Belgrade: At a time when Europeans are trying to isolate Russia and somehow try to free themselves from fossil fuels, Serbia is tightening ties with Moscow over Russia’s gas deal.
Belgrade has been a candidate for entry into the European Union for ten years but has maintained close ties with the Kremlin. If Serbia condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by Russia at the end of February, it refuses to align itself with sanctions against Moscow.
The Balkan country of seven million has won a “very favorable” agreement to supply Russian gas for three years, Serbian President Alexander Vusic announced on Sunday after a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has limited itself to saying that Moscow will “continue to supply natural gas to Serbia without hindrance” but the Serbian head of state has assured that this is “the best deal in Europe”.
“We will have a safe winter in terms of gas supply,” he assured, predicting that the bill would then be 10 to 12 times lower than anywhere else in Europe.
European countries this week agreed to ban most of Russia’s oil imports to dry up war funds.
The bloc also wants to reduce its dependence on gas, with Moscow cutting off pipelines to several European countries, but the possibility of a complete ban on the source of the energy seems far-fetched.
“The trend of brotherhoodA
Brussels has condemned the gas deal with Moscow, saying it hopes Serbia “will not strengthen its ties with Russia”.
“Candidate countries, including Serbia, should gradually align their policies with EU policy and position towards third countries with restrictive measures,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for the commission.
Officially, Belgrade prioritizes European objectives but avoids any anti-Russian action. The pro-government media repeats messages written by the Kremlin.
The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, is expected to arrive in Belgrade soon, according to local press. A visit to Moscow has not been confirmed. He told Serbian journalists that Russia was “sure” that their country would continue to make “smart choices”.
Serbian officials have accused the West of pressuring Belgrade to comply with sanctions, and some have called for the EU bid to be scrapped.
“It’s as if society has spent the last decade preparing for an alliance with Moscow, not for joining the European Union,” Sarzjan Civic, head of the BiEPAG (Balkan in European Policy) group, told AFP. Advisory group).
The exact details of the deal have not been announced.
But “there is always a + fraternal clause + favorable price implicit, which does not appear in the agreement but which leads to related measures or political concessions”, Judge Goran Vasik, energy expert at Novi Saad University.
Serbian authorities deny that supplying gas at a friendly price is a “reward.”
“Anyone who accuses us of not imposing sanctions on Russia because of the gas deal should be ashamed,” said Prime Minister Anna Bronabic.
“If we do not impose sanctions on Russia, it is in principle.”
Belgrade is grateful to Russia for refusing to recognize its former province of Kosovo and highlights its historical and cultural ties with the Russian “big brother”.
But in reality, there is very little room for Serbian strategy. The previous agreement on Russian gas supplies, at the desired rate, was about to expire in the near future without any effective solution for Belgrade.
Over the past few decades, Serbia has gradually built a pipeline exclusively for Russian gas, giving Moscow a virtual monopoly on its energy sector.
In 2008, the year Kosovo declared independence, it sold the majority stake in NIS, its oil and gas company, to the Russian giant Gazprom, widely seen as the price paid for the UN’s Moscow veto in the former Serbian province.
“It is clear that during all this time, we had a well-organized lobby that defended the monopoly and continues to do so,” Goran Vasik added.