Hahn fears growing nationalism in Serbia

The EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said he fears there will be “new nationalist statements” around the presidential elections in Serbia next year.

“In the case of Serbia, I am more concerned about the fact that strong nationalist statements will be made around the presidential elections – if you look at the names of some candidates,” said the EU official in charge of the organization’s neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, and added:

“But I trust in the moderate and clearly pro-European attitude of Prime Minister Vucic, who has confirmed the EU perspective as a strategic goal for Serbia.” 

This was Hahn’s reply when the Vienna daily Standard asked whether there were indications that Serbia would adjust its policy when it comes to joining the EU sanctions against Russia. “Serbia knows that it must bring its foreign policy and security policy into line with that of the EU before accession. But exerting great pressure now would be counterproductive,” he also said. 

When it comes to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Hahn said he hoped that the agreement on telecommunications would introduce “a new dynamic.” 

With regard to the Russian support to the Serb Republic (RS) – the Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina – Hahn said: “Russian support – not just for the RS – is financially subdued. This certainly has an effect on the effectiveness of this influence. That is why we have been acting very calmly in view of the referendum (in the RS), in order not to escalate the tensions further. But, of course, we must not underestimate this problem.” 

He added that “the aim must be for the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia- Herzegovina to be respected.” 

“The SAA will enter into force no later than 1st February next year. And by the end of the year Bosnia-Herzegovina will get the questionnaire from us. This is the litmus test. Instead of making a fuss around the referendum, we want to draw people’s attention to the positive development of the country.” 

Hahn added that Bosnia-Herzegovina was an occasion for him to, in addition to Ukraine, help big financial institutions coordinate with the EU. 

“In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EIB and we (the EU) paid 900 million euros. We are now distributing that money on the federal (Bosnia-Herzegovina) level, and so we can set conditions. The RS is in a major economic crisis. It is therefore dependent on donations from the federal level. I believe that Russians act very cleverly there, but we can limit the ‘disturbance maneuvers’ by showing that the Western Balkans is stabilizing and developing, which should also be in the interests of Russia,” said the EU official.

 (B92, 15.11.2016)

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