On the 5th of July, the Election Commission of Republic of Serbia officially announced that the coalition “Aleksandar Vucic – For our children” won 60.65% of the votes, gaining 188 seats in the National Parliament of Serbia. The coalition around Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) won 10.38% of votes, a total of 32 seats. The political party led by the current mayor of a municipality in Belgrade Aleksandar Sapic won 3.83% of votes, gaining 11 seats in the Serbian parliament. Ethnic minority parties hold the remaining 19 seats.
The EU’s mixed feelings about Serbia
These results provoked different reactions at the EU level. Slovenian Social Democratic MP Tanja Fajon and Slovakian MP Vladimir Bilcic, who supported a dialogue on behalf of the European Parliament on improving electoral conditions, issued joint statements saying. “The absence of pro-European parliamentary parties in the opposition bloc must not undermine Serbia’s pro-European determination and its aspirations to join the European Union.”
A much sharper statement was issued by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), urging the EU not to open new chapters in the negotiation process with Serbia before major problems with democracy are resolved. “At a minimum, freedom of the media and a diverse parliament, in which the opposition is represented, are needed,” said Dutch Social Democrat Kati Piri.
A statement from the Social Democrats also included a comment on the importance of the political debate in the parliament, by Tonino Picula, Croatian MP and S&D’s spokesman in the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee. Picula also criticized the European People’s Party (EPP), “which has been protecting Aleksandar Vucic for years, while he turns the country into an autocracy.”
In that regard, the recent tweet of the president of the EPP, Donald Tusk, published a few days before the elections, caused much criticism. In the tweet, Tusk said “Vucic can be proud and satisfied with what he has done for Serbia during his term” adding that economic success and strong leadership are a trademark of his rule.
Furthermore, Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi tweeted after the elections that he looks forward to working with the new government on the EU-related reforms.
Democracy vs stabilocracy
One of the reasons why Brussels is sometimes reluctant to criticize Serbia is because of geopolitical considerations on Kosovo and other issues in the region. The stability of the Western Balkans is very much dependent on Serbia. Thus the EU has been concentrated on Serbia’s historical legacies and the Kosovo issue, both of which are politically sensitive and linked to Serbian national identity. This “return of geopolitics” has obscured a critical view of democracy and the rule of law.
Following the election results, Vucic will face additional pressure to make progress in the dialogue with Kosovo that has been frozen since 2018. Shortly after the elections, he was supposed to meet with Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci and the US envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Richard Grenell in Washington. However, Thaci, cancelled his participation after the Hague-based Specialist Prosecutor’s Office filed a ten-count indictment with the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) accusing him and other Kosovan politicians with a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The EU takes control over the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue
Regardless of this parallel process, which is being conducted under the auspices of the US, the EU insists on leading the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. In that regard, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano confirmed that Aleksandar Vucic and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Avdullah Hoti will meet on the 12th of July in Brussels. The host of this meeting will be the EU High Representative Giuseppe Borelli, together with the EU special envoy for dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.
Two days before that, on the 10th of July, a “virtual summit” between Kosovo and Serbia will take place with the mediation of Emmanuel Macron, the French president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.