Vucic from Moscow: ‘Putin gave me everything I asked for’

Vucic from Moscow: ‘Putin gave me everything I asked for’

Aleksandar Vucic’s meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin have been established as regular ones and, lately they are becoming more and more frequent.

Since assuming power in Serbia in 2014, Vucic has already met the Russian head 13 times, whereas since May 2017, when he became President of Serbia, he has met three times with Russia’s “tsar”.

The last time was yesterday (Tuesday, October 2, 2018) in Moscow, while it was agreed that Vladimir Putin will visit Belgrade sometime by the end of the year.

“I got everything I asked for from Putin,” Aleksandar Vucic told Serbian reporters shortly after the talks were over. Whether he had to give something in order to take what he asked for is a “detail” he did not reveal. “I cannot talk about details. We agreed on concrete steps that I cannot reveal to you”, the president of Serbia has said.

However, he referred to the content of the talks, stating that 50 minutes of their two-hour talk were devoted to the issue of Kosovo. In this regard, he said the discussion focused on what the reactions should be should the provocations (of the opposite side, that is Kosovo) continue – as he said – and the Serb population is attacked. Vucic did not clarify whether Russia would react or, if so, how.

He said the swap of land between Kosovo and Serbia as an idea for a final solution to the issue was not even put into discussion with Putin because it was rejected by Europeans and Albanians, while there is no convergence among the Serbian society either.

What he did pass on to Putin, on camera, is that the solution to the Kosovo issue is still far from close. Also, at the moment when Putin received him, the Serbian president said that Serbia would maintain its military neutrality as well in front of the cameras and reminded the Russian President that it is the only country in the region that neither belongs nor wants to join NATO.

Very possibly, the reason why Vucic mentioned Kosovo and NATO while he was being received by his Russian counterpart, and on camera, is not because he wanted Putin to know but wished Brussels and Washington to hear him. It is true that the EU and the U.S., and Federica Mogherini specifically, are pushing for a closure of the Kosovo issue before the European elections in May 2019.

Diplomatic sources in Belgrade argue that Vucic is in a very difficult position because his proposal for demarcation with the Albanians was hampered by the “German Wall”, while inside the country there are reactions from the Church and nationalist circles. Now, he is afraid that pressure will be stepped up in the direction of the signing of a legally binding agreement to normalise relations with Kosovo without Pristina’s commitment that the Union of Serbian Municipalities will have executive powers in northern Kosovo. Probably, this was the reason why he felt the need to broach the matter with Putin. Maybe he wanted to see the reactions in the West and perhaps warn them (Western leaders) in the sense of “Do not push me, because I have a choice.”

Another important issue was Serbia’s energy security and – as Vucic said – it was agreed to connect Serbia via Bulgaria to the pipeline that is jointly built by Russia and Turkey. It was also agreed that Russian Gazprom would develop a gas distribution substation network covering the entire territory of Serbia and that would also provide the possibility of gas delivery to the Republic of Srpska (state entity) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the Putin-Vucic meeting the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the recent referendum in fYROMacedonia were discussed, too. Belgrade and Moscow have almost the same view on the latter, both claiming that the great abstention was a sign of the people’s refusal to accept the deal…. / IBNA