Western Balkans before the elections. In the shadow of war, critics of Brussels and the interim president defend their mandate

“Outside of Ukraine, of course, we talk about national interests, foreign policy, electoral conditions in Serbia, etc. in Serbia,” adds Đorđević.

But Ukraine has overshadowed a number of problems. “Vučić says to the voters: don’t worry, nothing will happen, we will keep the peace. At the diplomatic level, we condemn what is happening in Ukraine, we support Ukrainian sovereignty. But because of our special relations with Russia , we also don’t want to team up with Western states that have imposed sanctions on Moscow,” says Đorđević.

Serbian stability

“I’ve probably never been worse. I’ve never been in a worse mood,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said after the UN General Assembly.

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic

He explained why he decided to sign a resolution in which he and other states condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine. International actors but he did not say who – they would have pushed Serbia in all sorts of ways to sign the resolution. He also did quite reluctantly at the end.

No wonder Aleksandar Vučić spoke so sadly in a statement after the UN General Assembly. For many years, she managed to maintain good relations with both West and East: the European Union considers her a leader capable of maintaining the stability of Serbia and therefore of the entire Balkan region. Westerners, even with certain restrictions. on democracy and media freedom. Political scientists call this approach stability.

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For actors from the East Russia and China Serbia is a space for business and investment, which the Serbian regime welcomes. But the war in Ukraine upset this fragile balance. The president faced the dilemma of which side to side. But in the end, he doesn’t seem satisfied.

“There are still many countries in the European Union that have problems with the state of their democracy – for example, Hungary, which supports Serbia’s EU membership. That’s why I think that the Union will not criticize Alexander Vučić in any significant way. Furthermore, the Union’s policy towards the Balkans will continue the process of stability. The European Union will now mainly focus on Ukraine and will not have more room to address the state of democracy in Serbia or in other countries in the region,” says Đorđević.

The European Union will now mainly focus on Ukraine and will have no leeway to address the state of democracy in Serbia.

Vladimir Djorjevic

But Vučić doesn’t just have problems on the international stage. In January, after several months, environmental activists managed to achieve the main goal: the Serbian government withdrew from the agreement with the international company Rio Tinto, which wanted to extract lithium in the country.

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The protests were unprecedented, mainly because the demonstrators managed to achieve their objective in Serbia. That is to say in a country that is not only far behind the vast majority of European states in terms of environmental policy, but also in a country where the president and the government enjoy enormous support from the voters.

Environmental activists are also running for this election. But they probably won’t be able to beat Vučić.

“Also because Ukraine now dominates as the main topic and Vučić is an absolutely dominant figure. The opposition is unable to maintain constant pressure on Vučić and does not have access to the majority media. Unlike the government party in ‘Alexander Vučić,’ says Vladimir Djordjevic.

Slovenský Janša v Brussels

Slovenia will also have elections in April, where people will vote for the composition of parliament. The current prime minister, Janez Janša, has been in office since 2020. He served as prime minister twice from 2004 to 2008 and briefly from 2012 to 2013. He took office after numerous anti-government protests.

The electoral winner was 25% of the Democratic Party, led by Janez Janša

Janša has long had good relations with the four Visegrad countries, especially with Viktor Orbán. And like him, Janša is known for his euroscepticism.

The European Union has repeatedly criticized its government for suppressing freedom of expression in Slovenia, in particular its efforts to limit the independence of Slovenia’s state-run news agency. Late last year, the European Parliament also expressed concern about the state of justice in the country.

I would not give a clear equal sign between Janez Janša and Viktor Orbán.

Thomas Strazay

However, Janez Janša last appeared on a large scale in the world media because of a completely different topic and also in a very different light: thanks to his trip to Ukraine. Just a few weeks before the elections, Janez Janša decided to take a bold step and perhaps quite surprising directly to kyiv expressed support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.

From left to right, Prime Ministers of Slovenia and Poland Janez Janša and Mateusz Morawiecki, former Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala

“In this context, we see a more fundamental demarcation of Viktor Orbán, who has had a very hesitant policy since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine – he does not want to unequivocally approach either side”, says Tomáš Strážay of Slovak foreign policy. Association.

“Therefore, I would not give such a clear equation between these two policies,” he adds. Viktor Orbán and Janez Janša have inspired each other in recent years.

“In my opinion, Janez Janša’s position can be perceived as a kind of electoral calculation – the growing preferences of these opposition parties, the liberal parties, are quite noticeable,” says the analyst.

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According to Strážay, if Janš manages to win again, his policy will not change significantly.

“Janez Janša will continue the style of politics that we have known so far – he tried to define a confrontational policy towards the current opposition parties regarding relations with Brussels. He tends to reinforce certain authoritarian elements of the governance and I don’t know if he will want to move away from this style of politics – I rather think that he will want to strengthen it”, concludes Tomáš Strážay.

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