Serbia should not choose sides

BELGRADE - Serbia should not take sides and I would like the country to pursue the policy similar to the one carried out by Josip Broz Tito, but it should also align its policy with that of the EU, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has said.

In a live broadcast on Radio-Television of Serbia (RTS) on Monday evening, Nikolic noted that he has been accused of hindering Serbia's EU pathway because he invited President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to visit Serbia.

Nikolic noted that, during the election campaign and upon taking office, he clearly stated that he wants Serbia to join the EU.

Lukashenko's forthcoming visit has been considered since November last year, he explained, adding that he discussed the matter with Brussels.

According to Nikolic, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said that the visit should not take place in December before the beginning of Serbia's EU talks, and asked for it not to happen in February, so it was arranged in March.

Nikolic underscored that when the severe floods hit Serbia, Lukashenko offered assistance straight away, and he is the third president to visit Serbia after the natural disaster.

Serbia will not impose sanctions on Belarus, it should rather align its foreign policy with that of the EU, he underlined.

He said that a number of economic agreements will be signed during Lukashenko's visit, noting that a large number of Belarus buses are manufactured in Kragujevac, while the country has also expressed interest in Prva Petoletka, Serbia's manufacturer of hydraulic and pneumatic systems.

“Some reporters may not be interested in the fact that Belarus has not recognized the unilateral independence of Kosovo-Metohija, but I am very much interested, if they are not interested in the fact that Iran has not recognized Kosovo, I am very much interested, if they are not interested in the fact that Ukraine has not recognized Kosovo, I am interested,” the Serbian president underlined, adding that he has sent his advisor Ivan Mrkic to the inauguration of the new president of Ukraine.

Nikolic said that he will visit Ukraine provided the Ukrainian president pursues a policy of peace.

He said that it is unthinkable for Serbia to impose sanctions against Russia, noting that Serbia should have a balanced stance, and not made decisions depending on the power of the country in question.

“If Serbia wants to be respected, it should respect everyone in return,” he said.

I cannot go where my people will stand accused

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said that he will not attend the World War One centenary event in Sarajevo, stressing that he cannot go to a place where his people will stand accused.

The initial idea was for everyone to attend the ceremony in Sarajevo, and arrangements were being made with the leaders of Republika Srpska and the Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic, Nikolic said on a Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) talk show late on Monday

However, the organization of the event was entrusted to Sarajevo city officials who chose to hold the ceremony in the building bearing a sign that says - this is a place where Serb criminals killed people, said Serbian president.

"This is no way to reconcile,” said Nikolic, stressing that he cannot go to a place where his people will stand accused.

Radmanovic also decided not to attend the Sarajevo event, of which he informed the EU, added Nikolic.

Serbian president announced that he will participate in the ceremony scheduled for August 4 in Belgium, a country that endured great hardships in World War One, upon invitation of the King of Belgium.

Nikolic noted that he will try to attend all WWI centenary events set to take place in Serbia.

Vucic's visit should reveal fate of EU enlargement

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's visit to Berlin should reveal whether Germany's blockade on further EU enlargement will be lifted in 2019 or there is a different date, President Tomislav Nikolic has said.

Vucic's visit to Germany is the prime minister's most important visit this year because Germany is the most serious partner to all EU member states, but also to Serbia, which is on its path towards the EU, Nikolic told the RTS late Monday.

The instructions given by German MPs are road signs and warnings for us, Nikolic said, adding that Germany has shown interest in investing in Serbia "because we have a free market that the EU does not have."

After the visit to Berlin, Vucic is expected to inform the public on the tone and the topics of the discussions, said Nikolic, who also expects assistance that Germany could provide to help improve life in Serbia to be discussed as well.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that there will be no further EU enlargement in 2018 and 2019, and now it must be found out whether the blockade could be lifted in 2019 or there are new dates, Nikolic said.

Asked whether Germany - which aims to organize a conference on the Western Balkans - is taking over as the key player in the region, Nikolic said that a conference has already been held on Brdo pri Kranju and that another will take place in Dubrovnik in about 20 days under Merkel's auspices.

Asked whether Serbia should "tie its ship" to Germany, he said that there is no rescue ship that Serbia should be tied to as that would mean writing off a major part of the world that Serbia is cooperating with.

"Our policy is based on restoring old friendships and turning smaller friends into bigger ones... Everyone knows that I love Russia but I have never said that we should be tied to Russia. Every ship has its own navigation, objective, destination and captain," Nikolic said.

Photo Tanjug, S. Radovanovic (archive)