Weber: Vucic not concerned by US reaction to appointment of sanctioned ministers

NEWS 03.05.202411:31

By appointing two members who are under US sanctions to the new Serbian Government, Belgrade has only nurtured its relationship with Moscow, Berlin-based Council for Democratization Policy senior associate Bodo Weber told radio Free Europe (RFE), adding that this, “however, this still doesn't mean abandoning the policy of sitting on two chairs.”

The new Serbian Government, elected on Thursday, will have 25 ministries and five ministers without portfolio. Returning to the Government, as deputy prime minister, is former intelligence service chief Aleksandar Vulin, who has been under US sanctions since July 2023, among other things, over this close ties with Russia, and Nenad Popovic, also blacklisted by the US.

Asked if the makeup of the new Serbian Government signifies a shift to the right, given that alongside members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and Socialist party of Serbia (SPS), it also includes Aleksandar Vulin as deputy prime minister and the leader of the right-wing party Oathkeepers (Zavetnici), Weber told Radio Free Europe that he didn’t see any ideological shift in the policy of Serbian Preisdent Aleksandar Vucic’s regime in the composition of the new government.

Nurturing relations with Moscow

Commenting on Russia’s influence on the personnel solutions, considering the return of Aleksandar Vulin and Nenad Popovic, both of whom are blacklisted by the US as individuals connected to the Kremlin, Weber said European Union (EU) membership has long been more of a means for Vucic to consolidate and maintain power and to strengthen Serbia’s international position rather than a serious goal.

“Since the EU has failed to muster the strength to stop its long-failed appeasement policy toward the authoritarian-autocratic regime in Serbia, what continues is a performance devoid of any substance called Serbia’s European integration,” said Weber, adding that this means Vucic doesn’t need to worry about what message his new government sends to Brussels and other European capitals.

The Franco-German initiative on the political dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo “was based precisely on that previously proven failed appeasement policy toward Vucic,” said Weber, adding: “It has gloriously failed in an unprecedented escalation in northern Kosovo, which Western capitals still aren’t willing to acknowledge.”

Since the US has “taken a leading role in the Western appeasement policy,” Vucic apparently had no concerns about a possible strong US reaction to the appointment of two sanctioned ministers, said Weber. The policy of imposing sanctions on officials close to the Kremlin remains “entirely disconnected from the general policy of the US administration towards Belgrade,” he added.

Weber said it was apparent that nurturing relations with Moscow was considered in forming the government at a time when Vucic feels pressure due to the Council of Europe coming closer to admitting Kosovo and a UN resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica.

“However, this still doesn’t mean abandoning the policy of sitting on two chairs,” Weber said.