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Serbia Wants EU Membership and Russia’s Friendship: Rebuffs EU Demand For Sanctions on Russia

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By Kalyan Kumar | August 25, 2014 3:56 PM EST

Serbia has openly defied the diktat of the European Union to enforce sanctions against Russia and cut down food exports to that country.

Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting of the Security Council in Moscow's Kremlin July 22, 2014.

Making Serbia's stand clear, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic ruled out any kind of sanctions on Russia. Associated Press reported that the Slavic country wanted to leverage the market opportunity stemming from Russia's counter sanctions against the West by exporting more food into the Russian market.

Despite the talks with EU for a membership, Serbia increased food sales to Russia by 68 per cent in the first half of 2014, says the data from the Chamber of Commerce in Belgrade, reported Bloomberg.

EU Warning

Serbia approached the EU for a membership in January this year and the request is pending. The EU foreign ministers last week sounded out to all EU aspirants to refrain doing trade with Russia and adopting such measures in exploiting the new trading opportunities conditioned by the introduction of  trade curbs and sanctions imposed by the EU.

However, Prime Minister Alexander Vucic is unperturbed. He said his government would abide by the demands of EU in not subsidizing exports to Russia. At the same time, he will not stop Serbian companies from making deals with Russia.  Serbia hopes to take advantage of the situation and is looking to increase food exports to Russia from the current value of $170 million to $300 million.

Energy Concerns

On the Ukraine issue, Serbia has made clear that it respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and condemns Russia's annexation of Crimea. But imposing sanctions against Russia would be disastrous for the economy, because Serbia's energy needs are heavily met by the supplies from Russia's Gazprom.

Though Serbia's strategic goal is to become a member of the European Union, Serbia will not like to sacrifice its good relations with the Russian Federation. The Serbian Prime Minister asserted that friendly relations with Russia are in the best interests of his country.

Playing Two Pianos

In a report the Economist magazine compared Serbia's stand as playing two pianos at a time. On the one side of Serbia is Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor and at the other end is Vladimir Putin.

The US and the EU slapped sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the Ukranian crisis and MH17plane tragedy. As a result, the banks and major industries of Russia are facing an economic blockade from the west. Russia too responded with its own sanctions prohibiting import of food products from its western rivals.

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(Photo: Reuters / Mikhail Klimentyev)
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting of the Security Council in Moscow's Kremlin July 22, 2014.
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