Mogherini responds to objections from Serbian MPs

The EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini was drowned out by Serbian MPs in the Serbian Parliament as she called for integrating the Western Balkans into the European bloc.

Several nationalist MPs in the Belgrade parliament interrupted the EU chief’s address several times as she told them that Serbia was one of the next to join the 27-member bloc.

The right-wing Serbian lawmakers, who passionately oppose Serbia’s bid to join the EU, banged on benches and chanted: “Serbia, Russia, we don’t need the union!”

Some lawmakers held banners saying, “Serbia doesn’t trust Brussels” as Mrs Mogherini struggled to finish her 20-minute speech.  Many of the MPs favour closer ties with Russia, a more traditional ally for the Slavic country.

Mrs Mogherini stopped her speech several times during the interruptions. She faced mocking laughs when she told the parliament that the EU, Serbia, and the Western Balkans were closely joined and needed each other. The interruptions came largely from members of the Serbian Radical Party and the right-wing Dveri party.

She told the unruly MPs: “If you count on me to get tired of this, you miscalculated.

“I understand you have a long electoral campaign to run, maybe you’ll need your voice to speak to your citizens.” Later, she added: “It’s not nice to be rude to a lady. It’s a matter of politics.

“It’s about a difficult political environment here and in the region, and it is also about different ways of interpreting the path that Serbia has taken.” She told the half-empty room: “You have a great responsibility. Serbia has always been on the crossroads of different worlds.”

According to the foreign policy chief, the European Union will never be complete without Serbian involvement. Mrs Mogherini, who is on a tour of the Balkans, told the region that the EU remains open to expansion despite the Brexit decision.

Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic insisted that Serbia “remains firmly on the European path”.

However, many Serbians are angered by the EU’s insistence that the country has to recognize the independence of its former province of Kosovo before admission into the bloc. With an election later this year, many have clamored for a pivot towards Russia. Mr Vucic announced this week that he will meet with Rusian President Vladimir Putin “in the coming weeks”.

Russia recently declared the Western Balkans to be part of its “sphere of influence” and has taken advantage of growing nationalist sentiment and ethnic frictions in the region to reassert its influence there.

(Daily Express, 04.03.2017)

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