Serbian president commits to EU course, hints at Russian sanctions

Belgrade, Serbia (AP) — Aleksandar Vucic was sworn in for a second term as Serbia’s president on Tuesday, promising to keep the Balkan country a member of the European Union and suggesting the new government might consider joining Western rivals. Russian sanctions. Ukraine.

Despite voting in favor of three UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Serbia remains the only European country not to join sanctions imposed on its ally Moscow.

In his inaugural address to parliament, Vucic said Serbia’s priority would be to become a member of the European Union, and that the new government, which should be formed in July, would have to work harder to enter the 27-member bloc and consider sanctions against Moscow. , although he did not specifically mention Russia.

“Given the situation we’re in, forming a new government is crucial,” he said. “We’re going to have to deal with new sanctions and other issues that could hurt us, so we’re going to ask our European partners to help us,” He says.

Vucic, who won the presidential election convincingly, mostly on his pro-Russian agenda, said he wanted to bring Serbia to the European Union in his new term. But in recent years he has been cementing ties with longtime ally Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Opposition groups and foreign observers said the April vote was far from free and fair, with Vucic’s authoritarian rule marginalizing the government and parliament.

Vucic announced on Sunday that he had reached a “very favorable” three-year gas deal with Russia in a phone conversation with Putin – widely seen as determined not to join the EU despite pressure from the West sanctions.

But the Serb president appeared to soften his pro-Russian stance on Tuesday, saying “we must remain firm on the European path”.

Serbia will not seek to join NATO and will remain military neutral, he said.

“We are not politically neutral because we want to join the EU,” Vucic said.

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