Serbia must clearly show its strategic orientation towards the EU and willingness to align its foreign policy with the Union, says Lithuania’s foreign minister.
“The opposite is true now – alignment with the EU’s positions has been decreasing over the last five years,” Linas Linkevicius has told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.
According to the newspaper, Linkevicius previously caused “a storm of reactions” by saying that the EU must “reexamine” its enlargement policy “towards those countries that share EU’s values, not those who participate in military exercises with Russia.”
“It is crucial to avoid double standards for the countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership,” he “explained his position,” the paper said.
Lithuania, he added, supports the European perspective for all countries of the Western Balkans. “Issues related to chapter 31, that concerns foreign and defense policy, are important for assessing its strategic orientation,” he has been quoted as saying.
When asked if Serbia can maintain good relations with Russia and move towards the EU, Linkevicius said that Serbia was “not being asked to abandon its traditionally close relations with Russia.”
“However, when we face a violation of international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country, we must remain firm and united. Bearing in mind the aspirations of Serbia for EU membership and the Russian aggression in our neighborhood, some actions and statements by Serbia, such as the conduct of military exercises with Russia send out ambiguous messages to EU member states,” he said.
President Aleksandar Vucic recently asked for “a timeframe” for Serbia’s admission to the EU, the daily recalled – and the Lithuanian minister said the following on the topic:
“Enlargement is based on the merits of every country, not on the calendar. The ability to accelerate integration is entirely in the hands of Serbian authorities. Serbia’s progress on the rule of law and normalization of relations with Kosovo plays an important role.”
Vecernje Novosti published another article, stating that the EU will “press” Serbia harder in the fall, especially when it comes to relations with Russia. “Precisely those countries that have a problem with the Russian interference in the Ukrainian crisis, including Lithuania, are leading proponents of this position,” said the article.
According to the article, “the EU will have to find a way to separate Serbia from the influence of Russia.”