Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic puts his country’s status as continental Europe’s frontrunner in getting vaccines into people down to one thing: looking east as well as west, Bloomberg writes.
“The Balkan country may look like an unlikely success story as the neighbouring European Union gets mired in a fiasco over vaccinations. Yet Serbia’s history of balancing its geopolitical interests is paying off at a critical time”, Bloomberg goes on to say.
Serbia has been an important bridge for China to gain a foothold in Europe, while the country is also a traditional ally of Russia and is aspiring to join the EU. Those relationships have allowed it to diversify vaccine sources and inoculate a bigger proportion of its population than any other nation in Europe after the U.K. Serbia has injected 6.8% of its 7 million people, more than twice the ratio in the EU.
“Most of the 1.1 million doses imported by the government in Belgrade so far have come from China’s state-backed Sinopharm. Vucic says his refusal to join a chorus of leaders criticizing China at a security conference in Germany helped him establish good relations with Foreign Minister Wang Yi,” Bloomberg goes on to say.
“I was the only one who didn’t accuse China of anything so we had a brotherly meeting—the foreign minister and me—and since then the Chinese support began for us, concerning the coronavirus and everything else,” Vucic said in a televised address to the nation last week.
“The speedy rollout of injections to combat Covid-19 relative to the EU underscores the tension across the continent, and also the potential geopolitical consequences in its most volatile region. Already, the Serbian approach has its followers within the EU: neighbouring Hungary became the first member of the bloc to approve shots made by Russia and China,” Bloomberg concludes.
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