Once aligned with Russia, Serbia has been taking decisive steps to distance itself from Russia and grow closer to the United States and the European Union.
Serbia reportedly is “in a hurry" to retake the majority control of its main oil company, NIS, from Russia's Gazpromneft, and free itself from Moscow’s grip.
The Financial Times reported this weekend the effort is part of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s plan to diversify energy sources to protect his nation from the impact of international sanctions on Russia.
"It’s crazy that we didn’t think about connecting with each other and building this infrastructure network before," Vucic said, reports The Financial Times. "We were not in the habit of wars in Europe, but now it is different. Almost everything changed. That’s why we are in a hurry.”
The country is also pursuing other projects, including an oil pipeline to Hungary, to build its energy infrastructure, he added.
Three sources with knowledge of the situation said there are several groups, including Serbia's government and the Hungarian energy company, MOL, that are considering buying out the controlling stake from Gazpromneft. Talks are said to have stalled.
Serbia, a landlocked company, has been left exposed while the European Union has targeted Russian energy over its invasion of Ukraine. Serbia is not an EU member but is currently negotiating to join the organization.
As Moscow has acquired Serbia's gas storage and oil refineries, Serbia must depend on Russia for all its gas and half of its oil.
The EU has also sought to stop Russian energy and gas from moving across EU member states, including the flow to Serbia through Croatia’s Adria pipeline.
As Moscow has acquired Serbia's gas storage and oil refineries, Belgrade must depend on Russia for all its gas and half of its oil.
Starting in December, EU states will no longer be allowed to have oil and gas flow to non-member states, though Serbia has been allowed an exemption.
If Brussels, however, overturns the exemption, NIS will not be allowed to do business with EU countries, shutting down all its operations.
Vucic said Serbia, which is also a membership candidate for the EU, must consider all possibilities as more sanctions against Russian-owned companies will "be a huge problem for us ... we have to secure enough oil and gas for our people."
Despite historic and cultural ties with Russia, Vucic has taken several politically courageous steps to distance his nation from Moscow.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Serbia voted to support the U.N. resolution condemning the military action.
In October, Serbia backed another U.N. resolution opposing Moscow’s “unlawful” annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
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