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EU backs Serbia's new government amid Russian doubts

EU BACKS SERBIAS NEW GOVERNMENT AMID RUSSIAN DOUBTS

The European Union's enlargement chief on Friday welcomed Serbia's new government despite Russian claims Belgrade's EU membership bid is set to fail.

On Thursday night the Serbian parliament chose a new government lead by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the country's first female and openly gay premier.

Recently-elected Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic backed Brnabic after he stepped down as prime minister to run for office as head of state.

European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hann congratulated Brnabic and said he looked forward to working with her team to improve Serbia's EU accession process. Serbia became an EU candidate country in 2012.

Earlier, Serbia's parliament approved the opening of a new Ministry of European Integration.

Serbia recently opened two more chapters in EU membership negotiations in Luxembourg, focusing on intellectual property legislation and the EU customs union.

Serbia has thus opened 10 of 35 negotiating chapters.

In a speech at parliament, Brnabic emphasized how Serbia would continue a delicate balancing act between the West and Russia, a traditional ally.

"EU membership remains our main direction," Brnabic said while presenting her policy program for the new government, but added her administration would work on strengthening relations with Moscow.

The country's top officials have repeatedly emphasized that Serbia will never implement or support Western sanctions against Russia.

However, Russia thinks Serbia's EU bid is to fail because of EU conditions.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin -- a recent attendee of Vucic's presidential inauguration in Belgrade -- recently told Sputnik: "[Serbs] have a good government, but the conditions will be such that Serbia will never join the EU".

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