Is Serbia the New Target of EU Sanctions?

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Following the annexation of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Ukraine by Russia in violation of international law, European Union (EU) member states have reached an agreement on the 8th sanctions package targeting the Moscow administration, which includes setting a ceiling price on oil sales.[1] However, the sanctions have also begun to reflect on countries that do not impose sanctions on Russia. Serbia, which is stuck between the EU and Russia due to the war and forced to choose, is one of the actors most adversely affected by this process.

The Belgrade administration, which insists on not imposing sanctions on Russia, but also seems willing to join the EU, is experiencing a difficult process due to its foreign policy based on “balance.” Therefore, the EU has begun to adopt a tougher stance in the face of Serbia’s attitude. So much so that, at the European Political Community Summit which was held in Prague, the capital of the Czechia, on October 6, 2022, Serbia was added to the part on the restriction of Russian oil at the initiative of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in the negotiations on the new sanctions package against Russia. Thus, the EU stopped exempting Serbia from sanctions against Russia.

According to the decision, Serbia is prohibited from buying Russian oil from the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, that is, through Croatia, starting from November 1, 2022.[2] However, the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic announced that the decision has been postponed until December 1, 2022.[3] The relations of the Belgrade administration with Moscow have been decisive in the fact that the EU, which previously announced that the Western Balkan countries would be exempt from the ban on Russian oil, made such a decision change.

On the other hand, the ban on Serbia from buying Russian oil through the EU has led to tensions between Belgrade and Zagreb. After the EU included Serbia in the latest sanctions package to restrict Russian oil, Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic stated that this step was a clear “act of hostility” against them.

Describing the decision as a sanction and suggesting that it will lead to serious consequences for the country’s economy, Brnabic evaluated the decision taken on the initiative of Croatia and said: “An unfriendly attitude was displayed towards us. They have shown that they are ready to use whatever happens against Serbia. This includes the energy crisis.”[4]

Vucic, on the other hand, said that Croatia has returned to the policies it followed in 1941 and that the Belgrade administration can overcome the current problems. Moreover, the Serbian President asked the question, “If we start tripping over each other because of bilateral problems, how will we stay afloat in Europe?[5]

On the other hand, some media outlets in Serbia used the headline “Croatia declares war against Serbia.” about these developments. Conversely, Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic, who argued that the decision was the policy of the EU, not Croatia, said that the Serbian leader’s statement made no sense.[6] Plenkovic also referred to the European Political Community Meeting in Prague and declared, “Every country must respect the policy of sanctions against Russia and show solidarity with Ukraine.”[7]

However, it cannot be said that Zagreb has shown the same attitude toward some countries that are members of the EU and oppose sanctions. Therefore, it is thought-provoking that Croatia has such an approach toward Serbia. Indeed, Croatia had banned Vucic from entering the country in July 2022, when he planned to visit Jasenovac, the largest concentration camp in the country during World War II.[8] Therefore, Croatia’s latest move could put diplomatic relations between Zagreb and Belgrade in a deadlock. There have already been ups and downs between the two countries’ relations since 1941. Therefore, the bilateral relations hang on by a thread.

The move from Hungary to Save Serbia.

After Belgrade’s shipments through Croatia were included in the scope of sanctions on the initiative of Zagreb, Hungary made a decision that almost “came to the rescue” of Serbia and proposed a pipeline project to transport Russian oil to the country. The Budapest administration has stated that the new pipeline will provide cheap Russian oil supplies to Serbia and that this step will be part of Hungary’s policy to diversify the region’s energy infrastructure.[9]

In this context, the two countries announced that they had agreed on a new route for the supply of Russian oil on October 10, 2022. Hungarian Government Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs, who made a statement on the issue, indicated that Budapest and Belgrade will build a new pipeline to supply crude oil to Serbia through the Druzhba energy system.[10]

It can be said that Hungary is trying to assume a role in the region in terms of energy by turning such problems into opportunities, and is making several initiatives aimed at developing the country’s economy. However, it is an indisputable fact that this step of Hungary, which opposes the sanctions against Russia because the country’s economy will be badly affected, will be met with a great reaction from the EU.

Consequently, it is seen that Serbia’s position on not imposing sanctions on Russia has attracted the reaction of the EU. Therefore, the prohibition of the country from supplying Russian oil through Croatia under the 8th sanctions package against Russia shows that the EU has begun to “punish” Belgrade. This situation will cause Serbia to experience an economically difficult process. Therefore, due to its foreign policy towards Moscow, Belgrade has turned to various alternatives to prevent the negative consequences of this process. The fact that the country has reached an agreement with Hungary on a new route for the supply of Russian oil also shows signs of this.

[1] “AB’den Rusya’ya Yeni Yaptırım Paketi”, Bloomberg HT,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022)

[2] “AB’den Sırbistan’a Yaptırım Gibi Yasak”, Balkan News,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[3] “Sırbistan Cumhurbaşkanı: Rus Petrol Fiyatının Sınırlandırılması Kararı 1 Aralık’a Ertelendi”, TRT Haber,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[4] “Sırbistan Başbakanı Brnabic: AB’nin Sırbistan’ı Muaf Tutmaması Bir Nevi Yaptırım”, Anadolu Ajansı,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[5] “Sırbistan Cumhurbaşkanı: Rus…”, op. cit.

[6] “Zagreb-Belgrad Hattında Gerginlik”, Balkan News,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[7] “Serbia, Croatia leaders Trade Barbs over Oil Embargo”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[8] “Diplomatic Spat Erupts Between Balkan Rivals Serbia, Croatia”, Voice of America,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[9] “Hungary, Serbia Agree to Build Pipeline to Ship Russian oil to Serbia”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[10] @zoltanspox, “Vucic and PM Orbán Have Agreed to Build an Oil Pipeline to Hungary.” Twitter,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.