MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Serbia is interested in joining the European Union, but not at the expense of its relations with Russia, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said Friday.
"We have already said that we wish to become a member of the European Union, this is in our interests. We [seek this] as a country that both geographically and politically belongs to this part of Europe, but this cannot happen at the expense of our good relations with the Russian Federation," Dacic said at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"Serbia implements a policy of military neutrality. We do not intend to join NATO and nobody in Serbia is raising this issue. Our cooperation with NATO remains at the level of partnership for peace," he said, noting that the Serbian people "do not support NATO membership for Serbia at all."
The European Union granted Serbia candidate status for membership in 2012, but requires Belgrade to implement a number of reforms as well as effectively recognize Kosovo as an independent state. The current Serbian government maintains that its relations with Kosovo should not be a factor in EU membership negotiations.
The Russian-Serbian dialogue has traditionally been focused on supporting peace and stability in the Balkans, mainly in terms of settling the Kosovo issue. Russia has continuously assisted Serbia in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity regarding Kosovo. The Serbian authorities, despite positioning themselves for EU membership, refused to impose sanctions against Russia and are remaining disengaged in the events in Ukraine.