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2 Feb, 2023 16:02

Serbia outlines stance on NATO membership

Belgrade is set to maintain its neutral status, President Aleksandar Vucic says
Serbia outlines stance on NATO membership

Serbia will not seek to join the US-led NATO bloc and will maintain its militarily neutral status, President Aleksandar Vucic stated on Thursday. He made the remarks during a special parliamentary session debating negotiations regarding Serbia’s breakaway region of Kosovo and the Western-designed reconciliation plan.

“This morning, I heard nonsense from fake patriots saying that we are leading Serbia towards the Atlantic integration. We don’t. We will continue to maintain our military neutrality and, unlike those who destroyed our military, we are building our army,” Vucic said.

However, the president acknowledged that Serbia is “surrounded by NATO member countries,” which makes staying non-aligned very difficult. Belgrade will continue to seek EU membership, which is “vital” for the country, Vucic added.

“EU membership is of vital interest for us. One cannot function without allies,” he said. “It is not what we gain, it is about what we will lose.”

A proposed agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, which was presented late last year, envisions the expedition of Serbia’s EU membership process in exchange for de facto recognition of the region’s independence by Belgrade. Serbia would be required to accept the breakaway province’s membership of international organizations such as the UN, EU and NATO.

So far, Belgrade has resisted the deal but the West continues to apply pressure. Last week, Vucic said the agreement “hardly contains anything we would be happy about,” lamenting the unwillingness of the West to seek compromise. At the same time, he said Belgrade’s refusal would result in the EU halting all integration processes, reimposing a visa regime, stopping all new investments, and withdrawing all current ones.

“We have the following choice: either, on the one hand, isolation, sanctions of one sort or another, but there are no worse sanctions than the withdrawal of investments, about which I was directly told three times,” Vucic said. Kosovo broke away from Serbia in the late 1990s after NATO waged a bombing campaign against Belgrade in 1999.

Washington and many of its allies recognized Kosovo as a sovereign state after its parliament voted to declare formal independence in 2008, but Belgrade itself and nations including Russia and China did not.