It should come as no surprise that in case of an urgent need a country claiming to join the EU addresses someone it considers its salvation and future.
So did Serbia, having appeared unarmed in the face of coronavirus, approached the European Union and was denied assistance.
This is just one case in a series of striking examples of the fact that the crisis has revealed the true essence of the European Union, as well as many other truths that did not probably seem obvious.
Many EU countries, especially in Eastern Europe, find themselves on the half-submerged Titanic. And some, like Serbia, North Macedonia, Ukraine and Georgia, were still trying to buy their tickets until recently.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appealed to the leadership of the European Commission to help Serbia with medicines and equipment.
Back then, in mid-March, there were only 48 cases in Serbia. In reply he received a frigid German "Nein". "I will not make any political conclusions now, but we've come to realize there is no international or European solidarity, all of these are fairy tales on paper," Vucic told the press after head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen informed him about the ban on the export of medicines and medical equipment from the EU.
Vucic has repeatedly stated that he sees Serbia's future in the European Union. The country has been actively preparing to join the EU, bringing its legislation in line with EU laws, despite the unwillingness of more than half of the population to join the EU.
Moreover, it was clear that Vucic was ready to sacrifice the native Serbian province of Kosovo, the territory of which hosts a self-proclaimed Albanian-inhabited state. Against the will of the crushing majority of the Serbs, the current President was ready to recognize the independence of Kosovo, as this was the fundamental premise of Serbia's membership in the EU.
The Serbian leadership constantly spreads a thesis in the media space that Kosovo is de facto a cut-off slice, and it is necessary to accept this for the sake of a "bright future" of Serbia in the family of "civilized peoples" of Europe.
But then things turned sore amid the pandemic. In the meantime, Russia and China are helping Serbia fight the virus.
It seems that Vucic's ardent faith in the European Union has melted away, and after the pandemic ends, Serbia will likely stop its travel towards EU membership. And not just Serbia.
In a very real sense, neighboring North Macedonia was left with an egg on its face, having even changed its name for the sake of joining the EU and NATO (previously the country was simply called Macedonia).
The issue of renaming the state triggered a contentious debate in the country and actually split it. Two thirds of Macedonians did not show up at all for the referendum on renaming the state with the question being as follows: do you agree to rename the country North Macedonia for the sake of joining the EU and NATO?
With their boycott, the Macedonians have made it clear how they feel about this. However, contrary to the domestic legislation requiring a turnout of half of the voters, the referendum was recognized as "legal", and the country was renamed.
Now all the Macedonians, as well as the leadership of this Balkan country obediently following the "Euro-Atlantic track", have unambiguously perceived the price of "European solidarity" by way of the Serbian example. It was also perceived by other countries of the Western Balkans, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose leaders were recently eager to join the EU either.
But Serbia is a mere Balkan example. Meanwhile, "civilized" Europe is ready to scatter in all directions without Serbia. The refusal of Germany and a number of other rich EU countries (Austria and the Netherlands, in particular) to help Italy, Spain and Greece that will inevitably face a severe socio-economic crisis after surmounting the sanitary one, has raised the question of whether the EU will be preserved at all.
Italy has entirely fallen out with the European bureaucracy. Spain, represented by its Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, is still keeping itself within the diplomatic limits. But ahead one of the recent regular meetings between the heads of state and government of the EU (via conference call), Sanchez has sent a clear message that the EU should change over to a policy of solidarity, implying that the EU countries are so far fighting for the health of their fellow citizens alone, and that the rich countries should help those distressed. The Italians and Spaniards remained unheard.
It seems that Turkey has long since come to its senses, even though having recently aspired to join the EU and expressed displeasure with the EU's dragging out the process of its accession in every possible way. Little is said about Albania and Kosovo, but they have also expressed a fervent desire to become members of the EU and even openly threatened to unite into a single state without consent of their patrons in Washington and Brussels if their desire was ignored.
They blackmailed the whole of Europe with a new escalation in the Balkans. "If the EU closes its door to Kosovo, all the Albanians in the region will live in a single, united country," said Hashim Thaci, the President of self-proclaimed Kosovo. It's interesting whether he still wants to join the EU?
But if all the "candidates" for EU membership can "hit the brakes" today and say they did not really want to join the EU, members of the union from the former socialist bloc find themselves in the most vulnerable and humiliating position.
Back in the old days, they also enjoyed no more than stepson privileges in the EU. Their opinions were not really regarded, despite their claims to engage in European politics. Now that the rich part of old Europe (represented by Germany) does not help the poorer part of it (represented by Italy and Spain), we need hardly mention the "newcomers" – Bulgaria, Romania, part of the Western Balkan countries – that have already joined the EU, the Baltic States.
Their destiny is to be low-paid guest workers in rich and greedy Germany or, even worse, seasonal workers in jobs requiring no qualification. According to German labor market research, almost half of Romanian and Bulgarian migrant workers, 26 percent of whom have higher education, work in low-paid jobs that do not require any background at all.
In early April, more than half a thousand Romanian workers have already arrived in Germany for agricultural work, despite the COVID-19 pandemic rampant in Europe. Harvesting and preserving income seem to be more important.
The federal authorities of Germany, represented by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, recently decided that about 80,000 seasonal workers will be allowed to enter Germany under security clampdown.
Germany annually allows some 300 thousand seasonal workers enter the country, mainly from Poland and Romania. And then, when the coffers are filled, it shows them the door. And let Serbia and other "candidates" to the EU make shift without German help for the time being.
Igor Pshenichnikov, expert with the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies