Deutsche Welle: Hugs from Moscow, Medvedev visits Belgrade

Deutsche Welle: Hugs from Moscow, Medvedev visits Belgrade
Vucic and Medvedev
 At a time when Brussels is reluctant to bring the Western Balkan countries closer to the EU, the Kremlin becomes active with its favorite country, Serbia. According to experts, one of the topics of the Russian Prime Minister will be the status of Kosovo.

At first glance, it is a routine visit. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flies to Belgrade on October 20, the day when the Serbs celebrate the liberation of their city from Nazi troops 75 years ago. Thousands of Russian Red Army soldiers were killed in this World War II offensive. Alongside the Orthodox faith, this is another reason of why the Serbs feel emotionally attached to Russians and Ukrainians. The opposition in Serbia has announced that will boycott Medvedev's ceremonial speech in parliament. But this is not so much about the guest as it is a sign of protest against the president who governs with authoritarian tendencies, Aleksandar Vucic.

Medvedev will address economic topics during his visit to Belgrade, Moscow-based publicist and Balkan expert Ivan Preobrashenskiy told Deutsche Wellen. In May 2014, Moscow and Belgrade signed a strategic partnership. The Russian prime minister is more interested in the progress made in the construction of the 402km Turkish Stream pipeline that will pass through Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia. According to Moscow, it will supply gas to the Western Balkan countries. Capacity - 12.87 billion cubic meters per year. The Kremlin expects the Serbian segment of the pipeline to be completed this year, as planned, Preobrashensky says. There are problems with laying pipelines in Bulgaria. Gazprom wants to use the pipeline on its own, though it has no right to own it under EU law.

Not cheese from the Netherlands

Significant for Prime Minister Medvedev is the signing of a free trade agreement between Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Forum, says Oleg Bondarenko of the Russian Foundation for Progressive Policy. Products from Serbia would thus have easier access to countries such as Belarus and the Central Asian republics. Serbia benefits now that the EU no longer sells its agrarian and food products to Russia. The consequence of bilateral sanctions between Brussels and Moscow in recent years.

On the shelves of supermarkets in St. Petersburg or Vladivostok there is no more cheese from the Netherlands but from Serbia. To seal the free trade agreement, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic travels five days after Medvedev's visit to Moscow, Bondarenko says. Russia continues to treat Serbia with preference, this is a signal to the EU, Ivan Preobrashenskiy thinks.

According to experts, one of the topics of the Russian Prime Minister will be the status of Kosovo. "Medvedev's visit serves for Russia to promise Serbia again that it will veto at the UN Security Council that the breakaway province of Kosovo will one day become a UN-recognized state," Dusan Reljic from the Science and Politics Foundation in Brussels said. For Belgrade, such support is important in the negotiations with Pristina and the West.

Kosovo Albanians and Serbs at the negotiating table?
Especially at the moment this support matters. Soon the US government launches a new attempt to bring Kosovo and Serbia to the negotiating table. The mediator will be the German Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell. Internal circles say he has prayed for the position of special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia. The 52-year-old had previously fought for Donald Trump's vacant national security adviser post but to no avail. But the embassy spokeswoman for DW dismissed speculation that Grenell had himself tried for the post.

"President Trump wants to be re-elected next year, and he needs foreign policy success," says Bondarenko. Russia may accept a partition of Kosovo, he thinks, but on the condition that Pristina and Belgrade agree between them and this step is approved by the UN Security Council.

So far the Kremlin looks at the new US initiative in the Balkans with suspicion. Grenell has previously used harsh tones against the construction of the Baltic Sea Nord Stream 2, a prestige project for Moscow. The German government did not succumb to the pressure. It continues to support the construction of this pipeline. But some other details after Richard Grenell's meeting with President Vucic suggest that the differences between the two sides are obvious. Vucic then praised the Serbian-Russian relations. They are great. He is excited about meeting with Medvedev, Serbian media write.
Deutsche Welle: Hugs from Moscow, Medvedev visits Belgrade Deutsche Welle: Hugs from Moscow, Medvedev visits Belgrade Sunday, October 20, 2019 Rating: 5
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