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28 Oct, 2022 22:51

EU pressures Serbia on ‘shared values’

Ursula von der Leyen demands “alignment” with Brussels' policy during visit to Belgrade
EU pressures Serbia on ‘shared values’

Serbia needs to follow EU foreign and security policy if it wishes to join the bloc, thje President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen warned  on Friday. The phrase has long been used by Brussels to imply that Belgrade should adopt EU sanctions against Russia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has so far refused to heed such calls.

Von der Leyen visited Serbia as part of what Euronews described as a Balkans “charm tour,” inspecting the construction site of a gas interconnector near the Bulgarian border. The EU-subsidized project should be completed by September 2023. 

“What we want to see is not only gas flowing from Bulgaria to Serbia but this project will be one step further to bring us closer to each other,” said von der Leyen. “It will open Serbia's gas market for diversification. It will improve Serbia's energy security.”

The EU has offered Serbia 165 million euros in energy subsidies. Belgrade is currently relying on natural gas from Russia, via the TurkStream pipeline.

After meetings with Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in Belgrade, von der Leyen insisted that joining the EU means “sharing our values,” implying Serbia needs to join the bloc in embargoing Russia.

“It's important [Serbia] is aligned with our foreign and security policy,” she told reporters.

Vucic noted that Serbia has supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity and made a pointed remark about the EU double standards.

“Sometimes we ask ourselves why Serbia’s territorial integrity hasn’t always been respected,” he said, in reference to Kosovo, a province occupied by NATO in 1999 and recognized as independent 22 out of the 27 EU member states. The EU has included recognition of Kosovo as one of the conditions for Serbia’s eventual membership.

Vucic said Serbia understood von der Leyen’s message and would “align with the visa policy” of the EU in response. Brussels authorities had previously complained to Belgrade about allowing entry to migrants from Burundi, Cuba, India, Tunisia and Türkiye, who would then cross into the EU and demand asylum.

After the meetings, Von der Leyen tweeted photos of herself with Vucic and Brnabic, saying that Serbia was “well advanced on its EU path” but that “progress must continue.” She defined such progress as “aligning in defense of common principles and values” and “working together for security and prosperity.”

Von der Leyen arrived in North Macedonia on Wednesday, followed by stops in Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her Balkans tour is scheduled to end in Montenegro on Saturday.

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