If Serbia is forced to choose between closer ties with Russia and joining the EU, it will choose the latter, says Serbian PM Ana Brnabic.

In an interview for US agency Bloomberg, Brnabic said she would continue the path her predecessor in the role, now President Aleksandar Vucic started on, in order to prepare Serbia to join the EU by 2020, when her mandate ends.

“The EU is where we’re going – that’s clear. We do have emotional ties with Russia because of tradition, culture and religion. There are many people in Serbia who completely perceive Russia as our big brother, our protector,” she said.

“Those sentiments can’t be disregarded,” Brnabic continued, “but our strategic path is the EU.”

Bloomberg noted that Vucic refused to introduce sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, something that Brnabic “couldn’t say she would continue if it imperils EU accession”:

“I can’t comment on that right now because in the Balkans, it’s very difficult to commit to anything. It’s a difficult region.”

As for Kosovo, Bloomberg reported that Brnabic said that “moving forward to normalize ties with the province now depended on Kosovo granting some autonomy to Serbs living in the north of the former province and the overall issue of status would be ‘decided at the very end of the journey’.”

“Regardless whether we get completely ready in 2020 to join the EU, it will again depend on the EU whether they want to accept new members,” she said.

Speaking about her relationship with Vucic, Brnabic said:

“I never once had a reason to doubt that I will have his full support for difficult decisions, but also a free hand to do what I think is best.”

Asked “whether she would be able to make decisions without his oversight,” she replied: “I would be surprised if I don’t.”

B92