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The election campaign in Serbia: Kosovo brings points, the EU does not

2023-12-06 08:13:51, Kosova & Bota CNA

The election campaign in Serbia: Kosovo brings points, the EU does not

Two weeks before the elections, it is clear that the issue of Serbia's "European path" plays almost no role in the campaign. On the other hand, the topic of Kosovo is at the top of the priorities, and even the authorities cannot avoid it, even if they These two things - which are talked about a little about the EU and a lot about Kosovo - are closely related, say DW's interlocutors.

"The regime simply cannot influence some things," says historian and political scientist Stefan Radojkovic. The Kosovo issue is taking up a lot of space in the campaign, mainly because the US and the EU are "pressuring" it. year through the agreements presented in Brussels and Ohrid, openly saying that they expect a de facto recognition of Kosovo's independence from Belgrade, says Radojkovic.

"They insisted on the Franco-German plan, which as a result became very present in the Serbian media", he tells DW. "Also, Albin Kurti's attitude towards the Serbian community is such that even the main media in Serbia should they dedicate space to it.

Kosovo and everyday topics

An old saying of analysts and pollsters, which is repeated from campaign to campaign, is that Kosovo is less important to the average voter than issues of "everyday life". But at some point the issue of Kosovo is imposed as the most important.

"The voter's priority is the fight against unemployment, a better standard of living and economic stability," says Aleksandar Ivkovic from the Center for Contemporary Politics.

The election campaign in Serbia: Kosovo brings points, the EU does not

"The fight against corruption and crime is in second place, while Kosovo is in third place, if a crisis does not break out in Kosovo. But it is precisely in such cases that interest in this topic increases", said Ivkovic for "Blic" newspaper.

The government of Aleksandar Vucic insists on these "vital" issues in this campaign as well. In the big pre-election meeting in the Belgrade Arena, roads, railways, stadiums, jobs and salaries were mentioned more often in the speeches. However, none of the speakers , especially Vucic, did not forget to talk about "the protection of territorial integrity", saying that "he will never accept the independence of Kosovo".

According to Stefan Radojkovic, the government was hit by a "storm" that could affect the outcome of the elections. First, the war in Ukraine brought great pressure, and then started price increases that affect citizens. And the pressure continues for the "solution" of the Kosovo issue.

Radojkovic says that the right-wing parties have smelled this as a motto to gain points in the campaign. "If the right-wing or conservative parties got some votes last year on the issue of the war in Ukraine - in which Serbia has no role - then inevitably the issue of Kosovo also comes up, which is much closer," Radojkovic says. .

"It is also clear that the majority of voters have negative attitudes towards any Western proposal," he adds.

Voters of Vucic

The election campaign in Serbia: Kosovo brings points, the EU does not

Many observers also interpreted former president Tomislav Nikoli?'s return to the Serbian Progressive Party campaign as an attempt to win back wavering SNS voters. Because, according to the polls, Vucic does not have the most powerful cards in his hand when it comes to the subject of Kosovo. According to an October poll by New Serbian Political Thought (NSPM), only 14 percent of voters believe that "the position of Serbia and the Serbs" in Kosovo is stronger with this government in Belgrade, while about 50 percent think that is weaker.

"Many say that Vucic's electorate has been corrupted in some way. But he is still anchored in the right spectrum," says Radojkovic. "They also have some uncertainty about Vucic's policy on Kosovo – where there are many unknowns." .

Radojkovic notes that the pro-European list "Serbia against violence" has taken a tougher stance towards Kosovo. Radojkovic refers to the recent DW report on the visit of representatives of this pro-European list to Berlin.

There Borko Stefanovic (SSP) said that this coalition will preserve the "constitutional point of view" of Kosovo and that it is not obliged to keep the promises that Vucic gave to the European representatives behind closed doors.

Kosovo is a kind of "golden chicken" in the campaign of many parties, while for the strongest civic list among the powerful topics are also the issues of violence, crime and corruption, up to the impoverishment of citizens.

The EU is a topic for "kamikaze"

DW sources say that the parties are aware that the European Union is not a good topic that brings points in the campaign. Because the road to the EU is taking too long, and European politicians very often support Aleksandar Vu?i? in these issues. While now the main politicians from the EU are openly demanding the de facto recognition of Kosovo.

Political scientist Srgjan Cvijic, a good expert on the European Union, says that only a "political kamikaze" would have the issue of EU membership at the top of the campaign. "Because all the media under the regime's control are anti-EU and anti-Western. What would fighting with Vucic's tabloids bring to an opposition party?", Cvijic told DW.

The election campaign in Serbia: Kosovo brings points, the EU does not
Opposition protests

"The EU is not an important topic of the campaign. It may be shocking to someone from the outside, but it is not. There are many other more pressing issues on the agenda," he says, citing the examples of crime, violence and issues of others that sparked mass protests last spring.

While the EU's case in the polls has never been worse. According to NSPM, only 39 percent of citizens support Serbia's membership in the EU, while 51 percent are against it.

Are there any other European routes?

Many things show that official Belgrade is no longer moving towards the EU. According to the report published by the Ministry of European Integration, from the summer of 2022 to the summer of 2023, Serbia has adopted only 27 percent of the planned legal regulations required by the EU. After the SNS came to power, in the first half of 2013, about 85 percent of the regulations were approved. Journalist Boshko Jakši? thinks that "a part of the responsibility, not a small one, also belongs to the European Union".

"The West is in a hurry to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Everything else is unimportant to them," concludes Jakši?./ DW

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