BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s pro-Russian defense minister warned Thursday the Balkan country could ditch its European Union membership goals for close ties with Moscow.
In blunt comments to a pro-government TV channel, Aleksandar Vulin said that “in case the EU doesn’t want Serbia, there are others who do.”
“They (the EU) says ‘we are tired of an enlargement,'” Vulin told Pink TV. “We are tired of you and your policies of constantly changing goals and setting new conditions.”
Although Serbia formally seeks EU membership, its populist leaders have gradually steered Serbia toward its ally Russia. Moscow is a key backer of Serbia’s stance over Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, but the two have been told they must improve bilateral relations to join the EU. The bloc has mediated negotiations aimed at resolving the long-standing Balkan dispute, but those talks have been stalled due to continuing tensions between the neighbors.
Vulin also said Serbia must form “a firm, strongly defended border” with Kosovo Albanians, apparently urging takeover of a territory in northern Kosovo where ethnic Serbs remain a majority.
That would put Serbia in direct confrontation with NATO-led peacekeepers who have been deployed in Kosovo since the end of hostilities in 1999.
With Kosovo pushing for more involvement from Washington in the negotiations, there have been signs that Serbia may respond by asking for Moscow’s participation.