The criticism Serbia received this month from high-level U.S. sources is reminiscent of what Bulgaria was told on the eve of the elections where then-Prime Minister Boyko Borisov fell from power, the Brussels-based media network Euractiv has announced.
According to Bulgarian journalist Antoaneta Nikolova, who penned the Euractiv article, the messages to both Sofia and Belgrade regarding corruption were equally direct, with the sole difference being that Bulgaria’s has already effected significant change – given that the country has seen a change in government.
Nikolova recalls that multiple members of the U.S. Congress issued a public letter lambasting the increasing corruption and decreasing freedom of the press in Serbia, and calling on U.S. President Joseph Biden to impose asset freeze sanctions against certain Serbian individuals without hesitation.
The article further maintains that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s response to the criticism was “strange”. Vucic stated that he did not fear such sanctions since he owns no property abroad – which, according to Nikolova, raises the question whether he recognizes himself as a potential target of such measures.
“This slap in the face obviously disturbed Vučić and his ruling party. In their letter about Serbia, the U.S. Senators point at the majority state-owned Telekom Srbija and the private RTV Pink, which are flourishing thanks to ‘a mutually beneficial relationship with the government’. At the same time, ‘journalists are subjected to almost daily attacks that increasingly come from the ruling elite and pro-government media’, as Reporters Without Borders found in its latest report,” the article reads.
Labeling these developments as “deja-vu”, the article continues by describing how, on the eve of the April 4 Bulgarian parliamentary elections, two U.S. senators wrote that “Bulgaria scored lowest in the European Union on both Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index and the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index”. Following this assessment, Borisov’s government lost the vote.