Just recently, the people of Serbia choose a new president, Aleksandar Vucic, lawyer and politician, who has been the Prime Minister of Serbia since 27 April 2014. He is also the leader and president of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Vucic won with a 54.9 percent majority.

But despite that Aleksandar Vucic is seen as Pro-Western, the European Union should be worried about the future of Serbia and should be weary about the new-elected Serbian president.

Strange partner

In the last days of March, the Serbian media announced that Belgrade is planning a complete rearmament of the Serbian army.  According to the electronic edition of Vesti-online, Russian weapons, which include 6 MiG-29 fighter jets, 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM – 2 armored vehicles will be delivered to Serbia. Serbian Defence Minister, Zoran Djordjevic, said that the repair of Russian aircraft will be performed entirely at the Belgrade Aviation Institute “Moma Stanoylovich” where future servicing of Russian military aviation equipment will also be carried out. In the coming months, negotiations will continue with Russia for the supply of self-propelled ground to air anti-aircraft missile complexes and medium-range C-300 anti-aircraft missile systems according to Vesti-online.

The experts see Vucic as pro-Western and a moderate politician. But during the election campaign, none of the presidential candidates included EU membership in their pledges. That’s because polls show support for integration has fallen to 43%, with 35 % of the Serbs saying they are against a future in the bloc.

At the end of  March, the outgoing president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic visited China. He became an honorary citizen of Beijing for his personal contribution to enhancing the friendly ties between Serbia and China. Serbian national news agency Tanjug reported that during the meeting between Nikolic and the Chinese president Xi Jinping, particular attention turned to a project to privatize Serbian copper mine and smelting complex, “Bor” and Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, as well as to introducing direct flights from Belgrade to Beijing, with two Chinese companies already showing interest.  In February , a Chinese company began construction of the motorway between the major cities Surchin and Obrenovac. President Xi Jinping personally arrived in Serbia to sign the contract. Already underway is the construction of a new industrial park in Serbia under the auspices of the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

He’s our guy?

Brussels counts on Vučić to guide Serbia into a deeper western embrace, but concern over his courtship of the Kremlin is growing. The new-elected president is accused of constraining the media, corruption and pressuring the justice system.

“Vučić has not only marched Serbia’s media into line; he has brought the country’s judges to heel and presided over continuous attacks on NGOs, journalists and opposition politicians. And he has used an over-hyped anti-corruption campaign to target the opposition while ignoring well-founded allegations against tycoons and his own party” – says Srdan Cvijic is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute for  “Politico.EU”.

After the elections protests erupted in Serbian towns and cities. The protests under the motto “Against the dictatorship” were held in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Kragujevac and many bother districts. At the same time, Russian officials claim that Serbia is faced with attempting a “coloured revolution”.  The pro-European candidates in recent elections also supported the protests.

European leaders see Vucic as a force for stability and they hope that the new president will make good on his promise to keep Serbia on track to join the European Union. But Vucic must show a commitment to democracy by restoring freedom of the press and reforming the justice system. He must also show a willingness to fight against the corruption.  If he fails, this will be a betrayal of the European Union’s core values, and the will of many Serbians.

Milen Marinov
Bulgarian journalist and devoted to the European cause.

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