19 Dec. 2021 9:14 pm
Parts of the EU Parliament fear that China is exerting too much influence in Serbia and in the Western Balkans. They also expressed criticism of the working conditions of Vietnamese workers in Serbia when building a Chinese tire factory.
an analysis by Marinko Učur
“The Chinese Silk Road must not become a path to disgrace,” said members of the European Parliament last Thursday. A resolution on Serbia had previously been passed, which aroused the anger of Serbian state officials in Belgrade. As a candidate for EU membership, Serbia is said to have violated the human rights of Vietnamese workers who are employed in the construction of the Chinese Linglong factory in Serbia.
Proverbially cautious, but always ready to react, said Ivica Dačić, President of the Serbian Parliament, describing this MEP document as “another example of hypocrisy and double standards”. Dačić said it was an absurd situation, because “in those days when Serbia opened cluster 4 in the EU accession process, with which Serbia was recognized for the reform progress, the European Parliament passed a completely opposite resolution, based on false claims by some Opposition parties and NGOs. At the same time, we are witnessing brutal police actions in many EU member states. “
The presentation of the draft resolution in Strasbourg was also accompanied by a major debate which, despite the clear majority with which it was adopted, demonstrated the contradictions and vulnerabilities of the common European policy. The situation in Serbia was condemned by the Croat Tonino Picula, the Slovenian Kremen Grošelj and the German Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, while the French MP Thierry Mariani spoke out against the condemnation.
The French paid tribute to Serbia for “not giving in to pressure from the EU and NATO bombing to recognize the illegally declared independence of part of its territory”. Mariani also accused George Soros of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
“This resolution will be a dead letter because there is no independent investigation,” said Mariani.
The resolution states that “the EU will not ignore China’s influence or human rights abuses”. Strasbourg thus showed how much Belgrade will be exposed to great temptations on its “European path”. It is obvious that Serbia has become a collateral damage from the EU’s attempt to stop the Chinese expansion course in the member countries, but also in the candidate countries.
In the resolution, the MPs express their concern about the growing influence of China in Serbia and in the entire Western Balkans and call on Serbia to “strengthen its legal norms for Chinese business activities”. Labor and environmental laws in Serbia should apply equally to Chinese companies.
Earlier on, Serbian leaders responded to allegations that Vietnamese workers building the large Chinese Linglong factory were living in inhumane conditions. They had sent inspection teams to check the actual situation on the spot. At the same time, orders were given to relocate Vietnamese workers to another location with better accommodation and hygienic conditions.
It is clear that anyone doing business in Serbia must comply with the applicable Serbian legislation, but those who follow this problem point to different motives from critics from Strasbourg and Brussels. By teaching Serbia, the MPs are actually turning to China and its intensified investment campaign in almost every country in the Western Balkans.
This was also recognized by the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who “does not rule out the possibility that the attacks on the Linglong factory were organized against Chinese investments”. Serbia has to pay a high price for the part for which it is not responsible at first sight.
The state had issued legal work and residence permits to 500 Vietnamese, whose employer is a Chinese builder, and obliged them, like all foreigners, to comply with Serbian law, including the labor law.
But that was obviously not enough for the initiators of the resolution, among whom the Slovenian MEP Grošelj stands out, who wonders “whether this means that Chinese investments in Serbia enjoy a special legal status”.
SERBIAAs an advocate of the enlargement of the Union to the Western Balkans, I cannot hide my disappointment with the state of democracy in Serbia. What we have seen in recent protests is unacceptable. Let me emphasize that by opening the negotiations, the fate of Serbia’s path to the EU is entirely in the hands of the Serbian authorities and its actions. pic.twitter.com/ixOuzDD56T
– Klemen Groselj (@KGroselj) December 16, 2021
The European rapporteur for Kosovo, von Cramon-Taubadel, who sees Belgrade as an open lobbyist for Kosovo’s independence, went a step further and accused Serbia of being a “trapped state with poor reform results”.
The Serbian government’s police minister, Aleksandar Vulin, reacted to the fact that 586 MPs had voted for the resolution, 53 against and 44 abstained. Vulin’s department was also mentioned in the resolution for allegedly using excessive force against demonstrators and members of environmental groups who had recently participated in road blockades.
The @Europarl_EN has adopted urgency resolution on “Forced labour in the Linglong factory and environmental protests” in #Serbia with 586 +, 53 -, 44 abs.I hope that the opening of Cluster 4 in 🇪🇺 accession talks with 🇷🇸 can help frame Serbia’s work on addressing these issues. pic.twitter.com/MZoITrvBp8
– Vladimir Bilcik MEP (@VladoBilcik) December 16, 2021
He said that “Members of the European Parliament want to take their frustration out on Serbia because they have nothing to say in their countries”.
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