Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed a letter written by several U.S. lawmakers criticizing the growth of corruption and decline of media freedom in the Balkan nation during his leadership.
Vucic said he doesn’t fear a U.S. asset freeze because, he claimed, he doesn’t own assets abroad. He also said he would repeat his “semilegal” purchase of ventilators for the country if necessary.
The United States “will not find any assets outside the country,” Vucic told media on November 7 when asked about the congressional letter.
Seven U.S. lawmakers -- all Democrats in the House of Representatives -- called on U.S. President Joe Biden to push Vucic to “combat corruption and attacks on freedom of the press” and impose asset freezes against certain Serbian individuals, if necessary.
The November 5 letter -- which was issued following a trip to Washington by Serbian opposition leader Dragan Djilas -- criticized Vucic’s self-declared quasi-black market purchase of ventilators last year, as well as the government’s preferential treatment of media favorable to its policies, as emblematic of corruption and declining press freedom.
The lawmakers also said the dealings of the majority state-owned Telekom Srbija have been “shrouded in secrecy.” Telekom Srbija has been scooping up media and cable companies, strengthening the state’s control over the sector.
The company has been accused of overpaying for some of the acquisitions.
“We urge you to consider using [executive sanctioning power] where appropriate to push for a more transparent and accountable Serbian government that respects democracies, human rights, and the rule of law,” the lawmakers said in their letter.
Vucic, who came to power in 2017, is up for reelection next year. The lawmakers urged the administration to hold Serbia “accountable to the highest standards of free and fair elections, including the campaign period ahead of the election and the vote count itself.”