PM "seeking alternatives to Russian gas, not to EU"

Aleksandar Vucic has told a Swiss newspaper that "Serbia is seeking an alternative to Russian gas, not to EU (membership) as its strategic choice."

Source: Tanjug

"I do not care whether energy in coming from New Zealand or from Macedonia, or anywhere else. I need gas at a good price," said the Serbian prime minister. He also told the Neue Zuricher Zeitung that this was "not a geopolitical game, but a game of survival for Serbia."

Asked to comment on "Russian President Vladimir Putin suddenly halting the construction of the South Stream pipeline," Vucic said he was "surprised and stunned" by the news, and that "Serbia is not satisfied with this decision, because it invests its own money, and needs gas."

"My job is to ensure energy security of the country," he said, and pointed out that "other countries, unlike Serbia, have alternative sources of gas," and that his recent statement that "American gas could be an alternative" should be viewed in this light.

"That's why we talk to Americans, to Russians and to others," said Vucic.

He explained that "Serbia will not abandon its road to Brussels, but of course also wants to preserve the traditionally good relations with Russia."

This, Vucic said, "does not mean that Serbia is seeking an alternative route, but remains on course towards the EU, period."

Asked whether he sometimes feels like he is "at the helm of Greece" - considering Serbia's high budget deficit, public companies accumulating losses and stagnant economic growth, Vucic said that "the feeling may be similar" but that Serbia "has taken a completely different path."

He pointed out that laws on labor and privatization had been changed and public sector salaries and pensions cut - all of which have been, as he said, "painful measures."

"However we, as the first country in Southeastern Europe, are implementing fiscal consolidation without outside pressure. For that reason were have been able to reach an agreement with the IMF, and investors, too, reward that," said Vucic.

"Serbia is firmly on course towards the EU," the prime minister said, adding that "Serbia will carry out its tasks, and will make progress on that road."

Asked whether he "expected to Croatia to support Serbia's EU accession process," Vucic "stressed that he never criticizes neighboring countries."

"I see Serbia's neighbors as a side that I must face. Despite certain disagreements in recent months we need to improve our relations. I'm not worried about Zagreb's influence on our path to the EU, I'm worried about our common future," the prime minister said.

He then stressed that he applies "a strategy of not reacting to provocation."

Vucic noted that "Serbian journalists recently wanted to hear his opinion on Croatian President Grabar-Kitarovic's statement that all Serbs in Croatia are Croats."

"We need to give her some time. She was elected only recently. We do not hold back because we are weak or scared, we keep quiet because we care about the stability in the Western Balkans. Stability is the key word of my policy."

Speaking about Kosovo, he recalled that dialogue was launched and that "Serbia made many compromises which the population of Serbia is not always satisfied with," but that this was done "in the best possible way, so that life and security of the Serb minority in Kosovo are protected, and Serbia's path to the EU is made possible."

"However, we are not ready to recognize Kosovo as an independent state. I hope that Brussels does not expected concessions only from Serbia," said Vucic, adding that he was "not of the opinion that Kosovo is de facto independent."

"Serbian-Albanian relations are of great importance for the Western Balkans, but they are not the biggest problem in the region," the prime minister stressed, adding that he was referring to "things without direct connection to Serbia."

He added that other countries in the region have "greater problems," but did not say which countries he had in mind.

Vucic also reiterated that "Serbia unconditionally supports the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina" while the Serb Republic (RS) entity is a part of that country."

"That's what RS President Milorad Dodik has also said, and not just once, but ten times. I know you know that my first trip abroad was to Sarajevo," said Vucic.


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