Norms and Values
Aleksandar Vučić’s Political Dribbling

As a basketball player, Aleksandar Vučić, the world’s tallest president, has mastered both in theory and practice the art of dribbling, as demonstrated by past masters similar in height – Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Unlike them, however Aleksandar Vučić does this in the political arena, both on domestic and international platforms.

The focus of world geopolitics is once again shifting towards Serbia. Moscow’s traditional ally in Eastern Europe has demonstrated its commitment to its Russian “brothers” not only in words, but also in deeds. If in words President Aleksandar Vučić makes it clear to all partners that the pressure of Western colleagues regarding Serbia’s accession to anti-Russian sanctions is about to achieve its success, then in reality the Serbian president is very successful in resisting powerful Western pressure. Sometimes he has even done so at the expense of the West, like when the 500 million euros directed at harmonisation of processes with the EU were spent in secret in 2022. Considering that there are a lot of reasons for the opposition to protest in Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić has skilfully learned to manoeuvre in the “inland sea” of Serbian politics.

The main demand of the opposition in recent months has been for early parliamentary and local elections in Serbia. Aleksandar Vučić met these demands, and it became known that they would be held on December 17, 2023. Moreover, the Chairman of the People’s Assembly (Parliament of Serbia) Vladimir Orlić said that the authorities perceive the idea of these elections “with enthusiasm.” 

What sentiments prevail among Serbian citizens today? The most recent polls from late October show the following interesting picture. To the main question for us about a possible implementation of sanctions against Russia, 78.9% said categorically no! The next important point is the number of supporters and opponents of joining the EU. Until now, the proportion of voters supporting European integration has been 41%; it exceeds the number of opponents, 38%. It is curious that at the beginning of the year – in January – the number of supporters of joining the EU was 47.6%. However, when asked if they were for joining the EU on the condition that Belgrade recognised Kosovo as independent, the picture of respondents’ opinions changes: both then and now, about 80% of the population is against such conditions for integration with the European Union. If we talk about potential entry into NATO, then there is a whole gulf here – 85% are against, 15% are in favour. The destroyed buildings of the General Staff and the Ministry of Defence remain standing as tragic ruins in the centre of Belgrade, representing for almost a quarter of a century a silent reminder to the country’s citizens and tourists who Serbia’s friends and enemies are.

Another important and interesting point in the opinion poll is the number of supporters of Serbia’s potential entry into the BRICS group. This idea is supported by 41.2% of respondents.

Norms and Values
Serbia: Western Pressure and National Interests
On June 27, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion on the political situation in Serbia and the country’s prospects for bilateral relations with Russia.
Club events

Over the past six months, opposition forces in Serbia have been holding mass protests under the slogan “Serbia against violence.” The official reason was the tragedy at the Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school. It is symbolic that Vladislav Ribnikar himself was the founder of Politika newspaper and died young, in the first days of the First World War.

The protest policy of the oppositionists began with a tragedy at the school, but quickly spread to demands to fire government officials who, in their opinion, were unsuitable for European integration: Aleksandar Vulin, Bratislav Gašić, and even Aleksandar Vučić himself.

Furthermore, appetites began to grow, and the protesters realized that the best way to achieve results was to hold new elections, which they could not win last time. Moreover, at first it was only about Belgrade, and then parliamentary elections were added. Gradually, the line began to blur between marches “against violence” and protest rallies “against dictatorship”, against government decisions affecting the environment, and others; as it later turned out, the same organizers were behind all these events.

As for external pressure on Serbia, it is increasing day by day, especially with regard to the Kosovo issue. Vučić, who successfully flew to China, immediately found himself immersed in a maelstrom of artificially escalated “eternal” problems

The President of Serbia has repeatedly stated that he is a “soldier” and is ready to do anything for Serbia

However, each time, such statements have lulled his potential competitors, thereby allowing him to gain time. There is a feeling that this strategy of political behaviour allows Vučić to pursue an effective multi-vector policy, successfully attracting investments into his country and developing its economy while maintaining warm partnerships with Western countries, China, and Russia, which are racing to participate in Serbian infrastructure projects.

There is an imaginary feeling that the level of support from Western countries in Serbia has decreased, but this is not the case: if only to prevent Serbia from becoming dependent on Russia, the West will finance Serbia in any event.

This is echoed in a recent statement by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who stated that 65-70% of investments in Serbia are attracted from the EU and the same percentage of exports are sent back to the EU countries, but the republic’s full accession to the EU, even by 2030, looks foggy.

Even in the unlikely event of the recognition of Kosovo by Serbia, investments could increase sharply, but there is no talk of rapid accession to the EU.

Therefore, Belgrade will obviously continue to have a high degree of dependence on Western countries in political, financial and investment terms, and fast-growing new players declaring themselves on the world stage will be interested in investing in Serbia. This is due to its favourable economic geographical location and comparatively underdeveloped infrastructure and production capacity; these and other elements of the nation’s economic structure were neglected due to the containment of the country’s development during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The appeal of producing in Serbia will also be facilitated by the fact that it has some of the lowest wage levels in Europe; this has been the main factor motivating protest sentiments. Therefore, the authorities will do their best to promote new job creation in the country, accepting new proposals from all interested parties.

In recent years, thanks to Vučić’s multi-vector economic policy, new serious players have appeared in the Serbian direct investment market, such as the UAE and Bahrain, which at first glance seem exotic for a small Eastern European country. However, with a higher resolution of the investment and economic focus, the attractiveness of investments seems understandable. This includes resort and recreational potential, the service sector, the financial and banking sector, and many other areas of investment.

By attracting investments from all over the world, Vučić not only solves internal problems with consumer basket inflation, but declares himself as a reliable partner for external investors who, in managing their money, will adhere to the agreements reached with a specific person who will guarantee the safety and yield of the invested funds.

Aleksandar Vučić continues to learn and improve in this kind of political dexterity all the time. For example, in order to fulfil a childhood dream, take a break from everyday work and gain additional skills, the president took courses in 2020 to become a basketball coach and enter a sport that he had been involved in since childhood. 

In a country where basketball is not just a sport, but a religion, Aleksandar Vučić (199 cm), the tallest president in the world, has mastered both in theory and practice the art of dribbling, the main activity in this game, as demonstrated by past masters similar in height – Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Unlike them, however Aleksandar Vučić doesn’t do this in the Arena, but in the political arena, both on domestic and international platforms.

Norms and Values
Serbia and Russia in the Context of Current Western Policy Towards Serbs
Aleksandar Raković
Almost the entire Serbian population, throughout the former Yugoslavia, has taken a pro-Russian position. In the internal political struggle of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, there is no Russophobic sentiment at all, even within the ranks of pro-Western parties, writes Aleksandar Raković.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.