"Belgrade becoming a place for big powers to compete": EP analysis on European integration
The Center estimates that there is a noticeable increase in strategic competition of global powers in Serbia, which could divert the country from the EU accession process
European Parliament's Analytical Center assesses that Serbia, "frustrated by the slow progress towards EU membership, has opened up space for closer ties with Russia and China" thus casting doubt on Belgrade's overall "European perspective."
The Center estimates that despite some progress in aligning with EU legislation in the field of political criteria and the rule of law, there is also a noticeable increase in strategic competition by global powers in Serbia, which could divert the country from the EU accession process.
It is stressed that Russia is Serbia's traditional geopolitical ally, with Moscow providing "diplomatic support, investment, economic and military assistance," while Serbia, in turn, resists EU pressure to impose sanctions on Russia over aggression in Ukraine.
The analysis, intended for internal use and for informing European parliamentarians, states that "Brussels criticized Serbia's decision to sign a trade agreement with the Eurasian Union" noting that any bilateral trade agreement with third countries must be terminated by the time Serbia joins the EU.
"In addition, Serbia is also the founder of the 16+1 initiative between China and the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. For China, Serbia is a key transport corridor and an energy hub," the analysis said.
European Parliament analysts also cite Serbia-China cooperation in developing military drones as "cause for concern."
It is also estimated that Serbia's "geopolitical orientation is increasingly unclear," citing information about Chinese police patrols in the streets of Belgrade and hundreds of cameras set up under the "Safe City" project, which is being carried out in cooperation with Huawei.
"The lack of transparency about Chinese investments creates concerns when it comes to Serbia's commitment to implementing EU competition rules, state aid and public procurement," the analysis concludes.
European Parliament analysts have also pointed out to the fact that the 2018 Parliamentary Resolution on Serbia criticized Serbia's military cooperation with Russia and that Serbia was urged to align with EU's foreign and security policy.