In the text published on the EWB website, it is recalled that in the past the EPP deputies had a milder attitude towards the SNS than other groups in the European Parliament.
So, for example, in 2021, EPP MPs voted against including the Krusik, Jovanjica and Telekom Serbia affairs in the report on Serbia. The affairs were still included in the report because the deputies of the social democrats, liberals, greens and the left voted for it.
Vladimir Medjak, in an interview for EWB, estimates that the change in the EPP’s attitude towards the SNS occurred after the departure of Angela Merkel, because, as he says, Merkel was the protector and “removed many things from the agenda”.
“The fact that the deputy of the European People’s Party Lukas Mandl proposed that amendment shows that the EPP has also changed its position in relation to Serbia, but also in relation to the SNS and that there is probably a much lower degree of understanding. “The red line and the last straw is probably the attitude of official Belgrade towards Russia,” Medjak believes.
Natan Albahari, MP and international secretary of the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG) shares the same opinion. He believes that the EPP has sharpened its rhetoric towards Serbia and the SNS in the last year, and that this is particularly pronounced because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“That group took a very firm position on that issue, and it is completely different from the position taken by the government in Serbia and the Serbian Progressive Party. When it comes to the European perspective, we are now living in a moment where it is extremely important where one stands on the issue of the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, says Natan Albahari for EWB.
Elvira Kovacs, whose party, the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), as well as the SNS, is an associated member of the EPP, explains that this grouping is diverse and has “its own problems”, and that the attitude of the EPP towards the “fraternal” parties in Serbia cannot be generalized.
“The EPP consists of parties with different values, even distant ones, but the main problem is that the EPP is weakening all over Europe, and we will see that it will weaken even more in the 2024 elections. But I don’t think and there are no indications that the EPP “raised its hands” or that it treats the authorities differently. The Serbian Progressive Party as well as the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians are associated members of the EPP, and I think it is important that representatives of the SNS participate in various EPP forums and that our voice is heard. It is difficult to understand the specific situation in Serbia, and the impression is that some really have no patience when it comes to the situation in Ukraine,” says Kovacs.
Does it matter what the EP thinks about Serbia?
The authorities’ reactions to the European Parliament’s resolution were, as usual, very harsh. As always, the harshest was the Minister of the Interior, Aleksandar Vulin, who, after voting on the resolution, told the citizens that Serbia will not be part of the hysteria of the European Union. The public often hears that the European Parliament is a political institution of the EU, which should mean that its evaluations are not objective, but also that the EP does not have a decisive role in the accession process.
Natan Albahari, Member of Parliament and International Secretary of the Movement of Free Citizens (PSG), tells EWB that it is true that at the end of the day the European Parliament is not the institution that determines the speed of EU accession, but that we should not forget that the opinion of the European Parliament must also be respected by the European Commission, but also member states.
“The European Parliament ultimately gives its vote whether a country can join the EU or not, so without a positive vote of the EP no one can become a member of the European Union.” It is also important that European MPs are part of political groups, and one can feel how some political groups from which the prime ministers and presidents of European countries come are looking at some topic in Serbia”, says Albahari. He emphasizes that because of all this, it would not be wise to ignore the evaluations of the European Parliament.
Vladimir Medak explains that the European Parliament is the political body of the EU, which is there to represent the citizens of the European Union, not the member states. According to him, the task of the EP is precisely to give a political assessment of the accession process of a country, and that is why the report is based on political criteria.
“The European Parliament is the biggest ally in the enlargement process. He supports it the most and every country will find the easiest ally in the European Parliament for joining the EU. If Serbia has no allies in the EP, then that clearly shows how many allies we have in the EU for our accession process”, Medak assesses.
He reminds that the European Commission is “accountable” to the European Parliament and that the members of the EP have good communication with their governments, ministers and prime ministers who actually decide from the EU side what Serbia’s progress in membership negotiations will look like.
“The political strength of the opinion of the European Parliament is very important, because everyone will read this resolution. Everyone will see that last time there were four affairs, and now there are seven. To even mention the connection of high officials with organized crime, which was not mentioned before”, says the vice-president of the European Movement in Serbia.
Unlike Vladimir Medak, Elvira Kovacs says that Serbia still has a lot of friends in the European Parliament and that the majority knows that Serbia should progress on its way to the EU.
“On the other hand, there are so many critics and the impression is that we have fallen ‘on the other side of the horse.’ It really went too far. The impression is that their main message at the end is that sanctions must be imposed on Russia or Kosovo as soon as possible, and at the end, when you read the report in detail, there are criticisms in various fields. I believe that the goal is again for Serbia to stay on this path and to help Serbia. That’s why I think that this is not a good way, that now some teacher is playing around so much, who gives out balls in all fields, and praises very few things”, concludes Elvira Kovacs, a member of the National Assembly.