Serbia’s Positive Policy Toward Migrants Sets It Apart from European Neighbors

Since its start in 2011, the Syrian civil war has displaced millions of its populace. Many of these refugees are making their way through Europe looking for safe haven. While some European countries have been openly hostile to the migrants coming through their borders, Serbia – which had thousands displaced in its own civil war in the 1990s – has been more welcoming to those in need.

Joel Weickgenant writes in Real Clear World:

Hungary is in the European Union; Serbia is not. So the following graph, excerpted from a Adam Lebor-authored report published yesterday in Newsweek, is hardly the greatest endorsement for the Union’s handling of the refugee crisis:

“In Belgrade, Serbia, like Budapest, makeshift transit camps have sprung up around transit hubs. In Budapest, municipal authorities provided transit zones with rudimentary facilities, but it was left to volunteer groups to provide food, water and clothes. In Belgrade, the authorities established an information center for refugees in the city center, co-financed by ADRA Germany, a relief agency, the U.N. refugee agency and the local government. Serbian authorities also banned anti-refugee protests by far-right groups. Collective memories of the mass displacement of the Yugoslav wars have also opened people’s hearts; many Serbs themselves are refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. When Hungarian police used water cannons and tear gas on refugees rioting on the Serbian side of the frontier, Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian prime minister, said Hungary was guilty of ‘brutal’ and ‘non-European’ behavior.”

The crisis comes at an interesting moment for Serbia. The European Union is beset by enlargement fatigue. Indeed, when Serbia’s neighbour, Croatia, became the 28th member of the Union in 2013, it probably became the last country that will join for a good number of years. …

Twenty years after tragedy in the Balkans helped awaken Europeans to the idea that there are EU-wide security concerns that transcend national responses, the Balkans are the region where all of Europe’s foreign policy interests and its security concerns converge. Not only are refugees streaming through countries such as Macedonia and Montenegro — as well illustrated in this infographic — but German authorities claim that as many as 45 percent of the migrants arriving in their country are economic migrants from the Balkans themselves. …

As written in the pages of RealClearWorld earlier this month, inaction in the Balkans is no option for the European Union. Serbia is now in the front line for accession, as it is at the front door of Schengen’s pressured borders. Belgrade’s handling of the refugees moving through Serbian territory thus bears watching. Will Serbian authorities seek to provide a counterpoint to their Hungarian and Croatian neighbors — following the Merkel approach of at least initially extending a welcome to promote an image of goodwill and competence? Or will it prefer to trade barbs with Budapest and Zagreb?

Read more at Real Clear World.