Candidate countries for EU membership have an obligation to gradually harmonise their foreign and security policy with that of Europe, and Serbia has recently made several important steps towards that goal, said head of EU delegation to Serbia Emanuele Giaufret.
Speaking at a presentation of the EU’s new strategic plan EU Strategic Compass for Security Response, he said that by voting in international bodies such as the United Nations and UNESCO, Serbia has clearly decided against Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.
“Serbia has complied with some sanctions imposed by the European Union in connection with the Maidan crisis in 2014, and has supported restrictive measures against Belarus, so we expect this trend to continue in the future. There are no fixed deadlines, but we expect it to happen”, said Giaufret.
He added that the European Union has so far introduced five packages of sanctions against Russia, but that it is taking care that none of these measures affect countries that are EU partners, such as Serbia.
“We must protect our neighbours from sanctions, especially concerning gas”, said Giaufret, noting that Brussels had decided to exclude the Serbian NIS from the package of sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia, so as not to endanger Serbia’s energy stability.
Giaufret also explained that the European Union wants sanctions to force Russia to end the war and return to dialogue, but he also said that Brussels does not see an end to Russian aggression and that, after the war crimes in Bucha, he cannot rule out the possibility of a new package of sanctions against Russia that would deal with oil and energy.
“We want to see Serbia stand with us. We are working together with our Serbian partners to stop Russian aggression against Ukraine and we are in constant dialogue with the Serbian government on this issue”, said Giaufret.
HE Pierre Bashar, French Ambassador to Serbia, also said that the European Union counts on Serbia’s support and harmonisation with the EU’s position on Russian aggression. He said that as the country holding the presidency of the EU Council, France understands that Serbia’s position is challenging.
“In wanting to become a member of the EU, Serbia has certain obligations. We expect it to assume them, but we are aware of the difficulties. Personally, I am shocked by the amount of Russian propaganda in the Serbian media. We must all do our best to explain to the public and help them understand that this is not a Western fabrication, but a violation of human rights and international law”, said Bashar.
He noted that the European Union was united right from the start in condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and said that it would remain this way.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin, with his unilateral moves, has destroyed all diplomatic efforts and forced us to react and look for ways to save the world order. The unity of the Union has been important because Putin himself calculated that there would be division among member states”, said Bashar.
Pierre Bashar and Emanuel Giaufret agreed that the geopolitical moment and the return of war to Europe showed how important it is for the European Union to develop its security capacities to protect all member states and their economies.
“The Strategic Compass is a big step forward in security policy, which is based on 4 pillars – action, security, investment and cooperation. The European Union wants to become a more effective and stronger player in crises and by 2025 we will therefore establish a permanent rapid deployment unit with five thousand personnel ready to respond to various crises. We will also protect Europeans from cyber attacks, hybrid warfare and information manipulation. Climate change is also a great security challenge”, said Giaufret.
The ambassadors also emphasized that the strength of the European Union is to combine military and civilian strategies, which is why in the coming period special attention will be paid to increasing member states’ military budgets.
“The European Union is one of the main economic powers, but our military expenditures are significantly lower than those of other players. There is a common will to change that now. Germany has already increased its military budget, and most of the funds will be invested in innovation and development of new equipment”, explained Bashar, adding that it is important for the European Union to work with its partners to defend the world order in which, he said, Russia has reverted to the use of force.
They also noted that the unjustified Russian aggression in Ukraine has led to a massive humanitarian crisis and that the European Union has opened its doors to more than four and a half million refugees, which is the greatest migrant crisis since the end of the Second World War.