REINVIGORATED COOPERATION: Recep Tayyip does not forget or forgive easily

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Text: Žikica Milošević

There are many difficulties in today’s world in terms of new realignment of power. Russia is clearly positioning itself as a leader of the Eurasian Union, distancing from the EU, and Turkey is doing the same, creating its own sphere of influence. Serbia is trying to make a multivector politics with equal ponders: EU, USA, Russia, China, Turkey, India, everyone, in fact, pretty much like old Yugoslavia did. Sometimes the influence spheres are overlapping, and it brings tensions, but usually it is easier to cooperate when you are all – simply outcasts.

THE OUTCASTS GETTING CLOSER

When we say „outcasts“, we mean „outcasts from the West“ or not belonging to the Western standards. And did you notice that the Western standards in social life are slowly being rejected in our region? The most popular soap operas are now – the Turkish ones. It means, after briefly identifying with other non-West and non-Anglo-Saxon cultural models, the Balkan peoples assumed that Turkish society and our societies are the most similar. With traditional values.

It all made easy this otherwise uneasy visit in the light that PM Vučić had to bolster friendship with a country that was fiercely promoting Kosovan independence. But it was all before the Summer of 2016 and the failed coup d’état and Gulen. Now, Turkey is much more benevolent to Serbia and Russia, and some harsh protests towards Sarajevo and Priština to remove Gulen’s men from prominent positions have falled on deaf ears, thus weakening the ties with the old friends in the region.

TRADE AND PEACE

Serbia, with its 20%-strong Muslim minority is one of the leading countries with the Muslim population in Europe, and in the Balkans it is surpassed only by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania. And knowing how much Erdogan pays attention to that, there is little wonder that he visited Novi Pazar for the second time. Also, having in mind that Turkey (along with Russia) has a standard of living at the level of 62% of the German standard, while Serbia has only 45% (even Albania has 46%) it is clear that the Turks are doing well and their economy is vibrant. No wonder that during the visit, Erdogan said that Serbia was a key country in the Balkans and expects the annual trade between the two countries to rise to $ 1.2 billion, from $ 870 million as it was last year. Vučić and Erdogan signed a joint political declaration on the establishment of the High Council for Cooperation between Serbia and Turkey. The Council will meet once a year, interchangingly in Turkey and Serbia. Twelve agreements on economic and trade cooperation were also signed. In his address to the press, Vučić announced that a memorandum will be signed with the Turkish company Taip, which will invest in Kraljevo and employ 2500 people in that city.

RECEP DOES NOT FORGET EASILY – AND THAT IS OUR CHANCE

Also, one of the important things during the “Coup Crisis” in 2016 was that Serbia (and Russia) firmly supported Erdogan, and he does not forget easily. So, the President of Serbia reminded that Serbia was one of the first countries whose officials stood in defence of the constitutional and democratic order of Turkey on the same evening when a coup was tried in that country, which, as he noted, is considered in some way the highest form of terrorist act. Vučić recalled that the official Serbian authorities stood aside legally and legally elected organs of Turkey and President Erdogan, not because of that, he stressed “what we needed was something, but because we consider that citizens can only decide on the future in the elections, but not that someone else does it, violence, or with the support of a foreign factor”. And since nobody can forget or forgive easily such treason, it is likely that Erdogan will try to establish reinvigorated connections with the “friends in need who are friends indeed”, and Serbia has its own chance exactly there. He brought many businessmen with him to Serbia, and announced ambitiously: “I will give them support for investing in Serbia”. “By the end of the year our exchange could be worth a billion dollars, but this is not enough, the aim is to raise the exchange to three or five billion dollars in the shortest possible period” the Turkish president said.

TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

He underlined that Turkey especially worked in the field of infrastructure, construction of bridges, tunnels and high-speed railways, metro and that in 15 years managed to make 19,000 kilometers of roads, which led to an increase in the volume of transport. Turkey supports the motorways Belgrade-Sarajevo and Niš-Durrёs, and whatever some nationalists might think of that, it will certainly boost the towns and villages it connects, bringing more investments and industries along the highways. What you think about your neighbour is irrelevant, you have to connect so the people will pass or invest. And that is the goal. And we can rely on Turkish experience.

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