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news 02 Jul 15

Dacic Accuses West of Hypocrisy Over Russia

The Serbian Foreign Minister has accused Western democracies of hypocritically pressuring Serbia to join the sanctions against Russia while increasing their own trade with Moscow.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic | Photo by Beta

Speaking in the European parliament in Brussels on June 30, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Serbia did not want to sacrifice its relations with its traditional ally, Russia, on its path to the EU.

“Serbia is moving towards the EU but we also have our friends like everybody else in the world. What would it look like to do something against our friends in order to join a new association?" Dacic asked.

Dacic also said he had noticed that US trade with Russia actually increased in 2014.

“At the same time, Serbia had a lower economic trade with Russia than before. And then, someone is bothered with Serbian relations with Russia,” the minister concluded.

Following Russian support for separatists in Ukraine, the EU introduced sanctions against Russia in 2014.

Belgrade has not followed suit but the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, called on Serbia to join the sanctions in November 2014, saying it was its duty as it took the path towards European integration.

Aside from Serbia's historic, ethnic and religious ties to Russia, Serbia is highly dependent on Russia for energy, as it imports almost all its natural gas and oil from Russia.

Serbia also has special trade agreement with Russia, which enables the free export of Serbian goods to Russia - seen as an big advantage in attracting foreign investors.

Belgrade-based analyst Dusan Janjic told BIRN that Serbia has to harmonize its foreign policy with the EU during the integration process - whatever its feelings about Russia.

“Serbia’s policy towards Russia is not sustainable. Serbia cannot stay neutral towards Russia. But... some of Dacic’s statements do not always reflect government policy,” Janjic said.

Dacic’s statement possibly reflected his own “internal political needs”, he suggested. Recent surveys shows that the number of people opposed to Serbia’s EU membership has grown.

A survey by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, which was presented in Belgrade on June 30, said around 50 per cent of citizens think Serbia should join the EU but around 37 per cent are against the idea.

The percentage of people who supported Serbia’s EU membership varied between 62 and 66 per cent in surveys taken in 2011 and 2013.

"We see similar data regarding support for Serbia's membership of NATO. In previous surveys, around 65 per cent of citizens were against NATO membership, while around 25 per cent were in favour. Now about 73 per cent are against NATO membership, only 12 per cent are in favour and 15 per cent have no stance,” the program director of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, Djordje Vukovic, said.

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