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
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
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
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
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
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.