“80 or 85% of Serbian citizens want the Russian vaccine”

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Serbia expects that by the time it joins the European Union, Brussels will soften its approach towards Russia. This was stated by the ambassador of the republic in Moscow Miroslav Lazanski… In a written interview, which the diplomat gave to Izvestia, he said that what is Belgrade’s attitude to the European policy of sanctions, what the republic will receive from the production of Sputnik V and when will the next visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Serbia take place?

“Sanctions are not politics, but the absence of politics.”

– Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he expects the acceleration of the republic’s accession to the European Union. What is the best time frame for Belgrade’s accession to the EU?

– As for the most optimal timing for Serbia’s accession to the European Union, we hoped that, according to previous promises from Brussels, Serbia could become an EU member sometime in 2025. But now this is clearly not the right date, since the European Union is dealing with its own problems, and it is obvious that it has pushed back these dates. At the moment, we cannot name the most optimal terms for joining. Naturally, we would like to see this happen as soon as possible, but it does not depend only on us. For its part, Serbia is doing everything to fully adapt its position to those criteria that, according to the EU, are necessary in order to become a full member of the community.

– The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called on Serbia to more actively join the sanctions regimes of the community. According to him, this is one of the elements of rapprochement of the foreign policy of Brussels and Belgrade. The European Union is actively using some of its sanctions mechanisms against Russia. It turns out that Serbia is faced with a choice: either to support the EU and undermine relations with the Russian Federation, or not to impose sanctions and risk its European integration. Which of these two options does Belgrade choose?

– From the point of view of our position sanctions are not politics, but the absence of politics, and Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic said, will never impose restrictive measures against Russia… We in Serbia know better than anyone what sanctions are, because we have been subjected to Western restrictions for years and we know how it affected the lives of our citizens. Are we faced with a choice: either to support the EU – to impose sanctions against the Russian Federation and undermine relations with Russia, or not to impose sanctions? We will say right away, and our President Vucic has repeatedly stressed this, Serbia will never impose sanctions against the Russian Federation. Because we believe, I repeat, that sanctions are not a serious policy, but rather a lack of policy.

The EU

EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell speaks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic after a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, April 26, 2021

– All key decisions, including sanctions, in the European Union are taken unanimously. If Serbia becomes its member, how independent will its foreign policy be – will the republic be able to maintain its current course in the Russian direction? Does Belgrade think that, by joining the European Union, it automatically accepts the rhetoric of unification in relation to the Russian Federation? If not, will Serbia be ready to block EU sanctions decisions?

– Firstly, we are not yet a member of the EU, and until we become a full member of it, we are not obliged to fully align our foreign policy with the foreign policy of the European Union… But when it comes to the EU, the question arises: does it have a common foreign policy? If you look at the fact that the five countries of the union do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state, there are still certain disagreements, then, in my opinion, the union does not have a single foreign policy, except for unity regarding sanctions against the Russian Federation, and this is only at the official level.

And if we look at the EU countries separately, we note that although they declaratively support sanctions against Moscow, in practice they are not fully implemented… Consequently, the issue of a common EU foreign policy is highly debated. On the one hand, we do not know what will happen to the EU in three or four years. On the other hand, we expect that Brussels and Moscow will find a common language and that until Serbia becomes a full member of it, the EU will soften these relations with Russia and the sanctions will be lifted.


Patients suffering from coronavirus disease at the Stark Arena sports complex, which has been converted into a hospital, Belgrade, Serbia, 22 April 2021

Photo: REUTERS / Marko Djurica

“We expect the pandemic in Serbia to subside”

– Morbidity COVID in Serbia has declined again. How could you explain this trend and is the country’s leadership expecting a new surge in the pandemic?

– In Serbia, there is a decrease in new cases of infection with the COVID-19 virus, and taking into account all the measures taken by the state, and the fact that we purchased and received drugs from different countries and that our vaccination process has become massive, we expect that the number of cases will decrease. So, we expect the Serbian pandemic to subside.

– How would you describe the course and pace of vaccination in Serbia? What place in this process does the Russian drug Sputnik V “?

– Vaccinations in Serbia are progressing well. More than 3.5 million citizens have already received the first vaccine, the number of citizens who received the second dose of the vaccine is approaching 2 million… The Russian drug “Sputnik V” occupies an important place in this, but the citizens themselves choose. First, vaccination is not mandatory in our country, it is carried out on a voluntary basis. Secondly, each citizen can choose which of the vaccines to be vaccinated. But the fact is that 80 or 85% of Serbian citizens want the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Production of the Russian vaccine against COVID-19 “Sputnik V” at the Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Serums “Torlak”, April 15, 2021


– Serbia became the first European country to decide to produce a Russian vaccine. What benefits will Belgrade get from this – in particular, does this mean that all export earnings will go to the republic? When will the production of Sputnik V be fully operational and what maximum production capacity does the country plan to reach?

Serbia is the first country in Europe to start producing a Russian vaccine. Now the stage of checking the quality of the first doses, after which we will be able to independently carry out not only packaging, but also release… This is all thanks to the excellent relationship between the two leaders – President Vucic and President Putin, as well as the strategic partnership between Serbia and the Russian Federation.

What benefits will we get from the release of the Russian vaccine? First of all, with the start of production, Serbia will become independent in the field of high-quality pharmaceutical industry. Income? Of course, some income will belong to Serbia, but whether we will be able to export the Sputnik V vaccine, at what prices and on what terms, depends, of course, on the agreement with the Russian side.

– Today Serbia is one of the few countries with which Russia has direct flights. How many Russians will the republic expect in the coming tourist season?

– Yes, we have direct flights with the Russian Federation. Flights are operated by Air Serbia and Aeroflot. It seems that the flights are operated by another Russian company – Nordwind. We expect the arrival of Russian tourists to Serbia. Our travel destinations have always been attractive to Russians. And not only the excellent relations between the two countries, but also the traditional friendship of the Russian and Serbian peoples, probably contributes to the fact that they feel comfort and an atmosphere of friendliness in Serbia, just like our tourists when they come to Russia.

“This is already the successive nature of their mutual meetings”

– They said in Belgrade that they expect the visit of Vladimir Putin in 2021. Are there any specific agreements on this score and clarity on the timing of this visit?

Yes, we look forward to President Putin’s visit to Serbia this year. This was agreed at the highest level. This is probably due to the date of the inauguration of the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade, in the construction of which both Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church participated and helped.

– Is Alexander Vucic expected to visit Russia this year? Will the Serbian President visit Moscow for the Victory Parade on May 9?

– As far as we know, the President of Serbia will not be present at the Victory Parade on May 9 here in Moscow. This is not a circular anniversary celebration of the victory in World War II, and I think no foreign presidents were invited this year, but we hope that President Vucic will again be a guest of President Putin here in Moscow this year, because this is already the successive nature of their mutual meetings… And the friendship of the two presidents actually dictates the frequency of these mutual visits.