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Serbs Prefer Closer Ties With Russia to EU Integration – Poll

© AP Photo / Darko VojinovicA man walks past by billboards reading "Russia", left and "Serbia", in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014
A man walks past by billboards reading Russia, left and Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014 - Sputnik International
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Serbian citizens have a more positive attitude toward Russia than toward the EU with a recent poll indicating that less than 50 percent of the country’s residents see their future in the European Union.

War veterans from the Balkan war of the 1990's stand near a memorial at the memorial center Potocari, near Srebrenica, 150 kms northeast of Sarajevo, Bosnia - Sputnik International
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Only 44 percent spoke in favor of EU integration, while a hefty 61 percent voted for closer ties with Russia, according to Politika newspaper survey conducted earlier this month.

This public sentiment somewhat contrasts with the official line though. Speaking at a recent graduation ceremony at the Higher School of National Security and Defense, President Tomislav Nikolic said that integration with the EU remained a top priority as it would make the people more affluent and better protected.

EU integration would also help modernize the country’s military, the President added.

At the same time, both Nikolic and his Prime Minister Alexander Vucic have repeatedly underscored the importance of closer ties with Russia and said that Serbia would not join the EU’s sanctions against Moscow despite strong pressure from Brussels.

Serbia applied for full EU membership in December 2009 and was confirmed as candidate in March 2012.

Prior to joining the 26-nation group Serbia needs to bring its legal system in line with EU standards, but consultations on this and  other accession issues have not even started yet.

During a recent meeting with German ambassador in Belgrade, Serbian first deputy prime minister and foreign minister Ivica Dacic said he expected Germany’s support for the earliest possible opening of negotiation discussions for Serbia's EU accession talks.

Mr. Dacic thanked Germany for its support for Serbia's European path and expressed hope that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s upcoming visit to Belgrade would speed up the country’s integration with the European Union.

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