Mr. Vučić comes to Washington

Prime Minister Vučić’s visit to Washington this week, which included a public appearance at Johns Hopkins SAIS, prompted inquiries from the Serbian media. Here are their questions and my answers:


1. How do you evaluate the results of the visit of prime minister Vučić to SAD?

A: I think Prime Minister Vučić had a very successful visit to the US. He came asking for American political support for Serbia’s European ambitions and he got it.

2. In your opinion, how his lecture look like, what were the reactions?

A: His lecture at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies was great. The reaction was enthusiastic. He left lots of time for questions and was asked some difficult ones. He tried to respond directly to them, which is what Americans like to hear. He clearly wants Serbia to be seen as a reliable international partner, one that does not over-commit to things it cannot deliver.

3. What are the key messages from that lecture and how do you interpreted that messages?

A: The Prime Minister made it clear that Serbia has made a strategic choice for Europe, that it is not trying to balance between Europe and Russia, but that NATO membership and Serbia’s ultimate relationship with Kosovo are still open questions.

He was modest about what Serbia can deliver in its OSCE chairmanship on Ukraine. He explained Serbia’s failure to align with EU sanctions against Russia as due to lack of EU compensation for Serbian producers who would suffer the consequences.

The Prime Minister was clear about his personal commitment to media freedom, a more efficient and independent judiciary, and resolution in the courts of responsibility for the murder of the Bytyqi brothers. Those of us interested in the Balkans will be interested to see how and when these commitments fulfilled, but the overall impression was very positive: he is thoughtful, clear and committed.

He made it clear he wants Serbia to be a factor of stability in the region, which is suffering a rise in nationalist sentiment that could lead to more problems. He is also committed to Serbia’s internal stability, which is challenged by difficult social and economic circumstances.


1. In short, what is your analysis of the results of the visit?

A: The Prime Minister came looking for American political support for Serbia’s European Union prospects. He got that so far as I know. He also wanted to make a good impression as someone who considers his commitments carefully and fulfills them. He succeeded at that as well. And he wanted to portray Serbia as a factor for stability in the region, which is something Americans welcome.

2. In your opinion, what was the most important issue for the US side and what for the Serbian prime minister?

A: For the US, I think the most important point was this last one: Serbia is central to the region. Its commitment to stability and peaceful conflict resolution makes a big difference in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. I imagine officials discussed this in some detail with respect to each of these countries.

For the Prime Minister, the main thing seems to have been gaining US political support for Serbia’s EU candidacy. I think he got that commitment in general terms. But of course Serbia has to deliver on the EU requirements, especially with respect to an independent judiciary and media freedom.

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One thought on “Mr. Vučić comes to Washington”

  1. Prof Serwer – Thanks for the event, it was very well done.

    Regarding US support for Serbia’s EU Accession – Will that support be in general terms? Or specific to certain chapters?

    The consensus seems to be that Chapters 23, 24 & the 35 will be the first to be opened. But doesn’t it make sense for the US to split its support? – Support Chapter 24, but not 23 (I don’t have a particular opinion on 35). This would give all sides the support/leverage each wants.

    Chapter 23 covers war crimes – Amnesty, HRW and the Humanitarian Law Center all think that Serbia’s domestic record on war crimes is very poor. Not all judicial verdicts are even published, and no commanders or government officials have been prosecuted.

    And as you know, their progress on the Bytyqi case has been very slow, riddled with problems, and involved multiple broken promises by PM Vucic himself.

    Praveen Madhiraju
    pro bono advisor to Bytyqi family

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