Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says the European Union (EU) is a partner of Serbia, while Russia is its friend.

Belgrade’s strategic goal is to join the EU, while it is “deeply committed to close and friendly relations with Russia,” Brnabic has told the BBC, adding that her country was “trying to maintain balance at a challenging time.”

She said that the previous government has been successful in accession negotiations with the EU and that ten chapters have opened, while two were closed.

“The EU is our partner and understands our ties with Russia,” Brnabic said.

Asked if her appointment as the head of government was “only a mask” and whether President Aleksandar Vucic would continue to run the country, Brnabic said that he, while serving as prime minister, never interfered in her work while she was minister of state administration and local self-government.

“I expect it will be the same while I run the government,” Brnabic said, adding that Serbia “now has a president and a prime minister who have the same goal.”

Asked about her appointment as PM “as the first openly gay person in such in a conservative country,” Brnabic said that the situation improved considerably during Vucic’s premiership.

In the past three years, pride parades have been held in which ministers and the mayor of Belgrade took part, said Brnabic, adding that “society is changing”.

She said that Serbia is the most multi-ethnic state in Europe and that the Serbian people are tolerant, “but this is often not noticed from the outside.”

“I love my country. I love that I can do something for my country,” Brnabic said.

In an interview for Bloomberg published earlier on Tuesday, Brnabic said that “if forced to choose, Serbia would choose EU membership over closer ties with Russia.”