Serbia to Expand China Ties Despite EU Concerns, Deputy PM Says

(Bloomberg) -- Serbia will pursue closer cooperation with China regardless of European Union objections and intends to sign new agreements at the Belt and Road Forum next week in Beijing, Deputy Premier Ivica Dacic told reporters on Friday.

The links with Beijing “are not met with enthusiasm in Brussels,” Dacic said at a business conference with Chinese officials in Belgrade, accusing the bloc’s administration of “double standards.”

The EU “doesn’t mind that they sign big deals with China, they don’t mind being China’s top trading partner, but they do mind that we, small, miserable and poor have some specific interests with China,” he said.

The biggest former Yugoslav republic, which hopes to join the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, around 2025, is rebuilding its infrastructure with the help of foreign investors, including Chinese contractors and lenders whose current and planned projects in Serbia exceed $5.6 billion, according to government data.

Serbia also relies on China for support in disputing the 2008 secession of Kosovo, which won recognition from more than 100 states, including 25 out of 28 EU members. Dacic said this formed a “friendship of steel” with China, along with investments that saved from bankruptcy Serbian companies such as the nation’s sole steel plant and its biggest miner RTB Bor.

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