EU has ‘serious questions’ as Serbia begins regular consultations with Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shakes hands with Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic during a news conference following their meeting in Moscow, Russia April 16, 2021. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS

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BRUSSELS, Sept 26 (Reuters) – The EU on Monday slammed Serbia’s decision to hold foreign policy consultations with Russia, saying it raised questions at a time when Brussels told countries seeking to join the block not to continue their activities as usual. with Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic signed a document titled “consultation plan” on Friday.

Selakovic said the plan envisages consultations on bilateral and multilateral activities, although there is nothing on security policies. Serbian opposition parties criticized the document.

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Serbia, which was bombed by NATO two decades ago but is now seeking to join the European Union, has long struggled to balance its historically close ties with Russia and its aspirations for economic and political integration with the West.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Monday, Peter Stano, spokesman for the EU’s executive commission, noted that the new Russian-Serbian consultation document had been signed just days after Moscow announced a mobilization for the war in Ukraine and began to organize votes to annex the territory. he captured.

The Serbia-Russia agreement was “a very clear sign of their intention to strengthen their ties”, Stano said. “And that raises some serious questions.”

The EU has been very clear with countries seeking to join that relations with Russia under the current circumstances cannot be business as usual, he said. Serbia has declared EU membership a strategic priority, which entails “alignment with European policies, including foreign policy issues”, he added.

“We take this very seriously and we follow this,” he said.

In a statement, Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin described the memo signed with Russia as a “technical document” and said EU officials “do not want to allow Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to have independent policies.

Although Serbia condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, it refused to join the sanctions against Moscow.

On Sunday, Selakovic said that Serbia would not recognize the results of referendums in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow.

“It would be against our national interests,” he said, quoted by the new television channel N1 on its website. Serbia still refuses to recognize its former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Ivana Sekularac Editing by Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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