MACRON IN SERBIA - By Zivadin Jovanovic

Activities - Comments

By Zivadin Jovanovic, Belgrade Forum

The recent two days state visit (July 15 and 16) of the French president Emanuel Macron, has marked new phase in Serbo-French relations. It was the first such a visit in 18 years, after 2001. visit of Jacques Chirac, French president at that time.

The visit is important, first of all, for strengthening of bilateral cooperation, but also as impetus in the staled negotiation process on the status of the Province of Kosovo and Metohija which proclaimed  unilateral secession from Serbia in 2008. It has, also, marked improvement of the international perception and position of Serbia. Macron is the head of state of the third UN SC permanent member country and nuclear power, visiting Serbia in the past three years. Russian president Vladimir Putin, visited Serbia in 2018. and Chinese president Xi Jinping made three days state visit to Serbia in 2016. With each of the three countries Serbia enjoys the status of strategic (comprehensive) partner which is not the case with any other country of the region. In addition, Serbia and Russia have custom free trade agreement since 2000. Serbia is important partner in China+17CEEC framework cooperation under BRI with about 7 billion USD Chinese present involvements in Serbia’s development.
French investments in Serbia amount so far 1.5 billion euro, while the yearly trade amounts to about 1.1 billion euro. This is very important for Serbia but still significantly lagging behind Germany and China, for example. During Macron’s visit 22 new official documents have been signed on cooperation in investments, trade, environment, defense and cultural cooperation. It is expected that French investment in Serbia will be doubled in the near future and cooperation in other fields further significantly expended.
If everything goes as expected, the French economic, political and cultural offensive introduced by Macron’s visit may contribute to more balanced distribution of Serbia’s international cooperation, as well as to clearer visibility of the France’s presence and role in Serbia and the Balkans. French “Vince Airports Co.” won recently 25 years concession contract for the Belgrade “Nikola Tesla” International Airport paying 501 million euro accepting, in addition, to finance its enlargement and modernization. Other French companies have announced significant investments in green energy production and environment protection sectors.

Serbia has already bought several French “Airbus” helicopters, „Mistral“missiles and some other defensive systems. New arrangements may also include joint production of parts for “Airbus Co.”, and regional maintenance services for French helicopters in Serbia. Taking into account significant traditional cooperation in the field of defense with Russia and some other countries, new agreements with France conform to Serbia’s military neutrality strategy.
French partners, alone or jointly with participants from some other countries, are likely to be involved in construction of the Belgrade subway, the project of great importance for Serbia.

Common history, the struggle for freedom of Europe and friendly emotions were among the main features of Macron’s visit to Serbia. The two presidents – Aleksandar Vucic and Emanuel Macron have visited the Monument to fallen fighters of the First Word War and the Monument of the lady sergeant Milunka Savic, the most decorated lady fighter from the same war. Macron has surprised several thousands of people gathered around the Monument of gratitude to France, addressing them in Serbian language. He praised their courage, friendly sentiments toward France and vision of the future in an obvious effort to seek support from history in healing the wounds from French participation in the NATO 1999 aggression and France’s 2008.recognition of unilateral, illegal secession of the Province of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia under the guidance of Washington.
It was visible that president Macron invested time and efforts to be well prepared for this visit and for his mission to open, as he said, the new phase of partnership with Serbia. His messages have been well received especially those that Europe has obligations toward Serbia and cannot go ahead without respecting Serbia. In parallel with overly positive public pulsations about the visit, there is a feeling that Macron should have apologized to Serbian people for injustices by the West, at least for the human victims caused by the illegal 1999 NATO aggression in which France participated. Reassessment of that tragic aggression, having being the first war on European soil after Second World War, is perceived in Serbia as inevitable not only as the moral debt, but also as the part of the strategy of “Europe turning to herself”.
As for Serbia’s aim to become the member of EU, Macron reiterated that both EU and Serbia should pursue necessary reforms and at the end become ready for expansion and membership. He said that no dates/years should not be fixed in advance.

Concerning solution of the future status of the Provence of Kosovo and Metohija, president Macron expressed the view that only Europe can resolve it and that factors outside Europe may not wish stability in the Balkans. Which countries exactly he had in mind speaking about “outside Europe” is not quite clear but it is obvious that Europe is far from being in the best shape to get rid of accumulated negative legacy of the past.
Almost immediately upon Marcron’s return to Paris, it was announced that France has nominated the special representative for Kosovo negotiation process. This is the first such decision taken by any UN SC permanent member country or by any EU country. It may be interpreted that Macron wishes not only to re-initiate negotiation process broken by Pristina’s decision to impose 100% higher taxes on the goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina but, also, to secure leading role for France in this process.  Brussels, London, Berlin and Washington, are certainly preoccupied with Brexit, growing political and social divisions and geopolitical problems (Korea, Iran, Middle East) but it remains to be seen what reactions will follow.

Macron’s conviction that EU alone could bring about balanced, realistic and sustainable solution for the status of the Kosovo and Metohija seems to be overoptimistic. First, EU has not been neutral mediator so far neither convincing guarantor of the implementation of the reached agreements, so far. Second, the new constellation of political forces after the recent EU elections and structural reforms which will be priority for coming years will not upgrade EU mediation capacity. Just, the opposite. Third, EU, even if it were in the peak of its strength, could not secure balanced, just and sustainable solution because it is dominated by the countries which had been encouraging secession, which took part in the NATO war on the side of the terrorist KLA and which have recognized illegal 2008 secession violating UN SC resolution 1244. Finally, the fact is that ending the 1999 NATO war against Serbia (FRY) was not possible without important, if not decisive, role of Russia and of UN SC. Problem of the status of the Province of Kosovo and Metohija today which is direct consequence of that NATO war could hardly be resolved without direct participation of Russia, USA, China and EU.

All in all, solution for just, balanced and sustainable status of the Province of Kosovo and Metohija should be sought under auspices of US SC  on the basis of UN SC 1244 (1999) Resolution. The time will prove that this framework is the only suitable in the age of multi-polar world order.