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Serbia should join EU before Ukraine, Orbán says

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The EU “will lose” Serbia to China unless it lets the country join the bloc soon, and should do so before admitting Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a wide-ranging interview to be published later this week.

“We have to finish the old enlargement task before we start the new enlargement with Ukraine. If we do not integrate Serbia as soon as possible, we will lose it,” Orbán said in a conversation with former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel for European Voices, a magazine published by Die Presse. He also said Ukraine should be a neutral buffer between the West and Russia.

Serbia applied to join the EU in 2009 but its candidacy stalled amid concerns over its backsliding democracy and close ties with Russia and China.

“Serbia has other options. A free trade agreement with China has just been concluded,” Orbán said, referring to a deal signed last October with Serbia’s second-largest trade partner after the EU.

Orbán also dismissed Kyiv’s prospects of fending off Russia’s invasion and joining the EU, claiming the only way for Ukraine to survive is for the country to be “a buffer zone between Russia and the West.”

“If that doesn’t work, Ukraine will continue losing territory. Russia will destroy Ukraine again and again and again. Russia will never accept having an EU and NATO member like Ukraine on its borders, never,” he said, according to previews of his remarks.

Orbán added that Russia doesn’t take Europe seriously because the bloc is too weak militarily.

“We Europeans are not strong enough for the Russians to take us seriously. This is a power play. This is a war,” Orbán said.

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