Aleksandar Vučić was sworn in for his second term as Serbia’s president on Tuesday, reinforcing the country's commitment to joining the bloc and hinting at sanctions against Moscow.
Aleksandar Vučić was sworn in for his second term as Serbia's president on Tuesday, pledging to keep the Balkan country on its EU membership path and hinting that a new government might consider joining Western sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Despite voting in favour of three UN resolutions condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Serbia remains one of a handful of European states -- including Belarus and Bosnia -- that has not joined sanctions against Moscow.
In his inaugural speech in parliament, Vučić said EU accession will be Serbia's top priority and that the new government, which should be formed in July, will have to work harder on gaining entry into the bloc and consider sanctions against Moscow, although he did not specifically mention Russia.
"Forming a new government is of utmost importance because of the situation we are in, difficult situation," he said. "We will have to deal with new sanctions and stuff, which could damage us so we will ask our European partners to help us," he said.
Opposition groups and foreign observers said the April vote was far from being free and fair and that Vučić's autocratic rule sidelines the government and parliament.
He has also maintained close relations with the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is considered to be a close ally, along with China's Xi Jinping.
Vučić announced on Sunday that he has secured an "extremely favourable" three-year natural gas deal with Russia during a telephone conversation with Putin -- something widely seen as his determination not to join EU sanctions despite pressure from the West.
In recent weeks, the country has been plagued by numerous bomb threats on its flights to Russia, as well as in public institutions, schools, the Belgrade airport and the zoo.
The origin of the threats is still unclear, but some in Vučić's government have indicated they believe they are connected to the country's hesitance to align with the EU against Russia.
But the Serbian president on Tuesday appeared to have considered further distancing himself from Moscow, saying that the country "must be firm on the European path."
He said Serbia will not seek NATO membership and would maintain its military neutrality.
"We are not politically neutral because we want membership in the European Union," said Vučić.