By Sasa Dragojlo
Ahead of PM Aleksandar Vucic’s Washington visit, five US Congress members wrote to Vice-President Joseph Biden alleging that the Serbian premier is linked to strategic company takeovers and deteriorating media freedom.
“In anticipation of the visit of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to the United States, we write to you with concern about reports of the deteriorating situation in Serbia,” the five American Congress members wrote to Vice-President Biden in the letter which was made public by Serbian media portal Teleprompter on Monday.
Letter, which BIRN obtained, was signed by five Congress members – Edie Bernice Johnson, Carlos Curbelo, Scott Perry, Adam Kinzinger and Zoe Lofgren.
The authenticity of the letter was confirmed to BIRN by congressmen Adam Kinzinger’s office.
The Congress members alleged that a small group of people led by Vucic’s brother, Andrej Vucic, and two of his close friends, Nikola Petrovic and Zoran Korac, “has consolidated their influence and interest in energy, telecommunications, infrastructure and all major businesses in Serbia”.
Petrovic, the director of state company Elektromreze Srbije, is also widely believed to be close to PM Vucic.
The congressmen said that the group’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy Alexander Babakov should be scrutinised.
Further concerns were raised in the letter that journalists’ rights “have declined to their lowest point since the tyranny of Slobodan Milosevic”.
“Media outlets have been consolidated and are controlled directly by the Prime Minister, his family and close business associates,” the Congress members alleged.
They also criticised the lack of progress in resolving the murders of the three Bytyqi brothers, US citizens of Albanian origin who fought alongside the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1999 war and later killed at a police training centre in Serbia.
Despite several promises made to the Bytyqi family and the US government, Serbia has still not found the culprits.
The letter said that Vucic made “impressive promises” during his last visit to Washington in June. “We remain hopeful that he will be held accountable to fulfill these promises,” it said.
The economy, EU integration, Kosovo and Russia are reported to be among the main topics for discussion.
During the visit, Vucic on Tusday met Vice-President Joe Biden.