The Turkish police will patrol Serbian streets. Why?

On October the 7th, on the very same day that president Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, giving free hand to the Turkish president Erdoğan in dealing with the Kurdish militia and custody over ISIS prisoners, Serbian news announced a new deal between Turkey and Serbia on matters of crime and international terrorism. For Turkey, two important aspects of that deal are that the Turkish police will now be sent to patrol the streets of Serbia, and “offer help” in deterring future migrants and international terrorists. According to Serbian media:

Serbian and Turkish police officers will patrol the streets of Serbian cities during the tourist season after Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday. The Turkish police officers will not have the powers they have at home and will not be armed.

They will be tasked with helping their Serbian counterparts deal with Turkish nationals, illegal border crossings and migrant trafficking, reporters were told after the agreement was signed. Stefanovic and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also signed an inter-governmental agreement on security cooperation to upgrade the fight against trans-national crime, especially terrorism, organized crime, people smuggling and trafficking.

The deal was signed while the Turkish president Erdoğan was on a two-day visit in Serbia.


The deal comes as part and parcel of an increase in Turkish investment into Serbia. Moreover, the deal is described in predominantly economic terms. As quoted in the Balkan Insight, the pro-government Turkish daily newspaper Sabah described the visit as the “landing of Turkish investment” and reported that the two countries aim to increase their current $1.2 billion trade volume to $5 billion in the near future, despite previous fears of the Serbian government that Turkish investment will fall after the collapse of the lira. This came after the Serbian-Turkish free trade agreement was ratified before the liras collapse in 2018, and last year their trade was worth around € 1 billion[1].
Thus, this economic background is significant; alongside trade, several major infrastructure projects were also underway, despite the fears. Namely, the Turkish company Taşyapi was given the task of undertaking renovation of the regional roads Novi Pazar-Tutin and Aljinovići-Sjenica-Novi Pazar, and, according to the Financial Observer Financial Observer, the construction of both sections of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway that are located in Serbia, from Kuzmin to Sremska Rača, and from Požega to Kotroman, i.e. the border with Bosnia.
In terms of foreign direct investment:
The last major Turkish investment in Serbia was in December last year with EUR500,000 worth of investment by Ormo Group which opened the Lebanteks factory in Leban. In the first factory, after 30 years, first new jobs were given to 300 workers, with perspective of more employment. Ormo Group is the largest exporter of wool in the world, and Lebanteks is the first factory opened outside Turkey. Some other big Turkish factories opened their branches in Serbia: in October 2016, Aster (one of the biggest textile companies in Turkey) opened a factory in Niš, with a plan to employ up to 2,000 workers. Tibet Moda opened a textile company in Ćuprija, while Teklas Automotive invested more than EUR11m in a factory in Vladičin Han. In April 2017, Büreleşik bought Beko factory, and in October last year Taypa Textil Güylim invested EUR35m in Kraljevo factory.
Of these the Lebanteks was probably the most advertised in the Serbian media, being opened up with traditional Serbian music, alongside the Serbian president Vučić bolstering with good relations with Turkey.

The background

Yet, the joint patrols with Turkey are more than just a consequence of increasingly warm relation between Turkey and Serbia. And, while the military and security agreements can be seen trough the lens of increasingly good relations between these countries, just how good these relations are, and what they comprise is the right question to be asked.
First, in its bid to please Erdogan, Serbia previously went so far as to break several international agreements, when it extradited Kurdish politician Cevdet Ayaz to Turkey despite a warning from the UN Committee against Torture, after a string of purges following Turkey’s 2016 failed coup d’etat. Second, it will surely profit from Turkey’s future offensives, and this is the reason why the situation must be viewed from the  intensifying conflict in Syria. Namely, there is evidence that Serbia is playing on both sides of the field. Only 7 months after ratifying its trade deal with Turkey, it was recently discovered that Serbian mortar shells were used by the hands of Islamic State terrorists, when their propaganda videos in Yemen exposed batches of clearly visible mortar shells manufactured by the Serbian state-owned arms factory Krušik (below). According to ArmsWatch (whose website that was taken down in Serbia upon publishing the news, due to public scandal), Serbia’s mortar shells were circulating between US- and Saudi-backed firms, while their end users remained anonymous:
According to leaked documents, private contractors from the USA and UAE were tasked with the delivery of 20,000 pcs. of Grad rockets from Serbia to Saudi Arabia in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The end user is not indicated in the contract. Furthermore, the Saudi army does not use such rockets.
This is occurring despite a UN arms-embargo in Yemen, while Serbia still refuses to stop the arms supplies as the exporter is the Serbian vice prime minister’s father (Branko Stefanović, father of Nebojša Stefanović), and who buys state weapons at a much lower price, according to the same website.
Source: ArmsWatch

Current importance

Put into this perspective, the Serbian-Turkish co-operation is of significance for the intensification of the conflict in Syria: on the one hand, the Serbian arms dealers would surely profit from continued exports, while the Turkish police will now legally have the ability to monitor and “help” in enforcing migrant capture and international “terrorists” (including the capture of politically significant refugees, as they have already done) fleeing the conflict through the Balkans (and the previously-closed “Balkan route” – a well-known path to European countries through the Balkans, which was closed on the initiative of Austria’s Sebastian Kurz). And, according to a report from the Athens daily Ekathimerini:
With the prospect of a new wave of refugees fleeing Turkey’s planned invasion of northern Syria, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria plan to submit a text on Tuesday at a meeting of European Union ministers of justice and home affairs to highlight that the Eastern Mediterranean migrant route has not been given the appropriate attention by the EU.
Thus, joint police patrols come just in time that the Eastern Mediterranean migrant route is also receiving increased attention; according to the same newspaper, these countries will collaborate on establishing an “Eastern Mediterranean Migration Route Initiative (EMMI)” in order to control the flow of refugees in the region. In this context, Serbia, which is outside of the European Union, will probably act as a bulwark against an increase of refugees [2]. And, given the US’ withdrawal from Syria the conflict is surely to increase its intensity and the inflow of refugees.
Thus, it could be expected that Turkey would be able to profit by containing and controlling the fallout of refugees from this increased conflict via the adequately increased police- and military-cooperation with the Balkans [3]. This comes despite, or rather, because of its companies enormous involvement in the conflict; as of this point, the infrastructure is set for its increase, at least.

The Serbian context

Security agreements like this are an increasing trend and already exist between several EU countries (especially with the People’s Republic of China – France, Italy, Croatia already have joint police patrols with the Chinese polices; the Visegrád countries have their own patrols, the Prüm Treaty foresaw the same for Nothern-European countries, while the US has only patrolled its own base in the Italian town of Vicenza). Yet, this sort of patrols are an additional step beyond what is usually available through the usual practice of Interpol [4]. And, as we have seen, both the secrecy, timing and the increasingly hastened context of the joint patrols, could be revealed only in their own international contexts, and this context called for their analyses. But, for the local, that is, Serbian context and its own citizens – the receivers of such lovely security agreements – this comes after an already similar deal being signed with the Chinese police forces, in August this year. Namely, this allowed for the Chinese police forces to be deployed in the Serbian towns of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Smederevo, in joint patrols in September [5]. Thus, for those involved in increasing domestic and international social upheavals, a joint Serbo-Sino-Turkish police force is gradually making it difficult to seek asylum, as well as redefining the role of the police in our everyday lives. And, from the perspective of a global periphery, to use a pun from the Serbian anarchist Miloš Rancić, “Serbia does not discriminate police based on nationality.”.
Source: Bitcoinnews.

[1] According to the Financial Observer, “In beginning of 2018, Turkey and Serbia ratified the Free Trade Agreement, which allows export of 5,000 tons of beef from Serbia to Turkey. In addition, this agreement will, for the first time, allow duty-free exports from Serbia to Turkey of a limited amount of raw and refined sunflower oil, sunflower seeds and certain types of bakery products. Serbia would be able to export to Turkey 25,000 tons of raw sunflower oil, 10,000 tons of refined, 15,000 tons of sunflower seed, 5,000 tons of soybean, 500 tons of industrial feed, 500 tons of food for dogs and cats, and 500 tons of coats. On the other hand, Turkey should double its pea exports to Serbia from 350 to 700 tons, beans from 300 to 600 tons, sugar maize from 1,000 to 2,000 tons and dry plums from 200 to 400 tons. As previously announced, Serbian businessmen will be able to import without any customs duties pomegranate, strawberry, eggplant, zucchini, and grapes.”

[2] Also, it has also been revealed that Serbia allegedly has an agreement with Austria precisely regarding the deterring of refugees; this was publicly admitted only recently by Austria’s ex-Minister of Interior, Herbert Kickl, although it was denied by Serbian officials.

[3] This is also in its interests, seen from the perspective of the EU and its EU-Turkey refugee agreement from 2016, whereby Turkey was to receive € 6 billion in exchange for developing infrastructure to withhold refugees. This caused some tensions, according to to Deutsche Welle, since “Turkey repeatedly threatened to terminate the agreement because, firstly, the EU has not paid the stipulated amount, and secondly, the visa freedom for Turkish citizens provided for under the agreement has not been implemented.”

[4] This also echoes the contemporary move away from the strict international agreements and “globalization”, and is an interesting sign of failing multilateralism in international relations. 

[5] While there are only six Chinese officers who arrived in September, any information pertaining to the extent of the patrols and the length of time during which this agreement will be valid, was withheld from reporters by both the Serbian government and the Chinese Embassy. 


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