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Biden Visits Serbia to Talk Security as Vucic Keeps Russian Ties

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bloomberg.com

Biden Visits Serbia to Talk Security as Vucic Keeps Russian Ties

Gordana Filipovic

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden is visiting Serbia to push for progress in Belgrade’s relations with the breakaway Kosovo province, one of the key conditions on the Balkan state’s path to joining the European Union.

Biden, who will meet Serbian Premier Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic, will also discuss upholding stability in southeastern Europe, a region that witnessed the continent’s worst violence since World War II with the bloody disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

The U.S. has “recognized and encouraged a constructive role of our country” in “maintaining the regional stability of the Western Balkans,” Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said after meeting Charles Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs at the U.S. White House National Security Council Monday.

Serbia’s relations with the U.S. have been strained due to a lack of progress in apprehending the killers of three American-Albanians from Kosovo, the Bytyqi brothers, after U.S.-led NATO forces pushed Serbian troops out of the province in a 1999 bombing campaign. The U.S. is also seeking the perpetrators who demolished the U.S. embassy building in central Belgrade in February 2008, when protesters attacked embassies of countries that recognized Kosovo’s independence.

Vucic, who started a new four-year mandate on Aug. 11 after winning April snap elections, has pledged to prepare Serbia for EU accession by 2019. He is also trying to balance his pro-European agenda by maintaining strong ties with Russia, its Orthodox Slav ally and the biggest international supporter of Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Balancing Act

“My concern is the future of Serbian foreign policy and the intention to continue with the balancing act,” Bosko Jaksic, an independent foreign policy analyst, said by phone, noting that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will visit Serbia in a matter of weeks. “Both the U.S. and Russia want to block each other’s influence in the region. Biden will want to hear all about Serbia’s purchases of Russian weaponry and the Russian humanitarian center in the city of Nis, while Medvedev will want to hear what was discussed with Biden.”

The April election brought more members of the pro-Russian opposition to parliament, including the Serbian Radical Party of nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who was acquitted on charges of crimes against humanity for his role in the wars of the 1990s. Seselj, who’s called on Serbs in the U.S. to support Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, will lead a rally in central Belgrade Tuesday to protest against Biden’s visit.

Russia was the eighth biggest investor in Serbia between 2005 and 2013, with nearly 600 million euros ($676 million) worth of foreign direct investment, three times that of the U.S. Still, U.S. investors dominate the debt market with purchases of government bonds, making the country vulnerable to policy changes by the Fed.

Serbia “won’t be able to continue with the balancing act as it makes progress toward the EU,” Jaksic said. “Prime Minister Vucic said in his program there is no intention of any deeper integration with Russia.”

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Written by Mika

16. avgusta 2016. u 08:44

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