Serbia’s policy of non-alignment and independence to strengthen following Scholz’s visit
Berlin demands Serbia to recognise Kosovo’s independence but respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
German Chancellor Scholz’s demand that Serbia recognize the independence of Kosovo if it wishes to join the European Union is clearly a blackmail threat that will only strengthen Belgrade’s policy towards neutrality and non-alignment. The German chancellor’s visit to Belgrade on June 10 would have had the opposite effect of what he would have hoped to achieve – the weakening of Belgrade’s resolve and position towards Russia, Kosovo and Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From what can be gathered from the issued statements, it appears that much of the visit focussed on the imposition of sanctions on Russia and ties with Kosovo. Effectively, it was what Belgrade was going to surrender rather than what Germany could offer.
This is of course unsurprising when considering that Berlin has recognized Kosovo as an independent state since February 2008. Due to Berlin’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence, the reality is that all of Berlin’s future policies, just as has been the case since 2008, will be pro-Kosovo. This will only change when Belgrade relinquishes its territorial rights to Kosovo.
Chancellor Scholz’s visit showed that Germany does not have any particular idea of how to move Kosovo’s European integration process forward, especially as Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Greece also do not recognize the separatist territory’s independence. Their positions are unlikely to change unless Belgrade ends its own efforts for Kosovo.
The possibility of improved relations between the West and Belgrade seems impossible since it is based off blackmailing Serbia’s territorial integrity. This effectively means that even if Ukraine was not at war and there was no demand to impose sanctions on Russia, the Kosovo issue and pressure on Republika Srpska would remain reasons why Serbia could never achieve EU membership.
Scholz’s visit went without any surprises since President Aleksandar Vučić recently received all those messages in Berlin, perhaps differently expressed but intrinsically similar. Berlin’s bizarre position is that Serbia should impose sanctions on Russia, therefore weakening relations with a country that has always adhered to UNSC resolution 1244, which confirms Serbia’s territorial integrity over Kosovo. Serbia’s distancing from Russia is by automation an acceptance of Kosovo’s secession because it would also be a renouncement of Moscow’s support, which through its UNSC veto prevents Kosovo from entering the UN.
The Germans aim to enshrine their dominance in the Balkans by having Serbia accept Kosovo’s independence, then assist in the centralisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus diminishing the Republika Srpska. Ultimately, all these countries would then join NATO together to oppose and pressurise Russia.
Berlin is aware though that extreme pressure on Serbia could push the Balkans to conflict, especially in Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and perhaps even North Macedonia.
It is unlikely that the German chancellor’s visit to Serbia will change much in the current state of relations between the two countries, but it has certainly reconfirmed to Belgrade why it must maintain a policy of neutrality and non-alignment so long as it continues defending its territorial integrity.
There is little indication that Serbia does not want to go down a European path, but it will not come at the price of its territorial integrity. Due to this, an impasse will always remain in Serbia’s EU accession path, as well as Kosovo’s.
It must be noted that Germany has been one of Serbia’s main economic partners for years. Due to this, the reality is that Serbia needs economic cooperation with the EU.
At the same time, the EU does not want another war in the Balkans. This is especially the case as Serbia has good relations with most of its EU neighbours, such as Hungary and Romania. In contrast, Russia’s neighbors Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, have all been enthusiastic for war.
None-the-less, Scholz’s visit demonstrates once again that any policy not based on non-alignment, neutrality and political independence would lead to the complete collapse of Serbian national interests. Belgrade likely recognizes the hypocrisy in Germany supporting the internationally-recognized territorial integrity of Ukraine, but then demands Serbia to sacrifice its own. So long as such a contradiction continues, it is questionable that Kosovo as an independent entity will ever join the EU unless Belgrade itself relinquishes its territorial integrity.