In a report, the Committee on External Intervention of the European Parliament has concluded that Russia is attempting to destabilize and meddle in the internal affairs of the Balkans states by employing its influence in Serbia.
Photo: Gianluca Carini
The Russians target Kosovo by utilizing or escalating ongoing conflicts in the north, according to the report, Bosnia and Herzegovina through Republika Srpska, Montenegro through pro-Serbian forces in the nation and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
They note that Russia continues to exert significant influence in the Western Balkans and retains the power to obstruct regional efforts at rapprochement, integration with the EU, and democratization.
The report on foreign involvement in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation, underlines the EU’s need to effectively oppose misinformation spread by infamous players in the Western Balkans region “aimed at undermining EU interests and values.”
One member of the Committee on Foreign Intervention voted against the report, and 27 members abstained. When it receives the resolution from the European Parliament in June, the report will be put to a vote in a plenary session.
The EU Parliament report stresses that several countries in the Western Balkans region are vulnerable to destabilization and rates the region as a zone of strategic and geopolitical struggle.
As the stability, security, and democratic resilience of the candidate countries are inextricably linked to the security, stability, and democratic strength of the EU, third countries are also expected to take advantage of vulnerabilities, including strategic investments and disinformation campaigns.
Dissemination to promote authoritarianism in Europe
The report claims that it is essential to consider Russia’s influence in the Western Balkans as “part of a larger strategy to promote authoritarianism in Europe.”
It highlights how Serbian and Hungarian media in the Western Balkans propagate pro-Russian stances. It expresses concern about recent discoveries that Serbia is “the most vulnerable country to malign external influence in the Western Balkans, especially from Russia and China” and that Serbia has not yet enacted sanctions against Russia or embraced the foreign policy of the EU.
The study urges the European Commission to collaborate more closely with member states to impose and enforce penalties. It welcomes the warming of relations between several EU candidates and potential candidate countries.
Condemning Russia Today’s expansion into the Balkans
The report specifically “strongly condemns” Russia Today’s (RT) opening of a bureau in Belgrade and the beginning of its online news service in Serbian.
As a result, this Russian state media can spread misinformation in the region.
RT was banned in the EU following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The Serbian authorities are urged to respect the EU Council’s decision to suspend Sputnik and RT. “In clear violation of EU sanctions, Serbia, an EU candidate country, has become a haven for some Russian companies seeking to avoid or overcome sanctions imposed by the EU,” the resolution reads.