May 2022

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

NEW TERRIBLE PRESSURE ON BELGRADE FROM BERLIN! Either impose sanctions or there is no money from the EU!

One of the dominant narratives in Serbian tabloid media is the one that presents the European Union and its member countries in the malicious, pointless blackmailing and controlling way, while Serbia, on the other hand, is a victim of such treatment by Western countries. We see such a narrative in the very title of this news.

Namely, the news conveys in a sensationalist way that Germany is pressuring, threatening and blackmailing Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia, and if Serbia doesn’t do it, it will no longer be able to receive aid from the European Union. “Germany is pressuring Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine, and the members of the Bundestag put direct blackmail in front of Belgrade: either impose sanctions or there is no more money from the EU! The German parliament is asking Brussels to make it difficult for candidate countries that refuse to impose sanctions on Moscow to access European funds!?! Although the German document does not directly mention Serbia, it is clear that the blackmail refers to Belgrade because our country is the only ‘candidate country’ that has not yet made political war with Russia.”

With very harsh and negative vocabulary the text reports that Germany is “pressuring and blackmailing” and seeking a “political war against Russia”, but the news on which this text is based actually talks about the fact that the Bundestag gave guidelines to the German government to propose and review aid from pre-accession funds for candidate countries within the EU institutions. This action of a member state is neither surprising nor unexpected, on the contrary, it is a completely natural and logical sequence of events that the question of the use of EU funds by third countries should be reconsidered in light of the current emergency situation in Europe. Candidate countries for membership naturally need to align themselves with the policies and attitudes of the organization they aspire to become a part of.

The news further states that Germany wants to prevent our development in this way. The question arises that, if European funds mean development for Serbia, why does Serbia renounce its own development? Although the news tries to equalize the consequences that such actions would have on Serbia and EU member states, the truth is that Serbia would be at an immeasurably greater loss since Serbia’s largest foreign trade partner is the EU. As research shows, European Union member countries account for more than 60% of Serbia’s total foreign trade with other countries. The total volume of trade with EU countries is 9.6 times higher than with Russia and 13.6 times higher than with China.[1]

“Germany, and Europe, would prevent our development, but it would also deprive itself of numerous economic benefits that it has in trade with our country…In economics, such political decisions are always a two-way street. We hope that there will be enough sense among the political European elites and that they will define political decisions that will have the least damage to the economies of the Western Balkan countries, as well as the EU.”

Although in the first part of the news it is unintentionally implied that EU funds mean development for Serbia, the continuation of the news conveys the assessment of political scientist Aleksandar Pavić that the EU is a sinking ship and that Serbia receives absolutely nothing from the Union, and the membership is completely devalued.

“Access to various European funds will be harder for everyone in the EU and outside it, because that alliance is sinking into the depths of an economic and social crisis due to the insane policy of sanctions against Russia. For the “privilege” of boarding the sinking EU ship, Serbia is “generously” offered to give up a century-old ally that protects the legal status of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia and Republika Srpska within the Dayton Agreement. In return, Europe offers absolutely nothing – only ‘possible’ membership one day, and maybe not even then…”

As we mentioned, the general narrative about the EU in the tabloid media is that it uses the politics of pressure and blackmail, while Serbia presents itself as a victim of such cruel, unjustified politics. However, Serbia’s policy of sitting on multiple chairs at the same time is neither sustainable nor profitable in the long term. As it is often said, this approach brings nothing to Serbia except than that it is seen on the international scene as the West to the East and the East to the West. It is absurd that we are declaratively moving towards membership in the European Union, but that we do not want to align with its policies and attitudes. We want funds and money from the Union, but we do not want to adhere to European values and principles.



Author: Sofija Popović