"Serbia must honor commitments, impose sanctions"

Johannes Hahn says Serbia needs to honor its commitments and impose sanctions on Russia, as this is a legal commitment in the framework of EU accession talks.

Source: Beta, Večernje novosti

"Serbia is legally obligated, as part of the negotiations to progressively align itself with EU on difficult issues such as the sanctions on Russia. It is very important and we expect Belgrade to honor this commitment," said the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement and neighborhood policy, who is on Thursday visiting Belgrade.

On Tuesday in Brussels, he met with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, when he was quoted as saying that he had "not asked Serbia to join the European sanctions against Russia," while Dačić said this issue was not "explicitly" brought up.

Serbia maintains that it respects Ukraine's territorial integrity, but will not join the western sanctions against Russia.

In an interview for the Belgrade-based daily Večernje Novosti, Hahn stated that he "understands historical ties between Serbia and Russia," and also that he "understands that Belgrade is not being forced to make a simple choice."

"Your country has identified EU entry as its key strategic objective, which Prime Minister Vučić confirmed during the recent visit of President Putin to Serbia. We expect representatives of your government to continue to show the dedication they have towards the key strategic goal of joining the EU," said Hanh.

He emphasized that Serbia's "fundamental engagement towards the values ​​and interests of the EU will also be important" during the country's chairmanship of the OSCE next year.

"This commitment of Serbia must not be called into question in favor of an approach of 'to and fro' between the EU and Russia," said Hahn.

He added that EU's enlargement policy "is not in question" and that his goal is to support Serbia and to help it to progress towards the EU.

Asked when the first negotiation chapter would be opened, Hanh said it was "currently clear that unanimity of EU member states will not be achieved to open the first chapter before progress has been identified in chapter 35 which refers to normalization of relations with Kosovo."

"The future of Serbia and Kosovo is in Europe. There is no alternative to parallel ongoing progress of both toward the EU. For that reason we expect all members to follow through on this process and encourage the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština," said Hanh.

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