Russian media: EU delivered ultimatum to Belgrade

MOSCOW -- In the wake of EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn's visit here, the Russian media are reporting about EU's "ultimatum to Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia."

Moscow (Beta/AP, file)
Moscow (Beta/AP, file)

The Russian state-controlled newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that the EU demand put before Serbia to join the sanctions was "unprecedented," and raises the question of whether the country can continue to oppose the increasing pressure from Brussels.

The newspaper quoted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić who said that Serbia "does not ave two or three policies" and that his government implements the only one "in the interest of its citizens."

"The demand of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn is very strong and if the government in Belgrade walks down this path, it will open up the way for the disappearance of Serbia. The probability that this will happen exists," Ana Filimonova of the Center for Study of Contemporary Balkan Crises was quoted as saying.

According to her, this government has already "basically agreed to the independence of Kosovo," and so it should not be ruled out that in the future, it might opt to join the sanctions.

"The Serbian people want to stay with Russia, but they have no instruments to influence the government. The Serbian parliament has no any opposition party that is against moving closer to the EU," said this analyst.

According to her, there is advantage to cooperation with Russia, as Russian President Vladimir Putin promised USD 10 billion worth of investments in Serbia, which is also one of the South Stream countries - "while Serbs can expect nothing good from the EU."

The newspaper also quotes the opinion of Serbian analyst Đorđe Vukadinovć who said he "did not think there was any need for Serbia to take cardinal decisions in favor of the EU."

The daily then quoted another analyst, Dušan Janjić, who said that "it should not be expected that Serbia will now impose sanctions," as well as that the Serbian leadership "can withstand pressure until March next year."

"In the event that by that time Russia and the EU do not find a mutually acceptable solution to overcome the current situation, Belgrade will be forced to toughen its attitude towards Moscow in favor of Brussels," Janjić believes.

The daily Kommersant meanwhile writes that the European Commission presented Serbia with an ultimatum, and received promises in Belgrade on Thursday that coordination of its foreign policy with Brussels will unfold gradually.

The paper said "Serbian experts" predict that unless EU-Moscow relations improve by the spring, Belgrade will have to join the sanctions "in order to gain a Western financial aid package."

This daily also turned to Dušan Janjić, who said Belgrade "received the first yellow card from the EU", and that it was clearly said for the first time that two-thirds of Serbia's trade volume are associated with the EU, and that "these channels can be closed."

"The current situation in Serbia is similar to what it was in Ukraine. Hahn's statements are just part of the 'package'. The second part will follow from the International Monetary Fund, who will strengthen their demands towards Belgrade, thereby supporting the position of the EU," he said.

Janjić repeated that "if by March Moscow and Brussels do not improve relations, the Serbian leadership will unwillingly, under pressure, join the sanctions."

"Our main weakness is the unbalanced budget. By not supporting the position of the EU, Serbia will get not get western financial assistance," Janjić believes.

During his meeting with the EU official in Belgrade on Thursday, Prime Minister Aleksadar Vučić reiterated Serbia's position when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis and Russia, noting that Serbia will not join the sanctions.

President Tomislav Nikolić said that Serbia at this point and in the coming years would not do so, and that he heard from Hahn that EU membership implies a common foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić spoke for the Belgrade-based daily Danas confirming this position, and when asked, adding that Serbia would not consider introducing "even the mildest form of sanctions" against the Russian Federation.