• Foreign minister calls decision "shameful, humiliating”
  • Labor minister says Serbia should rethink EU orientation

Serbia expressed anger after the European Union refused to open accession negotiations on rule-of-law issues, even as the bloc advanced talks with fellow membership candidates Montenegro and Turkey.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic lambasted the decision as “shameful, incomprehensible and humiliating” and said it was “a result of the political intention to halt or slow down Serbia’s European path,” according to an e-mailed statement. Dacic said he’ll advise Premier Aleksandar Vucic to “hold urgent consultations” before the prime minister visits Paris for a meeting of Balkan leaders on July 4. Vucic will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. on Friday, his office said.

After winning April 24 snap elections, he has dragged his feet on forming a new cabinet and is facing discontent over policies, including street protests over backsliding on media freedoms and demolitions in Belgrade to make way for a 3 billion-euro ($3.4 billion) development with U.A.E. investors. Vucic has pledged to reduce the Balkan state’s public deficit and debt by cutting the size of the state administration and closing or selling state companies that drain more than $1 billion from the budget each year.

Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin, an ally of Vucic, called for Serbia to rethink its approach toward EU entry, Tanjug news service reported. Serbia has long split allegiances between western Europe and Russia, and Vucic’s Progressive Party signed a cooperation agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week agreeing to consult about their international relations.

“I think this is a good occasion to perhaps reconsider our foreign policy orientation and to perhaps again reassess our policy toward the EU,” Vulin was quoted as saying. 

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