How Will Serbia’s Foreign Policy be Shaped in the EU and Russia Dilemma?

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With the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Serbia was one of the countries which were left in a difficult situation. On the one hand, Serbia is trying to become a member of the European Union (EU) and on the other hand, it wants to maintain positive relations with Russia, with which it has special relations historically and religiously.

Although Serbia officially has the status of a candidate for the EU, it seems unlikely that it will join the union. It is hardly possible to say that Belgrade is pursuing a policy in harmony with Brussels. It can be said that Serbia’s foreign policy has a multifaceted approach rather than being EU-oriented. The Belgrade administration adopts the doctrine of “military neutrality” as a state policy.

It can be said that the war was a turning point in Serbia’s relations with the EU. Belgrade implemented a policy of balance between Moscow and Brussels until the Russia-Ukraine War. After the war in Ukraine, Brussels demanded that Belgrade join the sanctions against Moscow, but Serbian President Alexander Vucic refused. Therefore, the war has shown how difficult it is for Serbia to implement a policy of balance between Russia and the West.

When the “plate crisis” between Kosovo and Serbia is added to all this, it has become “inevitable” that Belgrade’s further approach to Moscow. The country that Serbia trusts the most in terms of the Kosovo Problem is Russia. So much so that, Russia is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This situation prevents Kosovo from becoming a member of the United Nations (UN). Moscow, taking into account the sensitivity of its traditional ally on the issue, does not recognize Pristina and does not oppose Serbia’s efforts in this direction. In this matter, it should be emphasized that Serbia is dependent on Russia.

Predictably, for Serbia, Russia is an “indispensable” partner, especially in terms of the Kosovo Question. In other words, Serbia’s severing of relations with Russia or imposing sanctions on Moscow would mean approving the resolution of the Kosovo Problem against Belgrade. For this reason, it seems extremely difficult for Serbia to join the Western sanctions against Russia.

On September 24, 2022, that is, at the time of tensions between Pristina and Belgrade, Serbia signed an agreement with Russia that includes mutual “consultations” on foreign policy.[1] The agreement has caused Serbia, which has EU candidate status, to receive heavy criticism from the bloc. Therefore, in a conjuncture where the tension between Belgrade and Pristina is increasing, it can be said that Moscow’s weight has increased more than Brussels in Serbia’s foreign policy.

Moreover, the new cabinet formed in Serbia on October 26, 2022, did not include Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic, who is wary of relations with Russia. Mihajlovic, who advocates Belgrade to pursue a pro-Western policy, said after the cabinet reshuffle that she “will always fight for a Serbia that is on the side of the West.”[2]

It can also be stated that one of the important reasons why Mihajlovic is not included in the new cabinet is Belgrade’s statements that it should impose sanctions on Russia. This could be interpreted as a loss of ground for those who advocate a policy of integration with the West in Belgrade.

Moreover, it can be argued that the absence of a politician known for his pro-Western views in the new cabinet in Serbia will create discontent in Brussels. Therefore, it can be suggested that the politicians who want to conduct politics in harmony with the West and the EU in Serbia have decreased their effectiveness in the current government. The situation means that Moscow, rather than Brussels, is gaining weight in the foreign policy pursued by Belgrade.

Serbia’s decision not to join in the sanctions against Russia is causing great reactions within the EU. For this reason, Germany pointed out on November 1, 2022, that Serbia must choose between Brussels and Moscow.[3] However, it should not be forgotten that Serbia is dependent on Russia to some extent due to the Kosovo Question. Given all this, Serbia will have to make some concessions if it wants to become a member of the EU. Therefore, it can be foreseen that Belgrade will have to choose the future.

On November 15, 2022, Serbian President Vucic praised the Russian-Serbian brotherhood and stated that Belgrade’s brotherly relations with Moscow cannot be destroyed.[4] Vucic’s use of these statements stems from recent developments regarding the Kosovo Question. As the Kosovo Question gains weight in Serbia’s foreign policy, Moscow’s influence over Belgrade is also increasing. In this context, Vucic’s statements should not be considered a surprise.

In addition to all these, the approaches of the Western powers towards Kosovo should also be emphasized. Kosovo’s insistence that Serbs living in the north of the country have car plates issued by Pristina has led the EU and the United States (US) to increase their pressure on Kosovo. The EU and the US are concerned that the dispute could lead to the reactivation of frozen conflict zones. This is the main reason why the EU and the US are exerting pressure on Kosovo. In the current conjuncture, Brussels and Washington have turned their weight to the Russia-Ukraine War. Therefore, new conflicts in a frozen conflict zone will cause the focus of attention of the EU and the US to dissipate. Brussels and Washington are also concerned about the possibility of Moscow getting involved in the problem in the future. For this reason, it is trying to prevent the escalation of the crisis.

Consequently, due to the developments regarding the Kosovo Question, it is seen that Serbia is getting closer to Russia in terms of foreign policy. Moreover, it is possible to predict that this trend will continue. This indicates that Belgrade, which is a candidate for the EU, will have tense relations with Brussels.

[1] “EU Candidate Serbia and Russia Sign Foreign Policy Agreement”, Associated Press,, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

[2] “Sacked Minister Vows to Fight for Serbia in The West”, BNE Intellinews,, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

[3] “Germany Tells Serbia: You Have to Choose Between EU and Russia”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

[4] Alice Taylor, “Vučić Touts Russian-Serbian Brotherhood as Regional Tensions Rise”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 16.11.2022).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.