Serbia signals to the West: Russia is a strong partner

Serbia signals to the West: Russia is a strong partner


By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade

Good relations between pro-European Serbian Government and Russian Federation were reaffirmed by the visit of the Serbian official delegation headed by the President Tomislav Nikolic to Russia last week, Predrag Simic, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, said in the interview for the IBNA. Simic, who was Serbian ambassador to France, said that the Declaration on strategic partnership that was signed by Nikolic and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin was a signal that the two countries would rely one on another,

Why is the Declaration on strategic partnership between Serbia and Russia important, given the fact that Moscow has signed approximately 40 similar declarations with the other countries?

– The Declaration is important because Moscow received the Brussels agreement about the normalization of the relations between Belgrade and Pristina with reserve. The Declaration on strategic partnership showed that both the relations between Serbia and Russia are good as well as that Russia is willing to continue to invest in Serbia. Russian investment in the Serbian section of the Southstream pipeline is especially important.

Do you believe that Belgrade considers Russia as a possible alternative to the European Union in case that Serbian integration into EU would go downhill? For instance, there is a possibility that EU would delay the long expected start of the accession negotiations with Serbia by setting some new conditions.

– At this moment, the situation concerning EU and Serbia goes smoothly. Nevertheless, Belgrade used this agreement to show that Moscow is one of it’s the most important partners. This would receive more significance in the next couple of weeks and days because than EU would be deciding whether to specify the date for starting the accession negotiations with Serbia or not. At the same time, Belgrade is showing that Russia is a strong economic partner to Serbia.

Do you have the impression that in Russia the President Nikolic is more popular than the other Serbian officials, due to the fact that he had met with the President Putin for three times already? 

-The fact is that the presidents of Serbia and Russia have met for three times in a short period, and that their first meeting took place even before Nikolic became inaugurated. This means that Nikolic seriously relays on Putin, as well as that Putin seriously relays on Serbian president. Even though Nikolic is oriented towards Europe, he shows that he understands the importance of the partnership between Serbia and Russia.

Recently Serbia was given observer status at the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). What does this mean for Serbia?

– Exactly this is a consequence of good relations between Serbia and Russia. CSTO is Russian, and it is sometimes called Russian NATO. By entering CSTO a message to the part of the Serbian society which is very reserved towards NATO has been sent.  However, this is also a message which Serbia is sending to the West – if the integration into EU would become complicated, Serbia has a choice. A similar message is sent by the Russian help to Serbia. At the moment, Serbia is facing a crisis in public financing and Russia helped its amelioration by giving it a credit. Furthermore, Russia invests resources into Serbian state railways. This Serbian government, as well as the one which preceded it, seriously counts on the partnership with Russia.

Previous Russian ambassador in Serbia, Aleksander Konuzin, was rather involved in the public life in Serbia, perhaps on the very edge of meddling into its domestic policy. How do you find the work of the present Russian ambassador in Serbia, Aleksander Chepurin?

– Chepurin himself gave the answer on that question – it was a matter of the personal style of the ambassador. Recently he said that his priorities have been the same as of his predecessor’s.

Dou you find then, that Russian ambassadors are not strictly following the instructions they get due to their respective styles?

– No, but it seems to me that the ambassador Konuzin provoked the most reactions on the meeting about NATO, which was held in the House of Army two years ago, when he protested by asking “Are there any Serbs here?”. Certainly, this was not in the collision with the interest of Moscow, which would like that Serbia stayed away from NATO. Moreover, Russia sent the message to Serbia that if Serbia does not go towards European integrations, Euro-Asian is open for it. Serbia is thus the example which shows that as far as Russia is concerned, NATO is not the only option for the European countries.