Serbian intelligence chief Aleksandar Vulin has proposed that the country apply to join the BRICS bloc of major emerging markets countries rather than pursuing EU accession. A new poll indicates that many Serbs would favour this choice.
Vulin’s proposal follows a similar call from Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska in Bosnia & Herzegovina, for Bosnia to join BRICS, which recently announced it is expanding to admit six new members.
Both politicians have long advocated for closer ties for their respective countries with Russia — one of the five original members of BRICS — rather than with Western countries. They have also both been sanctioned by the US. Vulin was sanctioned in June, with the US accusing him involvement in corrupt activities that facilitated Russia's malign activities in the region. Dodik was sanctioned in 2017 and again in 2022.
The Serbian government has been pursuing EU membership, but enthusiasm has waned as the accession process has dragged on. A poll by the New Third Way published by Srbija Danas on August 28 found that in a potential referendum on entry to BRICS, 43.2% of respondents would vote in favour, and a further 16.5% would probably vote yes, adding up to just under 60%.
Given the choice between joining BRICS or the EU, 46.9% of respondents would pick BRICS, compared to just 35% the EU.
Vulin has presented a resolution to the Serbian parliament advocating for Serbia's entry into the BRICS group, according to a statement from his party the Movement of Socialists (PS), a junior partner of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).
He referenced the “multipolar world” and the end of Western hegemony, a theme used by Russian politicians ahead of the recent BRICS summit in South Africa, as BRICS evolves from a loose grouping of large developing countries to an increasingly geopolitical coalition.
"Aware of the fact that the world we live in is changing irreversibly, we express the need to open a broad social dialogue before the public of the Republic of Serbia about the indisputable fact that Serbia's European path has a clear alternative embodied in the process of joining the BRICS organisation, as the most current global economic-political integrative process,” the Movement of Socialists statement said.
“After three decades, the world has become multipolar again, with the increasingly obvious end of the political hegemony of the collective West,” it added.
The party went on to criticise the “lack of open social dialogue, the imposition of EU integration as a ready-made solution and the only way, along with the hypocrisy of the Brussels administration, constant political blackmail and the demand for the renunciation of part of the state territory” — a reference to the EU’s requirement that Serbia normalise relations with Kosovo before it enters the EU.
The SNS, which has been pursuing membership of the EU, has not yet responded to the resolution.
The non-parliamentary New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, a small Marxist-Leninist party, has also called for Serbia to join BRICS, according to a post on its Facebook page.
Better chance of acceptance
Earlier this week, Dodik said Bosnia should apply to join BRICS, where it would have a better chance of being accepted than in the European Union.
“The European Union has an alternative. Considering that Brussels keeps sending new and unclear conditions for EU membership, I think Bosnia & Herzegovina should apply for membership of BRICS. I believe it would be admitted sooner than in the EU,” Dodik wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
He added that in the coming days Republika Srpska’s institutions will propose to state-level bodies to consider this initiative.
Bosnia was granted EU candidate status in December last year but has not carried out any reforms that would unlock the start of the negotiation process.
Serbia is more advanced on its EU accession path, having started accession negotiations, but its progress is dependent on reaching a negotiated settlement with Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in 2008 also also aspires to join the EU.