The Kosovo issue is a major obstacle on Serbia’s path to the EU, but the attempt to impose a unilateral recognition of Kosovo can in no way be a starting point for a mediation that is delicate and complex.
“The resolution adopted by the European Parliament, as an accompanying report on the European Commission’s reports for Serbia 2019-2020, provides several recommendations and analyses of various aspects. However, I believe that there is excessive criticism in many parts of the document and a real risk of not sending a truly constructive political message to the Serbian partners, but, on the contrary, starting an even worse political debate with Belgrade,” says Marco Zanni, Lega Nord MEP and head of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the EP.
We know that the EP’s resolutions are not binding. However, to what extent do they shape the EU’s general policy towards Serbia? How much do they influence decision-makers in Brussels?
Certainly, this resolution could have an impact. However, one should also take into account the complexity of the enlargement policy and the role of the various stakeholders involved in Brussels, as well as the fact that we are currently facing a stalemate in the negotiations. I find it very positive, for example, that Commissioner Varhelyi has demonstrated his personal commitment to Serbia on many occasions.
Can members of the Serbian Parliament, and Serbian politicians in general, have a greater influence on the positions of members of the European Parliament and if they can, in what way?
An open and constructive political dialogue is the basis and could help both sides to understand each other better. More active communication would also provide an opportunity to once again demonstrate Serbia’s commitment to its European path.
The ideological right in the EU often has more understanding of Serbia’s position and attitudes than the left. Why?
I think we generally share more political views and values with our Serbian peers, including a more pragmatic approach to many issues, while the left remains too ideological and is probably still influenced by some prejudices from the recent past. We believe that Serbia is the EU’s necessary strategic partner in the Balkans, which also makes it attractive for third parties. In this respect, growing Chinese investments and influence are alarming and, moreover, clearly lead to slowing down the accession process, a risk we should avoid. Therefore, it is important to use the political stability of the country and the large parliamentary majority to support the new government to improve EU-Serbia cooperation and define new concrete steps in the negotiations, bearing in mind that Serbia did not open any chapters in the negotiations with the EU in 2020, while only two chapters were opened in 2019.
Serbia’s accession to the EU depends largely on the resolution of the Kosovo issue. What advice would you give to official Belgrade on how to continue working on these issues?
As you mentioned, the Kosovo issue is probably still the main obstacle to the EU and Serbia reaching an agreement. It is crucial to keep all channels of dialogue open so that a common solution can gradually be sought. Certainly, the attempt to force Serbia to unilaterally recognise Kosovo can in no way be a starting point for a delicate and complex mediation. The recent economic normalisation agreements signed in Washington have helped break the diplomatic deadlock, are a concrete sign of Belgrade’s active and constructive participation in the dialogue with Pristina, and show its willingness to improve the EU accession process.
The EU has been facing numerous crises in the last 10 years: financial, migration, terrorism on its soil, now a health crisis that also affects the economy. Since the outbreak of the pandemic there has been a lack of solidarity among EU Member States, as well as serious problems in the supply of vaccines. Can the EU overcome its weaknesses?
Unfortunately, the European Commission’s wrong approach on many issues crucial for citizens is nothing new for us. Our political group in the EP was set up precisely with the aim of changing course on issues such as immigration, the economy and internal security. On the pandemic, we see the disastrous results of the EU’s handling of the vaccine-related challenges so far – first with the chaos that dominated the negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies and now with the Commission’s exclusive approach to allowing the vaccines from third countries to enter the EU. The only way out of the impasse is to come clean and recognise the mistakes that have been made and to move forward as quickly as possible, leaving individual countries free to obtain vaccines where Europe cannot provide better options. The sooner we get out of this situation, the sooner we can get back to life.
Both the left and the right seem to be getting stronger in Europe while the political centre is slowly weakening. How will these ideological changes affect the future of the EU?
I think this is a very predictable development. People, especially in this crisis, which no longer only relates to health but also to the economy, need direct answers and certainty now more than ever. It is clear that the political forces which, in recent years, have become increasingly detached from the real needs of citizens are paying the price. In my opinion, the pandemic has only intensified the process that was already underway and I hope that in the future we will be able to recognise the value of the results of this change, including the changes in the new European political order.
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