Analyst Edward P. Joseph: Why did Lavrov's visit to Serbia give the Open Balkans the 'kiss of death'?
Parentheses: More than one canceled visit…
Closing the "doors" for Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and canceling the visit to Serbia is more than that.
Lavrov was scheduled to visit Serbia on June 6th and 7th. He would talk to Vucic about trade relations and the gas issue.
Serbia's neighbors block Lavrov's path
Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Bulgaria closed their airspace as punishment for the Russian occupation of Ukraine (part of the imposed sanctions).
The Russian threat is not the only one
Russia's airspace chief has threatened the West, saying "missiles do not require permission to fly over your skies."
In the eyes of analyst Edward P. Joseph, (a professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS University in Washington and an expert on Balkan issues) there is a greater threat than the Russian one, and it is located within the Balkans. The Open Balkan initiative itself is viewed with skepticism by him.
In several consecutive but interconnected tweets, Joseph ironically draws a parallel between the movement and the alarm raised by NATO over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the skepticism that Lavrov's canceled visit to the Open Balkans by roads closed by Serbia's neighbors.
Lavrov calls the unrealized visit a devastating blow to the Open Balkans.
5 The questions Joseph asks between the lines are:
- Do the countries of the Western Balkans trust each other enough to join the Open Balkans?
- Does trade build trust between economic partners?
- Why did not Ukraine and Russia build this trust, which until February 24 were each other's main economic partners?
- Why did not Japan, Taiwan or South Korea build trust on China, even though they have trade cooperation?
- Is Open Balkan an initiative to economically empower Serbia to then use this economic development for political purposes under Vucic?
"Just as praise goes to Putin who gave life to NATO, so does praise to Lavrov who gave the kiss of death (the devastating blow) to the Open Balkans. This idea of the Trump administration advances the agenda of Russia's strategic partner in the region, Serbia, under Vucic.
Serbia has always supported Open Balkan and why not?
Open Balkan is an open invitation for Vucic to use Serbia's economic growth for political gain regardless of EU values. Open Balkan is otherwise the 'Serbian World', a market for Serbia's smaller neighbors.
Trust Vucic to join the EU. US officials have accepted the notion that 'Trade equals Faith'. What matters is the character of the regime you are trading with. Ask Ukraine, which until February 24 had Russia as its main trading partner for exports and imports.
Ask Japan, South Korea or Taiwan if trade has built trust with China.
The same story applies to the Balkans. Serbia is Montenegro's number one trading partner for imports and exports. As for reliability, Belgrade holds the last place. The Montenegrin prime minister's recent approval of the Open Balkans has sparked divisions in the country.
Any policy in the Balkans that faces a direct threat from Serbia is skeptical, even if you are not skeptical of Open Balkan.
As the EBRD has pointed out in its assessment, the core economic problems in Bosnia are of a political nature. "As Putin has revived NATO, we hope that Lavrov will promote alternatives to the Open Balkans that build a common regional market on the common values of the EU."