By Miloš Mitrović – Belgrade
Serbian section of the “South Stream” natural gas pipeline would be of vital importance for Serbia; it would strengthen its regional position and provide new jobs, prime minister Ivica Dačić told Associated Press. The construction of the pipeline in Serbia started on Sunday. Russian company Gazprom has invested $2.7 billion in Serbian pipeline section, bypassing Ukraine and ensuring gas transport to Europe.
Russia was not opposed to the accession process of Serbia to European Union, but “Western powers” have shifted Serbia closer to Russia, Dačić said in the interview. Nevertheless, PM explained that “traditionally close” relations between Russia and Serbia would not influence Serbian aspiration to join EU.
“Those who criticize Serbia due to its close relations and partnership with Russia should ask themselves why they did not offered Serbia such relations”, Dačić said alluding to Western leaders. “I keep saying to the West that Serbia needs strategic partner in the West also… But they are not interested at all”, Serbian PM stressed.
Dačić has rebuffed the claims by “pro-Western” opposition parties that “foundation of the Russian economical and political domination” has been established in 2008 by signing the energy agreement between two countries. In January 2008 Serbia and Russia signed an agreement giving 51% of the state-owned energy company NIS shares to Gazprom Neft for €400 million and €550 million in investments. Critics “are unconformable with Russian presence in this part of the world”, Dačić said.
He has explained that Serbian section of the South Stream pipeline would cost approximately € 2 billion. The construction would be financed by Gazprom and Serbia; Serbia would pay off its part throw gas transit taxes, Dačić specified. He said that 20,000 jobs would be created by the investment. “We (Serbia) will become the part of the pan-European project; this is not just Russian project”, Dačić emphasized adding that he has suggested the pipeline should also reach Kosovo.
According to Dačić, Serbia strives to integrate its two “strategic objectives – partnership with Russian Federation and EU membership”. Serbia also wants more close relations with Washington, but “it takes two for the partnership”, he concluded.