Ser­bian PM can­cels vis­its to EU, US in protest

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEL­GRADE, Ser­bia—Ser­bian Prime Min­is­ter­des­ig­nate Alek­san­dar Vu­cic has can­celed a visit to Brus­sels and sep­a­rate talks with Amer­i­can of­fi­cials af­ter re­ports in a pro-govern­ment news­pa­per that Euro­pean Union and U.S. am­bas­sadors to Ser­bia are fu­el­ing street protests against his rule and trig­ger­ing “chaos” in the coun­try, state TV re­ported Monday.

Vu­cic, a for­mer ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist turned al­leged pro-EU re­former, was sched­uled to travel on June 21 to Brus­sels for the for­mal open­ing of EU mem­ber­ship talks and later this month to the U.S. on an in­au­gu­ral Air Ser­bia flight to New York, where he was to hold talks with Amer­i­can of­fi­cials.

A somber-faced Vu­cic met jointly on Monday with U.S. Am­bas­sador Kyle Scott and the head of the EU mis­sion in Ser­bia, Michael Daven­port. A govern­ment state­ment af­ter the closed­door meet­ing did not men­tion the trip can­cel­la­tions, but only quoted Vu­cic as thank­ing the two of­fi­cials for their sup­port of Ser­bia in its EU mem­ber­ship bid.

Vu­cic’s move comes amid in­creas­ing pres­sure by Rus­sia, a tra­di­tional Slavic ally, against Ser­bia join­ing the EU and NATO. Vu­cic made an unan­nounced visit to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last month which re­sulted in calls by the Krem­lin that proven pro-Rus­sian min­is­ters be in­cluded in the new Ser­bian govern­ment af­ter Vu­cic’s pop­ulist party vic­tory in April elec­tions.

“We ex­pect the visit of the Ser­bian prime min­is­ter to Brus­sels once the govern­ment is formed and sworn in,” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Maja Ko­ci­jan­cic said. It’s not yet clear when that will hap­pen.

Vu­cic’s of­fice did not re­turn calls from The As­so­ci­ated Press seek­ing com­ment. Bel­grade’s Informer daily, which is close to Vu­cic and is con­sid­ered his mouth­piece, said last week that the U.S. and EU am­bas­sadors are ac­tively work­ing on “rad­i­cal­iz­ing” street protests against his rule, try­ing to trig­ger “chaos” in the coun­try.

For­eign pol­icy an­a­lyst Bosko Jak­sic noted that Vu­cic did not dis­tance him­self from the al­le­ga­tions lev­eled by his “favorite news­pa­per.”

“I’m afraid that such open at­tacks against the U.S. and EU am­bas­sadors her­ald the start of an open con­fronta­tion with the EU and the West in gen­eral,” Jak­sic said, adding that the sud­den shift from his pro-EU stands hap­pened af­ter the sur­prise meet­ing with Putin last month.

Both the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the U.S. am­bas­sador ve­he­mently de­nied they have any­thing to do with re­cent street demon­stra­tions in Bel­grade. The pro­test­ers are out­raged at shady de­mo­li­tions in an area of the cap­i­tal marked for a United Arab Emi­rates-fi­nanced real es­tate project which is sup­ported by Vu­cic.

The ci­ti­zens’ protests have be­come a chal­lenge to Vu­cic, who faces ac­cu­sa­tions of au­to­cratic rule de­spite promising to take Ser­bia to­ward EU in­te­gra­tion. The op­po­si­tion “It is Enough” party said that Vu­cic’s vis­its were can­celled af­ter sig­nals from the West that he is un­wel­come af­ter “lynch­ing” cam­paigns he and his me­dia out­lets have been con­duct­ing against his political op­po­nents.—AP

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