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News 24 Oct 17

Serbian Officials Divided on Foreign Policy ‘Balancing Act’

Officials offered divided responses after a US State Department official challenged Belgrade’s pro-EU but Russia-friendly foreign policy strategy, saying that Serbia “cannot sit on two chairs at the same time”.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Hoyt Brian Yee at the 17th Serbian Economic Summit. Photo: Beta/Milos Miskov

Serbia’s defence minister and its chief negotiator in its EU accession talks gave sharply contrasting responses after US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee suggested that Belgrade’s balancing act between Moscow and the West was unsustainable.

The chief negotiator in the accession talks, Tanja Miscevic, said on Tuesday that Yee understands Serbia’s determination to become a member of the European Union and suggested that his statement had been "taken out of context".

"Serbia has a clear foreign political strategic orientation," Miscevic told media in Belgrade.

However Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin reacted much more harshly, saying that Yee’s comment was "unfriendly" and "undiplomatic".

"I can say that this is not a statement of a friend, or a man who respects Serbia, our policy and our right to make our own decisions," Vulin said in a statement on Monday evening.

Vulin claimed that the statement represented "the greatest pressure publicly put on Serbia yet".

He insisted however that Serbia will choodse its own course regardless of what the "great powers" want.

Yee said on Monday during a visit to Serbia that countries that want to join the EU have to clearly show their resolve.

"You cannot sit on two chairs, especially if they are that far away," Yee said at the 17th Serbian Economic Summit in Belgrade, referring to Belgrade’s close ties with Moscow.

Yee is responsible for US relations with the countries of Central and South Central Europe, and plays an important role in resolving problems in the Balkan region.

He is set to meet Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Tuesday.

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