This week Serbia’s government took a hard turn to the right—and to the east. Yesterday the new nationalist president appointed Ivica Dacic, a protégé of the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, as prime minister.
Now, along with Nikolic’s nationalists, Milosevic’s old progressive party will dominate the government. Both parties are very interested in tightening Serbia’s alliance with Russia, which weakened after the Balkan wars and the past decade of pro-EU government by the liberal Democratic party. Over at the Kremlin, the feeling is mutual.
The Associated Press reports:
Dacic, who has made two trips to Russia since the elections, said earlier that the Kremlin was pressuring him to form the coalition government with the nationalists. Western officials had hoped that Tadic would head the next Serbian government, partially isolating Nikolic’s the pro-Russian influence.
With the nationalists’ ousting of the Democrats, the political game in Serbia is changing, and the big loser may be the European Union — and its American ally. All of a sudden, with the eurozone in shambles and Serbia’s ever increasing trade volume with Russia, EU membership no longer looks so attractive. Many Serbs, nationalist or not, are simply tired of seeing their country jump through so many hoops to earn full member status. Russia, on the other hand, accepts its Slav cousins exactly as they are.
Above all, you can be sure that the Serb nationalists will be happy to capitalize on Russia’s support for their claim on Kosovo. Yesterday a Russian ambassador visited a Serb enclave to commemorate the Serbs’ defeat in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The historical observance was nice enough, but the icing on the cake was when the envoy wagged his finger at Kosovo’s capital:
[Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin] accused the authorities in Priština of violating basic human and international rights when they prevented [Serb] Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović from attending.
Speaking about the ways to solve the Kosovo problem, Konuzin said he saw the issue “in the same way Serbs see it”:
“When you Serbs decide how to solve the problem of Kosovo, you can be certain we will support you.”
Via Meadia has pointed to signs that the deepening euro mess and the rise of Balkan nationalists is pushing Belgrade and Moscow closer together. But Serbia isn’t the only state in the region shooting flirtatious glances at Russia. With Greece and Cyprus estranged from the EU and Turkey taking stock of its role in Eurasia, we shall see if the “powder keg of Europe” is setting off another massive, if quieter, geopolitical shift.