‘I am always ready for elections, we can always check the will of the people,’ says Aleksandar Vucic after far-right nationalist calls for his resignation
Serbia may go to snap elections, the country’s president has signaled after nationalists gathered and demanded that the government reject a Western plan on normalizing ties with Kosovo, which Belgrade sees as its territory.
Following the demonstration, which also called for the government to withdraw from EU-brokered normalization talks, Aleksandar Vucic said late on Wednesday that he was always prepared to stand in elections to measure the Serbian people’s opinion on the matter.
“I am always ready for elections, we can always check the will of the people,” said Vucic as he evaluated the protests by far-right Serbs in the capital Belgrade and demanded he resigns.
Accusing the protesters of seeking to destabilize Serbia, Vucic said: “They knew what they were doing, everything was planned. They are all exhibiting movements against Serbia and its people.”
“Our job is to fight the oppression and we will do so. The people of Serbia want elected people to govern their country and I assure them, they can sleep peacefully,” he added.
Also weighing in, Justice Minister Maja Popovic underlined that legal action would be taken against those who took part in Wednesday’s protest and committed crimes, including seeking to upend the country’s constitutional order.
“No extremist group, regardless of help from abroad, is stronger than the state,” Popovic said.
The Interior Ministry detained three people in Belgrade and the northern town of Novi Sad for calling for a violent change of the Constitution and the illegal production, possession, carrying, and trafficking of weapons and explosive substances.
Serbian officials have said repeatedly that Belgrade was being pressured to accept a normalization plan, popularly known as the Franco-German proposal, to recognize Kosovo’s independence and allow it to become a member of international organizations.
Western countries are also pressuring Serbia to join in sanctions against Russia, a long-time ally of the Balkan nation, over the war in Ukraine.
Protesters gathered in front of the presidency building carrying banners that read “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia,” “No surrender,” and “Betrayal of Kosovo is betrayal of Russia.”
They blocked traffic and, at one point, tore down the metal fence surrounding the presidency and approached the building, shouting demanding Vucic appear.
The group threw eggs at the windows and threatened Vucic’s life before police detained some of them.
One of the speakers vowed that any official who signs the Franco-German plan for Kosovo would be killed.
Their main demand was that Vucic withdraws from negotiations on Kosovo with Western countries and that a union of Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo not be formed, which is one of the points in the Franco-German plan.
Belgrade Senior Public Prosecutor Nenad Stefanovic said all those who threaten the holders of the highest state positions and all members of extremist groups who threaten public safety would be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, another member of the ultra-right group People’s Patrol, Dejan Bobocek, was detained and found with ammunition and a rifle attached to an optical sight in Novi Sad, the Interior Ministry confirmed to the media.
Kosovo-Serbia dialogue process
The EU has required Kosovo and Serbia to reach a final agreement and resolve disputes between them in order to progress in their integration with the bloc.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states including the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Türkiye recognizing it as a country separate from its neighbor. But Belgrade continues to regard it as its territory.
President Vucic said in October that Germany and France offered to expedite Serbia’s EU membership process if it recognized Kosovo’s independence and allowed it to become a member of international organizations.
According to the leaked proposal, Kosovo should for its part allow the establishment of a union of Serbian municipalities in the north, where many ethnic Serbs live.
EU officials hope to complete negotiations on the plan this spring, with Brussels having facilitated the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue.