Serbia’s PM: gov’t to be pro-EU keeping Russia, China ties

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s prime minister-designate said Wednesday her new government will be pro-European but will also maintain “friendly’’ relations with Russia and China.

Ana Brnabic made the comments in an address to parliament before it approved Serbia’s new government dominated by allies of autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic.

The vote was 227 for and five against in the 250-seat assembly. The rest of the lawmakers were absent.

Brnabic, who also led the previous Cabinet, said that the task of the new government will be to speed up “the process of European integration’’ by making rule of law and democratic reforms in line with requirements for joining the European Union.

Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has been strengthening its economic, political and military ties with Russia and China.

Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party swept the June 21 parliamentary vote that was boycotted by several of the main opposition parties. The Progressives won 188 seats in the 250-member assembly. The remainder went to Vucic’s allies or to minority groups.

The opposition boycott was carried out citing the lack of free and fair voting conditions and a danger to public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main opposition parties said on Wednesday the new government, which has 21 ministers — nearly half of them women — is not legitimate as it is the result of “fraudulent’’ elections.

Even before the new government was formed, Vucic announced that an early parliamentary election will be held by April 2022.

Analysts believe that his decision to hold an early vote is a result of pressure from the EU whose officials have voiced concern that the June election was neither free nor fair.

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