Tony Blair to advise Serbia, having led NATO bombing of Belgrade
Tony Blair has signed a contract to advise Serbia’s prime minister, 16 years after the two were on opposite sides of the Balkan conflict. Former British PM Blair was instrumental in NATO airstrikes against Belgrade.
Blair will work for PM Aleksandar Vucic, Slobodan Milosevic’s information minister at the time of the Kosovo conflict.
Vucic had previously been an outspoken critic of Blair. He was listed as an editor of the 2005 book ‘English Gay Fart Tony Blair’.
The deal was paid for by the United Arab Emirates, according to Serbian officials, which has raised doubts over Blair’s ability to operate as a neutral envoy in the Middle East for the Quartet – the UN, US, EU and Russia.
A spokeswoman for Tony Blair Associates did not confirm whether Blair’s fee was paid by Abu Dhabi. She told the Guardian: “This project was directly negotiated and agreed between Serbia and TBA (Tony Blair Associates) following meetings between Tony Blair and the Serbia prime minister and was not part of any wider agreement.”
She said the advisory role would not affect Blair’s work in the Middle East.
“The work of the delivery unit has no bearing on Tony Blair’s role in the Middle East for the Palestinian economy.”
Blair and his team have reportedly made regular visits to Belgrade in recent months, including for a lecture by Alastair Campbell at the end of January. Campbell was Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy between 1997 and 2003.
In June last year, media outlets reported Serbia wanted to offer former Labour business secretary Lord Mandelson an advisory contract to help Serbia join the EU, because Tony Blair was considered “too expensive.”
At the time, Vucic said of Blair: “He earns his money, but we didn’t speak about a penny. We were speaking about the way to Europe – the Serbian way to Europe.” Asked if he would consider paying Blair, he replied: “No, he’s too expensive.”
Blair supported the Albanians during the Kosovo conflict. In 2013, he agreed to help Albania join the European Union, reportedly at no cost to the Albanian government.
“The orientation toward Europe is immensely important, and personally I'd love to see this country join the family of European nations,” he said.