Serbian Prime Minister and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic reacts after elections in Belgrade, Serbia April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a German newspaper that Serbia would not hold a referendum on whether or not to join the European Union, which Belgrade hopes to do in 2020.
Britons voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the bloc, a decision that has taken its toll on global financial markets and raised concerns about the EU's future prospects.
Asked by Bild am Sonntag newspaper about reports Russian President Vladimir Putin is using his influence in Serbia to push for a referendum there on the EU, Vucic said: "I don't know anything about Putin but I know that some Serbian parties are openly calling for that."
He added: "My answer to that is clear: There won't be a referendum no matter how many initiatives there are for that."
Several small rightist parties that favour close ties with the Kremlin have in the past demanded a referendum on Serbia's accession to EU, although the country has only started negotiation process with the bloc.
He said that before Serbia's recent parliamentary elections, he had made clear that his goal was to join the EU.
"We won with an absolute majority. We'll do everything we can to reach this goal now. If we were to leave this path, Serbia would end up going the wrong way," he said.
Vucic and an alliance led by his Serbian Progressive Party won an April 24 election with 48.24 percent of the vote, securing a comfortable majority of 131 deputies in the 250-seat parliament.
He explained that there were a lot of "stupid and dangerous ideas" in Serbia and if there was a crisis there, there would be a crisis in the whole region. Old conflicts could be opened up again, he warned.
Vucic said he was very concerned that the mood in Serbia could turn against the EU, adding: "Decisions like those on the accession negotiation chapters nurture the nationalist forces in the country, especially because we performed better than all the others in the previous stages."
Serbia is performing a delicate balancing act between its European aspirations and partnership with NATO and its centuries-old religious, ethnic and political alliance with Russia.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Tom Heneghan)