The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) expresses public disapproval regarding yesterday's statements of Sergey Zheleznyak, Deputy President of the Russian Duma, related to the European Union, the nature of European integration and the position and decisions of a country voluntarily entering this process.

Namely, asked about Serbia's aspirations towards EU membership, Zheleznyak stated: "Russia ne'er stands that Serbia is at the heart of Europe and needs to develop economic and trade relations with the Union. Relations with the EU have to be built on the basis of equal access and dialogue with mutual respect... We are certain that nobody can dictate Serbia the future it should choose. We are also certain that the countries who brought plenty of suffering and pain to Serbia have no right to dictate the Serbian people its future."

This is just one in a string of intentionally expressed disqualifying assessments on the EU and falsely interpreted procedures of European integration, that Russian officials systemically advocate in Serbia, aimed at depriving public support for this process.

Unfortunately, the same rhetoric is increasingly employed by Serbian officials, allegedly advocating for Serbia's European path. Hence, the lack of reaction of official Belgrade to such behaviour of Russian officials is not a surprise.

The essence of European integration is adoption of European legislation, and there can be no alleged "equality" when a country is voluntarily working on becoming part of a supranational community currently counting 28 members, with clearly defined accession procedures. The process of negotiations with the EU is not a "dialogue", but an extremely detailed, developed procedure with standards and expectations that a country wanting to become a member has to fulfil.

Especially worrying is the part of the statement saying that "the countries who brought plenty of suffering and pain to Serbia have no right to dictate the Serbian people its future". Aside from having Russian officials, also systemically, neglecting the fact that Serbia also brought plenty of suffering and pain to others, we remind that the majority of EU Member States are also NATO members, guessing that this is what Zhezeznyak was aiming at.

In both, as well as in Serbia for now - although increasingly difficult partly due to the undemocratic Russian influence to which the state inadequately reacts or allows it itself - state and social processes take place on the basis of the democratically expressed free will of the majority of citizens, and not on the basis of a "dictate", while in contemporary Russia this is not the case.

Belgrade, April 22, 2016