Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic paid a long-awaited visit to Russia on November 24 and 25 and held talks with President Vladimir Putin
Announcing this visit, Vucic told the Serbian public that the main topic of negotiations with the Russian president would be the price at which Russian gas would be supplied to Serbia.
On the eve of the meeting, other members of the Serbian leadership also announced the need to sign a long-term energy agreement for Russian gas supplies, in addition to Vucic. As you know, the ten-year agreement signed between Serbia and Russia in 2012 will be expired at the end of this year.
Nevertheless, based on the part of the negotiations between Vucic and Putin, which was covered by the Russian and Serbian media, it can be said that the gas price was not the main topic. It was the development of Russian-Serbian cooperation in all directions. In recent years, the Russian Federation has regularly initiated the development of interaction with Serbia in the political, energy, economic, military, educational, scientific, cultural and other spheres. In this sense, the meeting took the form of a direct discussion between the two presidents of numerous topics, primarily strategic ones. This is the current situation in the Balkans, the Kosovo issue and the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After the meeting, Aleksandr Vucic told reporters that during the talks, President Putin had prepared 90 questions for him.
This indicates how thoroughly the Russian side prepared this meeting. President Vucic was very worried about the signing of a “historic” agreement on the extension of the gas contract for the next six months, which implies maintaining the previous price during this period at $270 per 1,000 cubic meters, and therefore forgot to tell the public about the part of the negotiations that was devoted to political issues. In terms of their importance, the topics of security in the Balkans and the solution of the Kosovo problem should be prioritized, and not only for the Russian side.
In fairness, it should be noted that the President of Serbia mentioned that Russia does not change its position on the need to comply with international law and UNSCR 1244 on Kosovo and Metohija, but he did not specify what position on the Kosovo settlement in Sochi was presented by the Serbian side. We have repeatedly heard from the President of Serbia that Resolution 1244 needs to be changed, and a few days ago he said that he would like the negotiations with Pristina to be completed. In this sense, it is not clear what kind of position Serbia takes if we know that Pristina demands only recognition from Belgrade. On the other hand, until today we have not seen the platform for negotiating Kosovo, which the Serbian Progressive Party promised to present to its voters back in 2012 during the election campaign.
Aleksandar Vucic informed the public that Serbia was buying Russian Kornet anti-tank systems. This is very good news. In addition, he hinted that Serbia will buy strategic weapons from Russia in the near future. If Serbia decides to purchase the S-400 air defense systems, it will ensure its security in the long term. For Serbia, it is extremely important to deepen and expand military cooperation with Russia, which is now much lower than the level of cooperation between Belgrade and NATO. Since Serbia claims to be a militarily neutral state, it is necessary that the level of cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance and with Russia be approximately the same. This would imply the granting of diplomatic status to the Russian military and the opening of a Russian military office in the Ministry of Defense, where the NATO office has been operating for a number of years.
The new gas contract is important for Serbia, but if the Serbian authorities want to get a good price for hydrocarbons, they should think about changing the paradigm that does not allow Russian capital to come to Serbia. In the Serbian market, Western, Turkish, Arab and Chinese companies enjoy all the preferences. Russian companies need to provide the same conditions. It is illogical to demand concessions from Russia on gas prices so that Western and Middle Eastern companies can earn even more on the Serbian market. Until now, we had a situation when Russia, taking part in some tenders in Serbia, offered the best conditions, but did not win for unknown reasons.
This happened when the Bor mining plant was sold. On the other hand, Western companies receive money from the Serbian budget, a favorable taxation scheme, and besides, only companies from the EU countries are eligible to participate in many tenders. Therefore, it is necessary to change the business policy in relation to Russian companies, they should enjoy the same privileges.
Alexander Vucic did not tell about one simple fact: he did not reach the bottom. The main purpose of his trip to Russia was that he did not sign a long-term gas supply contract. The President of Russia mentioned that economic entities will negotiate the gas price and that Serbia will receive a good price. Taking into account the increase in the price of gas on the European market, in these circumstances Serbia can expect the same price that Moldova received, which again means its growth by 100%.
Vucic constantly emphasizes the economic success of Serbia and the accelerated development of the Serbian economy, and by this sends a signal that the purchasing power of the country is also growing. So his statements about the fact that Serbia cannot afford a 100% increase in the price of gas are slightly at odds with his other statements. Either Serbia is not such an “economic tiger” as he says, or it is just trying to pay the Russians less. Russia has every right to take into account its interests and negotiate with interested buyers, starting from market conditions. Declarations of love will not feed anyone, and those who declare their love for Russia often know how to profitably use the privileges received from it in order to develop relations with the West.
Dragana Trifkovic, IA Regnum