about sovereignty, but it is about what the mission if sent, would really reveal about the electoral process in Serbia“, believes Pavković.

In sharp reactions to the resolution of the European Parliament, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić stated for TV Prva that because of that resolution, support of citizens for Serbia’s EU membership had dropped for 10% „in one day“.

„In one day they lost some 10%, from 47% of those who would probably or definitely be in favor of entry, it dropped to 40%. It is ten percent of their votes in one day. There are only 24,2% who are certainly in favor, and 26% who are definitely against it. And what have you been doing, listening to those who do not love their country. You have done that, and I will fight to raise your popularity“ – said Vučić, without specifying the source of the statistical data he is referring to. He also added that most of those who are not clearly in favor or against the EU support him and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

Miloš Pavković says that one of messages that the president wanted to send to the European Union may be that the support for Serbia’s EU membership depends on him and the Serbian Progressive Party.

He believes that it is questionable how much the SNS can have a decisive influence on reducing the support for membership, because in Serbia there is stable support for membership which ranges between 40 and 50 percent.

“Regardless of the attitude of the SNS towards membership, there will always be a sufficient level of support in Serbia because it does not necessarily determined by party affiliations. Plenty of people support membership in the EU, both among the voters of the Serbian Progressive Party and among the voters of other parties. Whoever is in power in Serbia, there is stable support for membership, and of course, the numbers vary depending on the government’s communication itself, its commitment to EU membership,” Pavković believes.

According to him, less support for membership in recent years is the result of stagnation and the lack of reforms that the Serbian government failed to deliver in the past few years.

Harsh language towards the European Union, individual member states, or members of the European Parliament has been constant after 18 December, when the preliminary report of international observers was published, which pointed to serious electoral irregularities.

It all started with verbal confrontations between the president and the prime minister with the member of the European Parliament Andreas Schieder after his statement that the elections in Belgrade should be repeated and that he hadn’t seen anywhere what he saw during the December elections in Serbia. The Prime Minister replied that he was lying, and the President said that Schieder rigged the elections in his own party.

After the protests in which more than 30 demonstrators, including students, were arrested due to an incident in front of the Belgrade city hall, the Serbian prime minister thanked the Russian security services for providing information about the „Maidan“ attempts in Serbia

The narrative of state officials was widely supported in pro-government media, but also in Russian-owned media operating in Serbia, such as RT Balkan. In those days, Germany was widely accused of destabilization, and the president of Serbia announced that “by Christmas” Serbia will send the authorities in Serbia “an important letter about the influence of a foreign country in the elections”. To this day, the public has not been told which country in question, nor whether such a letter had ever been sent.

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