Groselj MEP: Messages from Belgrade are shocking

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Analyzing the Serbian government’s attitude and conduct, head of the European Parliament (EP) observation mission in the Serbian elections Klemen Groselj MEP quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin who said that there are no friends in international relations, but only interests.

“I think this is a clear message and that the Serbian leadership should have this in mind when counting on Russia’s support. Russia will be interested in its interests in Ukraine and other regions of the former Soviet Union. I am afraid that, in spite of all the big words, Serbia, the Western Balkans and Kosovo are not priorities for Russia, and that Serbia’s true allies, maybe not so much allies of this regime but of the Serbian people – are the people who live in the European Union (EU), Slovenians…Maybe Croatia is a bigger friend of Serbia than Russia,” Groselj told N1.

He said that the Sunday messages from Serbia regarding EU officials were shocking. I understand that there is an election campaign and that they are emotional, but what we heard yesterday shocked the region, said Greselje, adding that, if that was an attempt at intimidation, he believes it is not the right time for it.

Asked if he was alluding to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s message to the opposition to have “(Michael) Roth, (Andreas) Schieder, (Stefan) Schennach” top their ticket, Groselj said he was referring not only to the Sunday messages but also to those they sent from Serbia over the past weeks and months, “which raise the level of concern in Brussels and Washington over the developments in Serbia.”

Belgrade is to have new elections, and for now there are no indications that the government will allow an investigation into the reported irregularities.

At the beginning of February the European Parliament adopted a resolution requesting an international investigation into the irregularities in the Serbian December elections.

Groselj, who was the head of the EP observation mission for the December elections, said that, generally speaking, the Serbian authorities’ attitude toward the EP and EU is quite surprising.

Judging by the messages coming from Belgrade, one gets the impression that Serbia does not want to join the EU and that it is more important for the Serbian government to stay in power than to implement the basic reforms in Serbia, said Groselj.

He explained that, by adopting that resolution, the EP sent a strong political message on how it views the situation in Serbia, and that the next move is expected from the European Commission and the EU Council.

“I also expect the European Commission to propose some measures in connection with the state of democracy in Serbia,” he said.

Asked if the EP can be expected to send a new mission to observe the Belgrade elections, Groselj said this was discussed, but that the European Commission’s message is awaited.

The MEP said the ODIHR report on the Serbian December elections speaks of “unfair conditions” and that he has never seen that in any other ODIHR report for any other European country.

“It is quite a strong report,” said Groselj, adding that it even surprised the European Commission.

“The European Commission has to react, despite all the different positions – (European Commissioner Oliver) Varhelyi is defending what is happening in Serbia, (EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep) Borrell advocates harsher measures against Serbia…We will see, I know there is a discussion within the Commission, and it will have to have some kind of reaction to the developments in Serbia and wider, in the context of everything happening in the Balkans,” Groselj said.

He stressed that the Western countries are counting on the Serbian government being a factor of stability in the Western Balkans, but that this no longer seems to be the case, and that staying in power seems to be more important to the Serbian government.