Serbia "loyal to EU - but not at expense of economy"

NIŠ -- PM Aleksandar Vučić has said that Serbia's loyalty to the EU is not in question, but called on Brussels to respect the vital national interests of the country.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

He urged the organization "not to expect Serbia to cause harm to its own economy for the sake of the EU path."

"The government will continue to defend Serbia's vital interests and it is not ready to change that policy," said Vučić commenting on the message conveyed by Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini that Serbia is expected to demonstrate a higher degree of alignment with the foreign policy of Brussels in terms of sanctions against Russia.

"The situation in which Serbia has found itself is not easy,” said the prime minister at the government session held Monday in Niš, to mark 100 years since the Austro-Hungarian empire declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia, thus starting the First World War.

He stressed, however, that he can proudly say that Serbia is persisting on the EU path, and that it is respected and treated as a sovereign state and a serious partner around the world.

"Will we be able to safeguard both our state and economic interests - only time will tell," the prime minister said, noting that this will depend on the competence of the Serbian government and the circumstances that may occur.

Our foreign policy is clear, our loyalty to the European Union is not in question, but Serbia cannot throw away hundreds of millions of euros just to prove its political loyalty, Vučić stressed, pointing to the difficult economic situation Serbia is in.

We call on the EU to respect our national interests, and not to prevent our companies from making profit, just for the sake of demonstrating force against Serbia, he added.

Statements by certain Ukrainian officials clearly show that Serbia needs an alternative gas supply and that the sector can generate substantial revenue and create jobs for our citizens, the prime minister explained.

Serbia has so far succeeded in protecting its vital interests and it will continue to defend its position in the future, Vučić stressed, adding that in case of any changes, the new policy will have to be pursued by someone else.

Balance

The balanced policy of the Serbian government regarding the conflicts in Ukraine will face a test in the coming period as it is being met with opposition in countries that want Serbia to join the European Union quickly, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić has said.

For that reason, it will be important to ensure that Serbia does not become the biggest victim of the tensions involving the United States, the EU and Russia, and this requires political courage and consultations with friends in the East and West alike, Dačić said on Monday during a government session in Niš following a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

If it wants to become a member of the EU, which is its foreign policy priority, Serbia must align its foreign policy with that of EU to the maximum extent possible before the closure of negotiation chapter 31, which deals with foreign policy, Dačić said.

Over the past 100 days, Serbia has backed 10 out of 14 of the EU's foreign policy declarations, but could not support four declarations that are related to sanctions against Russia, he said.

Stricter anti-Russian sanctions prohibiting the operations of Russian companies can be expected in the coming period, Dačić said.

"That will impact our state and national interests, not only because the pressure aimed at getting Serbia to join those sanctions will be increasingly strong, but also because the operations of those companies in this part of Europe will be hampered, which could put in doubt strategic projects that are in our vital interest, such as the South Stream," the Serbian foreign minister said.

In the past years, Serbia has managed to change its international position and become a country whose word is respected, Dačić said, adding that, by pursuing a balanced policy in the sensitive political situation, Serbia will maintain its European path and friendly relations with Russia, as well as protect the economic interests stemming therefrom, Dačić also said.

"As a country that will chair the OSCE, and one that is pursuing an active foreign policy, Serbia will continue its proactive role in order to prevent negative impact on its international position," Dačić said.