aleksandar vučić.jpg
Photograph: POOL/ HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ /ds

Serbia will do its utmost to have the best possible relations with Croatia and it will not threaten anyone because the two countries have a shared interest in having the highest possible trade, but Serbia will know how to protect its national and state interests, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday evening.

"We want our trade to be as high as possible. Today it stands at close to one billion euros and it used to amount to some 460 million. That is a mutual interest. We will work to develop those relations, and for the first time Serbia is not in a subordinated position. We will continue to fight and develop our economy," Vucic said in an interview with the national public broadcaster RTS.

Asked if there would be difficulties in relations with Croatia if Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenkovic was appointed Croatia's new Prime Minister, Vucic said that he knew Plenkovic and described him as a "serious man", adding that Serbia would try to build the best possible relations both with Plenkovic and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

"I am not very optimistic because Serbs are the main topic in Croatia... It was easier to score diplomatic victories before, when (Zoran) Milanovic was in power, now it will be more difficult," said Vucic.

Vucic would not give a straightforward answer when asked to comment on claims in the Croatian media that Croatia was preparing "a serious response" to an announced joint military exercise of Serbian, Russian and Belarusian forces, noting that Serbia did not comment on Croatia's purchases of military equipment.

"We did not respond when they bought armoured howitzers and rockets. We did not comment on that. We did not make any purchases, we have little money and we are trying to develop our military industry, which we are doing successfully," Vucic said, noting that "the Serbian army has much more joint exercises" with NATO countries as part of the Partnership for Peace programme than with Russia.

He stressed that the process of integration with the EU remained Serbia's strategic goal and that on its path to the EU Serbia wanted to keep "the best possible relations with Russia" as well as with China.

Commenting on the current situation in the EU, Vucic said that the end of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's rule next year would mean "the end of Europe and the EU as we know them", the more so if Merkel were to lose elections next year.

Noting that many were looking forward to Merkel's defeat, Vucic said that he was not because Merkel had saved the Balkans from "conflicts and unrest when the migrant crisis started and when threats of sanctions were issued here."

Commenting on the migrant crisis, Vucic said, "Serbia will not build walls on its borders but it won't be a parking lot for refugees either."

He said that around 6,500 migrants were currently staying in Serbia, that 81% of them were from Afghanistan and that they were "very aggressive".

"They are causing problems, mostly in Belgrade. We have started with the first arrests for theft, but that does not mean that we will implement repressive measures, this means only that we are cautious. We will know how to protect our country because their number is growing... we will find the most rational solution," said Vucic. 

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