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Serbian leader blasts EU report on corruption, rule of law

March 26, 2021 GMT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president lashed out on Friday at a European Parliament report which called on his country to fight corruption and organized crime and work on the rule of law if it wants to join the European Union.

Using highly undiplomatic language, Aleksandar Vucic said that parts of the report are a “naked lie” and the European parliamentarians are apparently “lost in time and space.”

Asked whether the report adopted Thursday could slow down Serbia’s EU accession by pressuring the country to recognize independence of its former province of Kosovo, he said sarcastically: “I cannot sleep from fear.”

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Citing parts of the report on Serbia’s health care, Vucic praised his own handling of the coronavirus crisis and the acquisition of vaccines, mainly from China, which made Serbia one of Europe’s top countries per capita in the number of people inoculated.

The European Parliament report also noted the deterioration of press freedom in Serbia and the increase in intimidation and hate speech against the opposition, independent intellectuals, NGOs and journalists.

Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia under Vucic’s increasingly autocratic rule has been forging ever-closer ties with China and Russia.

Serbia’s main opposition Party of Freedom and Justice said Vucic’s remarks against the European lawmakers are “edging on hate speech.”

“It is now completely clear to everyone that he never really cared about the European Union,” the party statement said.

Before his populist Serbian Progressive Party came to power in 2012, Vucic was an ultranationalist who also served as the information minister during the NATO intervention in 1999 that stopped Serbia’s bloody crackdown against Kosovo separatists.

Serbia and its allies Russia and China do not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, while the U.S. and most of the Western states did.