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Happy birthday Blic!

Daniel Serwer

September 16, 2016



Vladimir Filipović of Belgrade daily Blic asked some questions for a special edition celebrating the newspaper’s 20th anniversary. I replied:


1. As the talk about Chinese growth intensifies, its military is getting stronger, and while Beijing is defying even USA in the South Chinese sea dispute…what is your prediction for the decades that are coming: Could China become a world’s number one superpower?

A: No. China is a rising power, but it also still very poor and undeveloped. It faces enormous internal challenges: environmental conditions are deplorable, economic growth is slowing, social tensions have few political outlets, global warming will have a big impact on its infrastructure. China will be an important regional power, and it is already economically active in Africa and Latin America. But it will be a long time before it can play the kind of varied and multi-valent security, political and economic leadership role that the US plays globally.


2. It seems that Russia is getting support from some political factors in the EU countries. Is it possible that some of them will abolish the sanctions and open a wider cooperation with Moscow, especially now when the EU has a lot of its problems?

A: Russia is also getting support from “some political factors” in the US, but our sanctions will remain in place.

The EU will need to review again its sanctions against Russia, but there aren’t any positive developments in Ukraine to justify loosening them.

None of the EU’s problems would be ameliorated by dropping sanctions. The Russian economy is in a deep recession from which it is unlikely to recover without a big increase in oil prices. That isn’t happening.


3. Right-wing movement is getting stronger in Europe, and it seems it could reshape the EU as we know it today. Is that comeback of national states good or bad for Europe?

A: I’ll let Europeans decide. I can see positive developments emerging from the current euroskepticism, but I also see big risks to the single market.


4. Angela Merkel’s popularity has never been lower. If she decides not to run for fourth term, or if she loses, who do you see as her successor? Do you think that Germany will stop with the open door policy, with or without Merkel, because it is obvious that there is no solidarity between the member states?

A: I wouldn’t count Merkel out yet. She is at a low point in her personal popularity, but her political party is still polling very well. Europe is already controlling the inflow of migrants better than it had done. I expect that tighter control to continue.


5. Migrant crisis is shaking the EU for a while, but despite that, it seems that Brussels is avoiding to fulfill the promises given to Turkey, the main dam which is stopping the refugees to come in even bigger number to Europe. For how long could that take, especially now when Erdogan has grown warmer relations with Russia and Putin?

A: Brussels is in a bind. Turkey is taking an autocratic turn. It will be very hard to continue on the path to closer relations with Brussels if Ankara moves in a non-democratic direction. Erdogan has got some solace from Putin, who of course has no problems with autocrats, but Russia really has little to offer Turkey compared to the EU.


6. ISIS has become the world’s number one boogie-man. It seems that the strong actions in Syria has hurt this terrorist organization, but they didn’t destroy it, like something is missing. In your opinion, what is necessary to finally end “ISIS era”?

A: ISIS won’t “end.” It will be defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, then peter out. There never was an ISIS era. There was only an ISIS moment. ISIS has now lost lots of important territory in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. It will survive at least for a while as a terrorist group causing real harm to real people, but it is not, and never was, an existential threat to the West.


7. Hillary or Trump? What would the USA look like if Trump wins?

A: I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton for President. A Trump win would be bad for the US, bad for Europe, bad for the Balkans and good for Russia.


8. What is the best path for Serbia? Our ruling political elite is eager to bring Serbia in the EU, majority of people thinks the same, but that same majority wants good relations with Russia. Is it possible to sit on two chairs like that, or not? Also, do you think that some members of the EU will demand from Serbia to recognize Kosovo independence as a condition of joining the EU?

A: Lots of countries in Europe want good relations with Russia. Washington would also like good relations with Russia. It has become difficult to “sit on two chairs” only because of Russia’s renewed aggressiveness, especially in neighboring areas it regards as part of its “near abroad.” Russia’s behavior in Ukraine in particular is unacceptable and has aroused a strong–but peaceful–NATO response. It has also pushed several non-member countries to tighten relations with NATO. This is precisely the opposite of what Putin should want.

There is not now, nor has there ever been, any possibility of Serbian membership in the EU without Belgrade’s acceptance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo, which is already de facto acknowledged in the Brussels political agreement. Belgrade has a choice of methods by which it can act to accept Kosovo’s de jure sovereignty and territorial integrity. It can recognize Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations. Or it can allow Kosovo to enter the UN General Assembly. There may be other clever solutions that I haven’t thought of. But the EU states that have already recognized Kosovo will not allow Serbia’s accession if this issue is still outstanding. Remember: this is not only a question for European presidents and prime ministers but also for their parliaments, which have to ratify accession.

Everyone in Belgrade knows that. But the current authorities don’t want to pay the price, and some like to think they can get a better deal on this issue at the end of the EU accession process than now. I think they are wrong about that. At the end of the process, Belgrade will be under enormous pressure from internal public opinion to remove any obstacles to EU accession, including Kosovo recognition. Serbia today could hope that Kosovo would accommodate some of its needs in return for recognition. I’ll leave it to Serbs and Albanians to cut that deal.



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