Serbia readies polls despite Covid-19 fears

Belgrade to keep balancing between West, Russia and China, Vucic claims

Serbia will go to polls on 21 June to elect new parliament with ruling Serbian Progressive Party a clear frontrunner, news wires reported. President Aleksandar Vucic, former nationalist firebrand and current euro-realist, said he was confident his party would garner a majority of votes. But the opposition and watchdogs have frequently accused him and his Progressive Party of autocracy, election rigging, corruption, nepotism, etc.

Prior to the vote, Vucic said that Belgrade wants to keep balancing its ties with the West, China and Russia as it seeks to join the EU and reach a settlement with Kosovo. Before it joins the EU, Serbia must normalise ties with its former province. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by over 100 countries, vbut Serbia, which sees it as an inseparable cradle of its national identity, has been blocking its membership of international organisations, including the UN, together with its allies Russia and China.

Vucic said Serbia was ready to talk to Pristina “without a timeline” and “in good faith”, but that mutual recognition was not on the agenda. “We are ready for talks but no white flag,” he told Reuters in an interview. “The dialogue is welcome if it is a dialogue in which it can be seen what is possible, what is a compromise. We believe it is in the best interest of (Kosovo) Albanians and the international community to talk about a free flow of capital, people and services.”

EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and Kosovo, which has a significant Serb population who want to be ruled from Belgrade, stalled in 2018 when Kosovo introduced a 100% import tax on goods from Serbia. The removal of trade barriers by Kosovo’s new government this month paves the way for a resumption of talks. 

Vucic said Belgrade did not plan to choose between Russia, the EU and China. “We have ... our own agenda ... one chair, not two ... How could we say ‘Long live Hong Kong and long live Taiwan’ and then expect Chinese support for our territorial integrity (with Kosovo) ... not to mention that they are our friends who have helped us,” Vucic said.

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