After three decades, a British Minister of Trade visited Belgrade. Business visit, of course. By leaving the EU, Britain is making new trade agreements with its partners, and it is of great importance for Serbia and its products to be sold at a better price in this market, with relief from customs duty. The two serious countries, which care about good mutual relations, will not wait another 30 years to improve trade, for example, but will do so in just two months, since Britain is not formally a member of the EU and its common market.
On the other hand, the European Union has been struggling to recover from the shock of Britain’s decision to leave for almost five years. Its leadership has been lost, it has become a confusing group whose members see only their own interest, not the interest of the community, if such a thing still exists. From a place that attracted people and countries like a magnet to join it, it is becoming less and less attractive club, whose rules of conduct change from day to day.
Who will the EU impress with its strength and influence after the protocol disaster in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office, when there was no (equal) chair for the head of the European government, Ursula von der Leyen, but only for her colleague Charles Michel? And especially with the moral panic that arose on that occasion in Europe, where this small circus became a political case of the first order. Unfortunately, the picture from Ankara is today’s picture of the EU. Instead of concentrating on the essence for which it came to Ankara in the strongest composition, how to solve the problems with trade and migration with its giant partner Turkey, the EU sank in the case of a lack of chairs and cavaliers for its first lady.
It does not suit anyone in the world to turn a large and powerful EU into a huge NGO that deals only with political correctness and receives grants for that from itself. And it’s slowly moving towards that. Serbia does not need that either, and especially it does not need a European wave of the finger because it puts its interests and the interests of its people in the foreground, and does not meet some criteria for membership in the club, written long time ago, which time has already swallowed.
What does the almost daily grumbling that Serbia is turning away from Europe and getting closer to China and Russia because it got their vaccines mean? Or that a year ago, Vučić begged Xi Jinping for respirators and masks, because his people were in life-threatening situations, among other things because of the EU’s decision to ban the sale of this equipment outside its borders.
In the days of the pandemic, Serbia is behaving in the same way as most EU members, putting itself and its citizens first. And it is more successful than others in that. This is the only right behavior, which responsible states owe to their citizens in the days of crisis. Once again (after the migrant crisis of 2015), the Union missed the opportunity to play collectively, to impose common rules and to make them effective. If the procurement and distribution of vaccines under the European umbrella was fast and fair, Serbia and many others within the EU would have no reason to turn to non-European suppliers. And instead of praising that it is a world example in the fight against the pandemic, Serbia received a slap on the wrist from the European Parliament saying that its health care system is devastated!?
This is not the only terrain on which the EU and its institutions, with the help of an army of external experts, bypass the essence and deal with the periphery. Due to the lack of leadership in its ranks, due to which it is losing leadership at the world level, the EU, for example, has been delighted for months with the fact that the government in Montenegro has changed after 30 years. It celebrated this peripheral fact, only to realize in a few months that an anti-European and clerical set came to power in one NATO member and candidate for EU membership, for which the EU is no role model.
Just as it welcomes the coming to power of a populist team in Pristina, expecting that it will fight corruption, improve the economy and dedicate itself to dialogue with Belgrade. And then, in a few months, it will realize (correctly) that it applauded an extreme-nationalist movement that advocates territorial unification with Albania and a return to the 19th century. And that it was a policy because of which Kurti and Vjosa Osmani received support, and not because they are modern, pro-European politicians, who lead their people to the EU.
The European Union has the internal strength to be strong and attractive again, as it has been for decades. It can easily and quickly show that strength, it just needs to deal with the essence. This means that, when Aleksandar Vučić procures vaccines from Russia, the EU should congratulate him, and not declare him a suspicious European. It had to know that in just a few months, after Serbia and Vučić, the Russian vaccine would be procured by “super-Europeans”, such as Austria and recently Bavaria, which received a permit from its federal government to import Sputnik V. This also means that the Union should welcome the new Serbian-British trade agreement, because it will further stimulate the economy of a candidate country for membership. The EU should congratulate Serbia on its economic development, and not scold it because of the arrival of investors from the East, who are a drop in the European sea.
That Europe has that power was also shown in Ankara by its first lady, the experienced and pragmatic Ursula von der Leyen. Although offended, she did not leave the meeting with Erdogan, which everyone wanted to see. Just as Vučić did not leave the meeting with Donald Trump, again because of the famous chair. And his protest exit from the White House was wished by the “friends” – the haters in the country, the German and Russian media, and even Maria Zakharova. Will the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs make a new montage on Facebook and now ridicule Ursula von der Leyen and criticize Erdogan? Will the German media criticize Erdogan or its politician? Whatever they do is irrelevant, as were the chairs in Ankara and Washington. What matters is what was agreed at the meetings and what benefit those who negotiate on their behalf will bring to their people. Vučić and Ursula von der Leyen know that well, no matter what chair you give them.