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27 Mar, 2020 19:40

Serbian PM: ‘Fake news’ that we don’t appreciate EU help, but Covid-19 aid came from China

Serbian PM: ‘Fake news’ that we don’t appreciate EU help, but Covid-19 aid came from China

After a former Swedish prime minister accused Serbia of hyping coronavirus aid that it received from China but ignoring ‘far more substantial’ help from the European Union, Serbian PM Ana Brnabic moved to set the record straight.

“When China sent an aircraft with help to Serbia President [Aleksandar] Vucic made a great show of it,” Carl Bildt tweeted on Friday morning, “But when far more substantial [EU] aid arrives there is no fanfare and no President in sight.”

Bildt quote-tweeted Sem Fabrizi, EU’s ambassador to Serbia, who posted photos of a cargo plane with aid at Belgrade airport on Thursday night. One of the photos clearly shows a masked-up Brnabic, who was on site to receive the flight. 

“Let's assume that spreading fake news to send strong political messages is due to lack of info and not bad intention,” she tweeted back at Bildt. “That aircraft was also carrying help from China and medical supplies purchased by Serbia. Our EU partners paid for the transport and we greatly appreciate it!”

Indeed, as Fabrizi himself noted in the post Bildt was retweeting, the EU paid for the delivery of the supplies, not the supplies themselves. While Brussels did just earmark 93 million euros for coronavirus aid to Serbia, it’s difficult to imagine the cost of a 747 chartered from the Dutch low-cost carrier Transavia Cargo being “far more substantial” than the supplies Beijing has sent to Belgrade so far.

It is understandable that the EU is anxious to show itself as Serbia’s benefactor, after President Vucic angrily denounced European solidarity as nonexistent last week, following the ban on export of medical supplies – including protective masks and ventilators – to non-members. 

“Only China can help us,” Vucic said, adding he sent a personal plea for medical aid to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Also on rt.com European solidarity doesn’t exist, only China can help us: Serbia goes full emergency over coronavirus

Serbia has subordinated much of its domestic, foreign and economic policy to Brussels in an effort to eventually be considered for admission to the bloc, but the decades-long pro-EU narrative took a massive hit from the Covid-19 crisis. Consequently, Thursday’s delivery was heavily hyped on social media by the EU mission in Belgrade, as a way to repair the damage.

For example, EU flags were affixed to the plane and the gantries, while a big 'EU for Serbia' sign was beamed onto the plane's fuselage by a field projector.

While Fabrizi is trying to salvage the EU’s image in Serbia, however, his own country of Italy is dealing with the worst death toll of Covid-19 worldwide, and so little help from Brussels that PM Giuseppe Conte rejected it on Thursday as “too timid.” 

Former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT that Italy was left “practically alone” to deal with the outbreak, so Rome turned to China, Russia and Cuba for help.

Also on rt.com Goodbye, globalism? Coronavirus sobers up Serbia to EU hypocrisy

Bildt holds no official position in the Brussels bureaucracy, but it’s not a surprise he sought to meddle in Serbian affairs yet again. He is one of the leading Euro-Atlantic boosters on the continent, currently co-chairing the European Council on Foreign Relations. During the Yugoslav Wars, he was one of the EU negotiators and a UN special envoy for the Balkans, the de facto viceroy of Bosnia-Herzegovina for a while, and the first foreign minister to visit Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo after it unilaterally declared independence.

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