Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic says the EU is fighting a "direct war" with Russia, and suggests he is in "a difficult position" because the community has rebuffed his country's efforts to gain membership.
At a Saturday press conference in the wake of a meeting with 27 EU leaders and six heads of government from the West Balkans, Vucic claimed the Balkans "were not important that day" because the EU is "completely at war with Russia" and its priority is to provide Ukraine and Moldova with EU candidate status.
"Viktor Orban [Hungarian prime minister] said that in the economic sense, Serbia and Montenegro are much more ready to be part of the EU than some other countries. But who cares?" an exasperated Vucic said.
Serbia officially applied for EU membership in 2009, and is expected to complete negotiations by the end of 2024, allowing it to join by 2025. Still, the EU has not committed to welcoming Serbia into its membership.
The nation has been under pressure to join EU members in imposing sanctions on Russia — and is acutely aware of "how angry many of them are" over the issue, Vucic asserted at the news conference.
According to Vucic, those same nations are deluded.
"Many EU countries are in a direct war against Russia. They send howitzers, planes, S-300s to Ukraine, and how do you think they will treat us? They are not in our shoes as we are not in theirs, and that is why our position is extremely difficult. Will it be easier? Well, it won't,"Vucic said.
Vucic pledged Serbia will remain on the EU path but insisted "there must be a rational and pragmatic approach in politics, which takes the interests into account," pointing out that 300,000 Serbians work directly — and 500,000 indirectly — for foreign companies, two-thirds of which are from the EU.
He also offered a grim forecast for the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, saying if the fighting in Donbas does not end with a truce, the world will face "a worse world war than the previous one."
"A little man from the Balkans says that. I hope that they will start peace negotiations, otherwise we will all go," he warned.
After winning a second term, Vucic used his swearing in speech last month to declare that "we must be firm on the European path."
Ukraine has voted three times in the United Nations to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but has not signed on to EU sanctions.
Last week, Serbia announced that it expected Russian oil imports to stop this November due to EU sanctions blocking transit through member states. Russia currently supplies Serbia 70% of its oil consumption.
In May, Vucic announced that a new three-year agreement with Russia to provide Serbia natural gas under terms he described as "extremely favorable." With a population of 7 million, Serbia is a landlocked nation and relies heavily on Russian gas and oil.
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