Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that pressurizing Serbia into supporting sanctions against Russia is unacceptable
“Serbia will never do something that contradicts our national interests. Many major Western states are present at international forums as the so-called ‘friends of Kosovo,’ and we are expected to introduce sanctions against Serbia’s friends. We want good relations with everyone but we cannot act against ourselves,” Dacic was quoted as saying by the Foreign Ministry. He added that “intimidating Serbia does not work anymore” and that Belgrade was open to cooperating with everyone but put the country’s national interests first. Russia supports Serbia’s position on Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. It has since been recognized by over 100 UN member states, while Belgrade considers Kosovo part of Serbia. Dozens of countries, including Russia, do not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. Since 2014, relations between Russia and the West has gone downhill amid the crisis in Ukraine. Brussels, Washington and their allies have introduced several rounds of anti-Russia sanctions Crimea’s reunification with Russia and Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations, warning that the Western sanctions are counterproductive and undermine global stability.
Despite the current economic crisis, Serbian exports to Russia have gone up 9.5 percent since January, and a similar free trade deal with the Eurasian Economic Union would increase the number of potential buyers of Serbian goods to 200 million. However, Serbia’s entry into the EU would render this free trade agreement null and void simply because no such arrangement currently exists in the EU.
The Russian ambassador’s proposal left the participants of the Belgrade summit divided with Serbia’s former envoy to the US, Ivan Vujacic, warning that for all its good intentions, this “mechanism” would complicate Belgrade’s already difficult integrations talks with Brussels, especially in view of the tense relations now existing between the EU and Russia. Former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said, for his part, that Alexander Chepurin’s proposal; made a lot of sense. “If you have shared interests, the best thing you should do is to discuss things. I believe that that the negotiations between Serbia and the EU are a two-way road. Serbia has good relations with Russia and any dialogue on this issue would benefit us all,” he emphasized. The European Union granted Serbia candidate status for membership in 2012, demanding from Belgrade to implement a number of reforms as well as effectively recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Serbia opened two of the 35 chapters needed for accession to the European Union in mid-December 2015, including one on normalizing ties with Kosovo.