After Moscow – has everything suddenly changed for Serbia?
By Stevan Gajic
Demands that Serbia received in almost two decades reached unbearable heights with a British 'paper'. This document was written in a form of an ultimatum. It conditions Serbia to practically recognise its breakaway province of Kossovo-Metochia as an independent country, only to get the process of EU accession chapters opened. In effect, the Britons have crashed Serbia's EU integration aspirations as Titanic in a single move. This may prove to be just too much, even for Serbian Euroenthusiastic liberals.
But this was not all. On 27 October Federica Mogherini signed, on behalf of the EU, the Stabilisation & Association Agreement (SAA) with separatists in Kossovo-Metochia, as if it was an independent state. By this EU practically ceased to be neutral on province's status and gave Serbia a diplomatic slap on the face.
Only a day later, ethnic Albanian separatist officials in Kossovo-Metochia, 'President' Atifete Jahjaga and 'Prime-Minister' Isa Mustafa, said they suspend the process of establishing the Community of Serbian Municipalities (CSM), stipulated under the EU-brokered Brussels Agreement (2013) aimed at 'normalisation' of relations between official Belgrade and the separatists. This community was meant to be a weak safeguard of basic rights of the remaining Serbs in the province. Mrs Jahjaga said that "Kosovo's constitutional court would say its final verdict about the agreement". Mr Mustafa added that any decision of this 'court' will be respected. This all came after weeks of chaos in the separatist 'parliament', provoked by ultranationalist ethnic Albanian party called Self-Determination, whose MPs were repeatedly throwing teargas during discussions on CSM. Although the Brussels Agreement is quite favourable for the Albanian side, its only concession to Serbia and Kossovo-Metochia Serbs-no matter how weak-was trumped over, because even that was too much for the separatists and their NATO sponsors.
Interestingly enough-or rather indicatively enough-this happened in the middle of high-profile visit to Moscow made by Serbia's PM Aleksandar Vučić, accompanied by eight ministers and dozens of businesspeople.
But the best part is that 'unconstructive' behaviour of separatist ethnic-Albanian leadership may actually be excellent news for Serbia. Serbian authorities now have a historical opportunity to radically change their foreign policy, stop the implementation of suicidal Brussels Agreement and even get away without being blamed, as it was the separatists who bluntly breached the EU-guaranteed agreements. And Serbian officials, primarily PM Vučić and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić, both personally involved in the Brussels Agreement-now have a unique opportunity not to be remembered as high traitors and to actually repair their own stance in Serbian politics and history.
The opportunity to make this change came with a perfect timing, during PM's visit to Moscow. Although the public does not have a clear idea of what exactly happened during the visit, a number of contracts have been signed and agreements reached - ranging from culture, economy, energy, agriculture and banking - to military deals. The latter may actually be the most important. According to media speculations and PM Vučić's laconic statements, Serbia is about to purchase helicopters, advanced air defence systems and maybe even fighter jets. In the environment in which all of Serbia's NATO neighbours are getting armed, these purchases are more than necessary. Croatia alone is getting US missile systems with the range of 300 kilometres. Croatian officials and media did not even pretend to hide implying these missiles would aim Serbia. Since all of Serbia's neighbours are either in NATO (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania), or in the process of joining it (Macedonia and Montenegro), or NATO-occupied (Bosnia-Herzegovina), country will either be forced to apply for joining this alliance (under humiliating conditions) or to substantially boost the defence capabilities.
If the Serbian government does not blow another opportunity, the Moscow visit can turn out to be historical. It would mean a necessary radical geopolitical shift in Serbia's foreign policy and a move towards independent stance in the international arena and towards defending the minimum of national interests.