Vujovic: BG lobbies to improve Vucic’s bad image, PR because of the trouble Kurti got them into


A letter sent by parliamentarians addressed to top officials of the US, Great Britain and the EU is a message to Vucic that time is running out, while Kurti already received his warning. The West is losing patience with both, new serious cuts are yet to follow, Nebojsa Vujovic, the former head of Serbia’s mission in Washington and a participant in the negotiations in Dayton and on Kosovo, said in a statement for KoSSev.

A group of international parliamentarians, consisting of representatives from the US, EU and Great Britain, recently penned a letter to the top officials of the US, EU and Great Britain, criticizing their „softer“ stance toward Belgrade, which is reportedly harming Pristina, while at the same time requesting concrete measures to be taken against Belgrade.

According to Vujovic, this letter presents a strong warning and a continuation of pressure from other parts of the American and Western establishment on the Western executive power, which „tolerated Vucic’s ‘stabilocracy’ and autocracy.“

„These are not only the presidents of foreign policy committees and boards, but also members of the finance and appropriations committee who approve funds for Serbia as well,“ said Vujovic in an interview with KoSSev.

The West is losing patience with both sides

Although the letter deals with the concerns of European parliamentarians and certain US congressmen over regional stability due to negative developments in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on both sides, the focus in this joint statement is placed on what they see as the contribution of the Serbian side to those developments, as well as on criticism of the international the diplomatic scene, whichthey believeis tolerating this.

In Serbia, part of the expert public, along with the authorities, consider this to be the result of the work of the Albanian lobby. Moreover, President Vucic described the same letter as a „desperate attempt“ by Albanian lobbyists, noting that he is “not too troubled” by it.

Vujovic, however, disagreed with such assessment.

„That was a strong message to Vucic that time is running out, while Kurti and his team received a warning a month ago. The West is losing patience with both sides. More serious measures are yet to follow“, he warned.

What is the actual lobbying relationship between Belgrade and Pristina?

This summer, news arrived from both Belgrade and Pristina about lobbying groups started by the two sides.

The Serbian side, through its ambassador Marko Djuric in Washington, signed a one-year contract with the US PR company „KARV Communications“ for $60,000 per month in July.

The company is tasked with promoting Serbia and reaching a new audience with information that will help them understand Serbia’s position across the globe. The contract makes no mention of Kosovo.

This is the second known contract on lobbying by the Serbian side. Four years ago, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce hired the US company „Yorktown Solutions“ for strategic consulting on economic relations between the US and Serbia. This $840,000 contract expires this November.

On the other hand, over the years there have been several confirmations of Kosovo hiring lobbying companies.

Back in July, RFE published information that on June 26, the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora also signed a one-year contract worth 147,000 euros with „AferditaRakipi Communications and Ambal“ for lobbying in the US.

According to the same source, another contract is active, on consultations with the president of the Civica company, IlirZherka in the amount of 35,000 dollars for a meeting with the leaders of the Albanian-American community.

Previously, larger sums of money were paid to companies to represent Albanian interests in the US. These were mostly foreign companies, which have experience in lobbying, the same media reminded.

„Since November 19th, 1992, certain entities from Kosovo, such as political parties and government institutions, have spent millions of euros on lobbying,“ RFE reported.

Serbia is lobbying to improve Vucic’s image, and Pristina is lobbying for the trouble Kurti got them into

Vujovic concurred with the assessment that both parties are currently lobbying, but that these activities are closely related to the two leaders – the President of Serbia and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, however, their goals are different.

When it comes to the objectives Serbia’s lobbying objectives, they are related to protecting the current president.

„When it comes to Serbia’s lobbying in the US, the main goal and reach is to clean up and protect Vucic’s image, which is greatly threatened by the New York Times Magazine’s reporting, the strong European print media, focusing on corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking, the authoritarian regime that suffocates the birth of democracy, black-listing Vulin,“ said Vujovic.

„It is also a matter of preventive mitigation of new criticisms for the new non-transparent sale of fair land for the expansion of Belgrade Waterfront and entering the Potemkin villages of the alleged development due to EXPO 2027 with a new debt of 12 billion euros,“ he says, adding that it is also a matter of „dulling“ the growing criticism of Vucic due to protests in the country.

In a word – mitigating the deterioration of Vucic’s image

Furthermore, this diplomat drew a parallel between what is happening now on the international scene and the relationship between the current Serbian leader and the one from the 1990s.

„He is nearing the image that Slobodan Milosevic had in February 1998 – in front of Drenica, the showdown with AdemJashari, the tightening of sanctions, increased foreign interference, the arrival of William Walker and other paid players – to prepare Western retaliation, and in the end, bombing.“

Addressing the lobbying of Albanians, Vujovic says that there are also increased activities at hand all due to Kurti’s harmful moves.

It is a matter of repairing the damage done to the Kosovo side by its prime minister, he added.

„The Albanians are intensifying their lobbying because of the troubles Kurti has led them into with his inflexible politics and incompetence,“ says the former diplomat.

From lobbying with competing interests to a failed common goal

Over the years, the two sides have lobbied for their own, but mutually opposing interests: the recognition of Kosovo by the Kosovo side, de-recognition by the Serbian side, a seat in the Council of Europe and UNESCO by the Kosovo side,and then blocking them from the Serbian side. Since the formation of the Kosovo Special Chambers, the efforts of the former top of the PDK, led by former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, to avoid this obligation have been visible, however, this endeavor has not been successful.

What was interpreted as a joint lobbying campaign was also brought before the public, namely, efforts on the so-called ethnic delimitation, also referred to as a ‘land swap’, or „minimal border correction“.

This campaign, which had the visible support of certain foreign experts, in addition to being backed by Vucic and Thaci as ‘domestic promoters’, has not been fruitful so far.

„How much money would it take for them not to take Kosovo away from us?“

When it comes to the past lobbying of Serbia and Kosovo Albanians, Vujovic is a „first-hand“ witness of the most critical years on the international scene for the two sides.

Vujovic was the secretary general of the Yugoslav embassy in the US, and the head of the mission of the former FRY to the US in the 1990s. After the October changes – from 2004 to 2009, he was the envoy of the Prime Minister of Serbia. He is the author of the political section of the Kumanovo Agreement, the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and the political section of the Dayton Agreement.

Recalling the post-war events, Serbia received an offer to lobby in the United States of America in 2004, he noted.

As an adviser and envoy of the then Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Vujovic met with a representative of the „Blackwell lobby“ group in Washington.

„He asked for a million dollars a year for his lobby group, as the political father of two American presidents. Kostunica gave me the smartest possible instruction at the time – ‘Neso, ask him how much we need to pay so that they don’t steal Kosovo from us, and for us to keep it – 50 million, 500 million, 5 billion or 50 billion dollars’. I asked Blackwell in the lobby of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Washington, across from the White House, using Voja’s exact words Blackwell dropped a glass of ‘single malt’ whiskey, choked and said that he did not expect this and that he cannot confirm.“

After this meeting, the representatives of the Serbian government had a conversation with the Vice President of the US, Dick Cheney in the White House, Vujovic reveals.

„They knew, based on the previous talk, that we were firmly entering negotiations on Kosovo,“ said Vujovic.

Moreover, he admits that the lobbying of Albanians in the US was constant and persistent.

„Albanians from the states of New York, Michigan, New Jersey, California collected ready money/cash and helped finance congressmen who were members of the Albanian caucus – Joe DioGuardi, Tom Lantos, Dana Rohrabacher, John Smith, and besides the Caucus they helped fund the campaign of Susan Molinari, Bob Dole (Senator), Suster (Senator), Hillary Clinton (Senator), Schumann (Senator),“ said Vujovic.

Plenty of money spent, with some honorable exceptions

He emphasizes that lobbying has its own reach, which is much more modest than the wishes of donors.

Any lobby group must be registered with the US Department of Justice (Foreign registration act).

This experienced diplomat, however, says that apart from „honorable exceptions“, such as the lobbying of the Turkish Ziat Bank in Washington, two powerful Jewish committees, that is, caucuses that have been strongly lobbying for the interests of Israel for decades, and the partial success of the Armenian committee in winning the condemnation of the Turkish genocide against the Armenians:

„Everyone else was mostly just spending money on various companies made up of former government officials, strong journalists and academics.“

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