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‘Serbia may look to Russia if EU turns its back’

Serbia may turn towards Russia if the EU refuses to grant it candidate status, and possibly allow Russian bases on its soil, the country’s deputy prime minister warned.

“Europe is making a big mistake if Serbia does not get candidacy status in March,” Ivica Dacic told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.

If Brussels and Washington continue to keep Belgrade on the sidelines it “would be normal to expect that a political faction directed more towards Russia would come into power” in Serbia, he said.

Serbia will hold general elections this spring which will pit the pro-European ruling coalition against the ultra-nationalist opposition which is more eurosceptic and pro-Russia.

“To make sure no one would have the idea to invite Russia to build a military base here, the EU and the US must have a policy of impartiality towards us,” Dacic warned.

“What would happen if a Russian military base was built in Serbia? Would that be a problem for the Americans? Certainly,” he said.

The EU is set to decide in March on granting Serbia candidacy status but has insisted Belgrade must show progress in EU-brokered talks with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Belgrade believes the 27-member EU supports mainly Kosovo and does not take into account Serbia’s interests. A majority of EU states recognise Pristina’s independence, along with the United States and dozens of other countries.

Russia has always supported Serbia’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Some 120,000 Kosovo Serbs live in Kosovo among the ethnic Albanian majority.