Serbia’s Energy Policy : Between Russia and Turkey

Until 1991, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, were united under one country i.e. Yugoslavia.

Map 1

Map of Yugoslavia

Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia are quite stable countries because their populations are relatively homogeneous. The Serbs are Christians Orthodox, and the Croats and Slovenes are Christian Catholics. In Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Christians are the majority of the populations, but there is also a high percentage of Muslims. In Bosnia Muslims are the majority of the population but there is also a high percentage of Christians.

General Josip Broz Tito ruled all these countries under a regime of communist dictatorship, which did not allow religion and ethnicity to play a role. Under Tito, Yugoslavia was a communist country which did not align itself with the Soviet Union or China, as most communist countries did. Yugoslavia and North Korea were the two communist countries which were not aligned with the Soviet Union or China, which were the main communist powers. At the following map you can see the communist world in 1980. With red color you can see the communist countries which were aligned with Russia, and with yellow the communist countries aligned with China. Yugoslavia and North Korea appear in black as non-aligned.

Map 2

Map of the Communist World

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Sino-Soviet_split_1980.svg/2000px-Sino-Soviet_split_1980.svg.png

Serbia is a close Russian ally, but she is also interested to join the European Union in order to receive economic aid, and currently there is a lot of tension between the EU and Russia. Serbia had heavily invested diplomatically and financially on the South Stream Pipeline project, which was promoted by Russia, and which would transfer Russian natural gas to Bulgaria through the Black Sea. From Bulgaria the gas would go to both Southern and Northern Europe, and Serbia would be the main transit point of the northern route.

Map 3

Map of the South Stream Pipeline

In December 2014 Russia cancelled the South Stream Pipeline, and the Serbs were infuriated with the Russians, as you can read at the following Financial Times article titled “Anger and dismay as Russia scraps $50bn gas plan”, December 2014.

10th Paragraph

Aleksandar Vučić, Serbia’s prime minister, told the country’s RTS channel that the decision was bad news for Belgrade and said he would urgently seek to speak with Mr Putin. “Serbia has been investing in this project for seven years, but now it has to pay the price of a clash between the great [powers],” he said.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/1a5954f0-7a41-11e4-a8e1-00144feabdc0.html

After the cancellation of the South Stream pipeline, Serbia’s interest for joining the European Union increased, and Serbia became more interested in participating in the pipeline promoted by the European Union, Turkey and the United States, which will bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, in order to provide an alternative to Russia’s Gazprom. At the following article from RT (Russia Today), which is a state owned Russian news network, titled “Serbia to join US-backed gas project, seeks diversification from Russia – PM”, May 2015, you can read that the Serbian Prime Minister said that Serbia is ready to participate in the Southern Energy Corridor which is promoted by the EU, the US and Turkey.

“Serbia to join US-backed gas project, seeks diversification from Russia – PM”, May 2015

http://www.rt.com/business/262697-serbia-us-pipeline-eu/

At the following Foreign Affairs article, titled “Playing the Field in Serbia: Aleksandar Vucic’s Dance between Russia and the West”, September 2015, you can read that while Greece, Slovenia, Hungary and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have moved closer to Russia, Serbia, a traditional Russian ally, is willing to move closer to the West.

As you can see at the following map, Greece and Yugoslavia used to form a wall between East and West, and they are of crucial importance for any project which wants to bring the energy resources of the Caspian Sea and the Middle East to Europe. With the break up of Yugoslavia, and the creation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Kosovo, this wall was broken. But the geostrategic importance of Greece and Serbia are much greater than the ones of FYROM and Kosovo. Actually Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state, and Kosovo is supported by Turkey and Albania.

Map 4

Map of the Balkans

According to the Foreign Affairs article that I mentioned above, the United States were delighted by the willingness of the Serbs to move closer to the West. The article also mentions the visit of the Serbian Prime Minster to United States in the summer of 2015, which was the first one in 16 years i.e. after the NATO bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis in 1999. However the Foreign Affairs also mentions that words are easy and that the West will have to wait and see whether Serbia really wants to move closer to the West and away from Russia.

“Playing the Field in Serbia: Aleksandar Vucic’s Dance between Russia and the West”, September 2015.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/serbia/2015-09-11/playing-field-serbia?cid=nlc-fatoday-20150911&sp_mid=49526885&sp_rid=aWFrb3ZvczEwMDBAeWFob28uZ3IS1

If Serbia wants to participate in the energy projects which are promoted by the European Union, she will have to improve her relations with Turkey and Albania. As you can read at the following announcement from the site of the Serbia Trade Ministry, Serbia was interested to normalize her diplomatic and economic relations with Turkey as early as 2014.

“We should improve the economic relations between Serbia and Turkey”, June 2014

http://mtt.gov.rs/en/releases-and-announcements/we-should-improve-the-economic-relations-between-serbia-and-turkey/

At the following Deutsche Welle article, titled “Serbian, Albanian premiers pledge to strengthen ties”, May 2015, you can read that the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Albania committed to improve relations between their countries.

“Serbian, Albanian premiers pledge to strengthen ties”, του Μαίου 2015

http://www.dw.com/en/serbian-albanian-premiers-pledge-to-strengthen-ties/a-18479795

Serbia’s diplomatic maneuvers have repercussions on Serbia’s immigration policy too. It is not a secret that ISIS is playing an important role in transferring Muslim immigrants to Europe, as you can read at the following BBC article.

“Islamic State militants ‘smuggled to Europe”, May 2015

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-32770390

By helping the illegal Muslim immigrants to go to Germany, Serbia is improving her ties with Turkey and Albania. Moreover the larger number of Muslims in Germany will lead to a rise of Islamism, which will eliminate the great advantage enjoyed by the Russo-German pipeline networks, which is their greater security. At the following article from RT (Russia Today), you can read that radical Islamists recruit young Muslims from Germany’s refugee camps. RT is not the most objective news agency in the world, but what is says is true, and I mention RT because I want to show how Russia is feeling about the rise of Islamism in Germany. And keep in mind that many of these people come from Libya, Syria and Iraq, which are traditional Russian allies, but the Russian knows that the rise of Islamism in Germany will undermine their energy policy.

“Radical Islamists recruit male youths in refugee camps in Germany”, September 2015

http://www.rt.com/news/315058-islamists-recruit-refugee-camps/

Serbia is now having problems with Hungary, where Victor Orban closed the borders with Serbia, in order to block the illegal Muslim immigrants from reaching Germany. Actually Germany and Austria also closed their borders. Victor Orban is an ultra nationalist politician, and he is a Russian puppet. Victor Orban is a semi-dictor leader similar to Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan. At the following RT article you can read that Hungary imports from Russia 70% of her gas and 80% of her oil, and that the West is heavily criticizing Victor Orban for his support to Russia.

“Hungarian rhapsody: Will Putin’s visit to Viktor Orban give Russia a way into Europe”?, February 2015

http://www.rt.com/news/232631-putin-hungary-turkish-stream/

At the following Politico article, titled “Wait, the Serbs are now the good guys?”, September 2014, you can read that the ultra nationalist Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic was a pleasant surprise because he showed a lot of compassion towards the illegal Muslim immigrants, and he made their passage to Germany easier. The article also mentions that Vucic did not make provisions for keeping some of these refugees in Serbia, but he heavily criticized the Hungarian Prime Minister, when he closed Hungary’s borders. The ultra nationalist Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic said that the stance of the ultra nationalist Prime Minister of Hungary was “anti-European”.

“Wait, the Serbs are now the good guys?”, του Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

http://www.politico.eu/article/serbia-croatia-hungary-orban-migrants-schengen-crisis/

You can also read the following article.

“Chaos at Hungary-Serbia Border as Migrants Clash With Police”, September 2015

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/chaos-hungary-serbia-border-migrants-clash-police-n428921

Map 5

Map of Hungary and Serbia

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