By Nicasia Picciano, PhD, @NicasiaPi
20 December 2023, dtt-net.com – The misuse of public funds, voter intimidation and cases of votes buying in the recent parliamentary elections in Serbia registering 6,500,666 voters, held on December 18, are worrying and at the same time expected. This is valid for news about buses carrying non-residents being taken to Belgrade to vote too, which is though shocking.
Also, the recent elections are very much telling about an autocratic regime which keeps being pleased by the EU. The real truth is that Serbia is a de facto autocracy and a democracy on paper only. What`s more, there is inevitably a consistent responsibility of the EU in enabling the decline of democracy in Serbia to such a degree. A too lenient appeasement policy also with a look at the Serbia-Kosovo relations has been counterproductive.
These were the third parliamentary elections in less than four years. This pattern has undoubtedly undermined people`s trust in democratic institutions and electoral processes and does not contribute to efficient democratic governance. Also, the political landscape is shaped by the continued dominance of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and the incumbent president Mr. Vučić since 2012.
Whether there is still not a firm EU action, apart from expressions of concern, about the way the election process took place, Germany has spoken out loud that this is unacceptable for a country with a EU candidate status.
Pressure on voters as well as the decisive involvement of the President and the ruling party’s systemic advantages undermined the overall election process. There were a number of procedural deficiencies, including frequent cases of overcrowding, violations of the secrecy of the vote, and numerous instances of group voting.
At the same time, though, people in Belgrade protested following the elections showing their not acceptance of voter fraud and election stealing. This clearly shows citizens` dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. And, the EU should listen to these voices, but not underestimate them.
The way the recent parliamentary elections took place in Serbia are not solely worrying for the sake of democracy of the country’s itself, but also for its relations with Kosovo, the region’s stability and the EU’s overall security too. In other words, there won’t be a long-lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia without the democratization of Serbia itself.
The EU should, therefore, take a clear position towards Belgrade. Not solely election irregularities should be properly investigated and summoned, but also any further obstructionist action toward Kosovo should be timely punished. What`s more, EU’s own security won’t be safe with an autocrat playing games for its own benefits, while openly being close to his fellow ‘brothers’ Putin and Jinping.
For the EU to regain its credibility in the region, there is the need for thinking of a new strategy towards Belgrade. The EU-mediated Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo is dead and there are little chances that Vučić would change its position towards Kosovo. In the meantime, any undemocratic domestic development must be properly admonished and, if not timely corrected, punished. There must not be space for mercy.
Under Vučić`s leadership Serbia is not moving towards democracy and it won`t do so. Facts show the contrary and the EU should wake up and decline any further support to Serbia`s EU accession process under these conditions once and for all. Otherwise said, rule of law should not be sacrificed at the expenses of a shallowed stability.
Vote theft, bribery and corruption must not be allowed in a democratic world. Just like Orbán, Vučić is increasingly becoming a factor of uncertainty for the EU. And Brussels must not turn a blind eye towards this.
Sunday elections` results were cheated and Vučić’s international legitimacy is put into question. Also, they are indicative of how illusory is the idea of any consistent paradigm shift towards Kosovo, as long as Vučić is in power and he is allowed to do what he wants. It is time to show him where the limits are.
Nicasia Picciano holds a Phd on European Union state-building in Kosovo from the University of Flensburg, Germany. She is the author of the book the European Union State-Building in Kosovo. Challenges and Lessons Learned: An Assessment of EULEX, Dr. Kovač, Hamburg. She has previously worked as a researcher for Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, Prishtina, Group for Legal and Political Studies, Prishtina and Balkans Policy Research Group, Prishtina. Currently, she covers the Western Balkans for Sbunker (Prishtina) and Le Courrier des Balkans (Paris). Her research interests span from peace- and state-building, reconciliation and ethnic conflict, cultural tourism, green energy transition, the Berlin Process and the Connectivity Agenda in Kosovo and the Western Balkans.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com