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Serbian president says Putin respects Belgrade’s choice

May 18, 11:36 UTC+3 MADRID

Serbia is currently an official candidate for EU membership

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MADRID, May 18. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend of Serbia who has always respected the path chosen by the country, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in an interview published in Spain’s El Pais daily on Friday.

"We launched this process [the integration into the European Union - TASS] in 2000, so it has been 18 years," Vucic pointed out. "I hope we will be able to complete it in 2025," he added. According to the Serbian president, the matter "depends on EU member states" but there is the Kosovo issue to consider. "I believe that when one looks into the future, one wants to create enough jobs for the young people as otherwise there is no future at all," Vucic added.

"We had to go through many wars in the 20th century that we did not want to take part in, but they need to be left behind so that peace and stability can be ensured in Serbian and the entire region," Vucic went on to say. When asked whether Putin had ever proposed a path differed from the European one to Serbia, he answered in the negative. "He [Putin] is a friend of Serbia and he has always respected our choice," Vucic pointed out.

While talking to the German Rheinische Post daily, the Serbian president stressed that Belgrade would not forget its friendship with Russia and would never join European sanctions against Moscow. "I have always said that we will never join the EU’s sanctions on Russia," he said.

According to Vucic, he knew the Russian president well and was confident that Serbia could always rely on him. "There were three times when I urgently needed his help and every time I managed to immediately get him on the phone," Vucic added.

The Serbian president said that he had "never heard Putin object to Serbia’s wish to join the EU." He admitted that Serbia’s "joining NATO would become a problem for Russia but this issue is not under consideration because Serbia wants to remain militarily neutral."

Serbia is currently an official candidate for EU membership, as well as Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. No time frame for their joining the European Union has been determined so far although European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in the autumn of 2017 that he expected Serbia and Montenegro to become EU members by 2025.

Brussels earlier made it clear that in order to join the EU, Serbia particularly needed to resolve the Kosovo issue by signing a legally binding document.

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