"Either EU or Russia" choice is false - Russian FM
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ha said that "it is clear there are numerous obstacles" along the way to Serbia's potential EU membership.Source: Tanjug, Horizons
In an article he wrote for the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) magazine Horizons, Lavrov touched on the Russo-Serbian relations and Serbia's EU bid, to say the obstacles range "from unresolved issues stemming from the Yugoslav conflict to major and painful reforms being undertaken in various fields."
Lavrov then asked "to what extent can the European Union - growing weary of its own enlargement - take all these aspects into account, and to what extent can it show patience and tact?"
"The Kosovo problem remains a serious challenge, since Pristina’s patrons view Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood as the 'price of admission' to the EU. Belgrade should make independent decisions on all these aspects," he added.
Mentioning as an example of "building productive, future-oriented relations" the intense development of Russian-Serbian cooperation, he said it has by now "grown into a strategic partnership."
"President Putin’s October 16, 2014 visit to Belgrade was the occasion to reach new agreements. Once again, total coincidence or similarity of our approaches to the agenda under discussion was manifest. The profound and durable nature of the historical ties between the peoples of our two countries was reaffirmed by the official visit of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to Serbia, which took place a month later, on November 14 to 16, 2014," the Russian foreign minister noted, and added:
"In this regard, I would like to comment on increasing attempts to impose on Belgrade the false choice of opting for either the EU or Russia. We proceed from the fact that Serbia is a sovereign state pursuing an independent foreign policy, including in respect to the European integration."
"The choice to which Serbian leaders refer means both EU membership and maintaining relations of friendship and cooperation with Russia. This is a sovereign choice which deserves respect. It is based on the opinion of the majority of Serbia’s citizens, and fully meets the country’s political and economic interests," Lavrov wrote.
He remarked that his country "has said candidly to our partners - in both Serbia and the EU - that, as a matter of principle, Belgrade’s advancement towards European integration is not rejected on the premise that this must not undermine Russian-Serbian relations and our joint projects - all the more so since they constitute no threat to Brussels."
Describing the ties between Russia and Serbia as "centuries-long traditions of our peoples’ kinship, deep mutual feelings of friendship, understanding and trust," Lavrov said:
"We call on our partners in Brussels to behave adequately, and to avoid linking progress in the accession negotiations to breaking Serbia’s natural bonds with Russia. Rather, we believe that respectful dialogue and constructive cooperation involving all stakeholders, including contacts between Moscow and Brussels, would help eliminate unnecessary tension, whilst ensuring that Serbia’s EU integration process is beneficial for everyone. Should this approach prevail, rather than being perceived as an apple of discord, Serbia could become a bridge linking the West and the East of our continent."