The package of annual aid as part of Serbia’s accession process to the European Union (EU) was signed on June 21, 2023. Accordingly, the Union will provide €162.2 million in aid to Belgrade. The document was announced at a ceremony attended by Serbian Minister of European Integration Tanja Miscevic and Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Emmenuel Joffre. In a video released before the ceremony, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi pointed out that the EU is Serbia’s largest investor and trading partner and that the Union will continue to strengthen partnerships with Belgrade.
Both the signed agreement and Varhelyi’s statements show the importance that Brussels attaches to relations with Belgrade. It can be stated that the economic factor is among the driving forces in the relations. On the other hand, Serbia is an actor forced to make a geopolitical choice. It does not agree with the sanctions imposed by the EU on Moscow following the Russia-Ukraine War. Especially in the context of energy security, Serbia attaches importance to its relations with Russia. This leads Belgrade to pursue a delicate balancing policy. This policy of balance, on the other hand, faces various criticisms that it contradicts EU solidarity and Belgrade is forced to make a choice.
One of the reasons for Serbia’s forced choice is undoubtedly Russia’s increasing influence in Balkan geopolitics through pan-Slavism. With the impact of historical, cultural and ethnic problems in the Balkans, i.e. problems stemming from the internal dynamics of the Balkans, Russia is using the rising Serbian nationalism to increase its influence in the region. In this framework, the Kremlin administration is making efforts to influence Serbia, Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rising Serbian nationalism increases ethnic fragility in the Balkans and makes the region insecure.
It is possible to say that Moscow’s efforts to increase its influence in the region within the framework of pan-Slavist arguments increased after the Russia-Ukraine War. This is because Moscow thinks that it can destabilize Europe, which has openly supported Ukraine and imposed sanctions on it, in terms of migration and security through the Balkans, and thus, make the Union countries backtrack. This is because the Balkans are basically Southeastern Europe. This means that crises in the Balkans will negatively affect European security.
As a matter of fact, after the Russia-Ukraine War, the increase in the conflicts between Kosovo Serbs in particular and the Pristina administration in particular, and between Kosovo and Serbia in general, especially in the north of Kosovo, stems from this. Undoubtedly, this situation is closely related to the Belgrade administration’s ideal of “Greater Serbia”. In any case, Belgrade does not recognize the independence of Kosovo. Moreover, Kosovo gained its independence with the support of the United States (USA) and EU member actors. Of course, this makes it easier for Russia, which maintains its influence in the region through ethnic, historical and cultural elements and pan-Slavism, to establish close relations with Serbia. Moreover, the independence of Kosovo was realized “despite Russia” and the Moscow administration, like Belgrade, does not support the independence of the country in question.
In such an environment, as the Kosovo-centered tension escalates, the EU, together with the USA, emphasizes mediation diplomacy and tries to prevent a hot conflict in the region. At this point, despite all the difficulties for the EU, it can be said that the balance policy carried out by Serbian President Alexander Vucic is of great importance. Because, although Serbia has close relations with Russia, it acts with a multi-faceted foreign policy understanding. In this direction, the country sees itself as a part of Europe and wants to become a member of the EU.
Of course, this situation allows the EU to mediate during the crises in the Balkan geography, especially the Kosovo Crisis. In other words, Serbia’s EU membership goal is one of the most critical factors preventing a hot conflict in the region.
Within the framework of all this information, it should be noted that; It is very important to sign the donation agreement regarding the aid that Serbia will receive in line with its EU membership goal, at a time when Brussels is increasing the pressure on the Belgrade and Pristina administrations to reach an agreement.
As expected, the Union, on the one hand, sends messages to Belgrade through economic aid that it does not want to lose Serbia and perceives it as a part of Europe; on the other hand, it cares about Belgrade’s continued pursuit of EU membership in order to prevent the Kosovo Crisis from escalating.
As a result, the EU does not want conflicts in the Balkan geography, which it considers as its immediate neighborhood and therefore will be affected by its instability. Therefore, it is trying to prevent the pan-Slavist policy of Serbia and Russia. In this context, Brussels sees Belgrade’s EU membership aspirations as an opportunity. The agreement in question also confirms this. In the light of all this information, it can be predicted that the EU will continue to play a mediation role in the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo by using various instruments.
 “Potpisan paket pomoći EU-a Srbiji od 162,2 miliona eura”, Al Jazeera, https://balkans.aljazeera.net/news/balkan/2023/6/21/potpisan-paket-pomoci-eu-srbiji-od-1622-miliona-eura, (Date of Accession: 23.06.2023).