Europe

Western embassies reject Serbian PM’s protest allegations

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Germany, the UK, and the US rejected allegations that the three countries financed protests that have shaken the southeast European nation’s populist government.

The embassies of the allied countries issued a joint statement on Friday, stating that the accusations are “damaging”.

“These claims do not reflect our partnership with Serbia,” they said.

The statement came a day after Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić blasted the alleged Western backers of activist groups that organised weeks of environmental demonstrations.

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She accused the sources of alleged outsider influence of what she described as “hypocrisy”.

Brnabić made the allegations while announcing on Thursday that ecological concerns prompted her government to scrap a lithium mining project the Rio Tinto company planned to undertake in western Serbia.

The government’s decision was seen as a bid to defuse the protests ahead of Serbia’s general election in April.

Brnabić described the demonstrations as political and said that Western organisations were financing the environmental and other groups critical of the government with an aim to weaken the administration of president Aleksandar Vučić.

In their statement, the German, British, and US embassies strongly denied the prime minister’s assertions.

“Without reservation, we reject any suggestion that our countries, or the organisations through which we provide technical assistance and support, are funding or directing actions specifically targeting the Serbian government or any of its policies,” the three embassies said in the statement. “This includes the financing of protests.”

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The embassies said their countries have been among Serbia’s “most generous and reliable partners and friends, providing assistance funding totalling well over 3 billion euros”.

“We are clear and transparent about this assistance and our goals: to support reform, good governance, democratic development, green transition and prosperity,” the statement added.

“Significant amounts of this assistance is provided to the Serbian government or delivered in cooperation with the Serbian government and its agencies.”

Serbia is formally seeking membership in the European Union while also fostering close ties with Russia and China.

Anti-Western sentiments in the country remain high, and officials and pro-government media are known to vilify government critics as Western stooges.

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