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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has told the Financial Times that the country would consider nationalizing its oil industry if necessary to ease the burden of sanctions against Russian-owned entities.
Russia’s Gazprom group owns a controlling 56.15% stake in Serbia’s Nafta Industrija Srbije (NIS), which now finds itself under sanctions that will prevent it from receiving Russian oil supplies beginning on December 5th, when the European Union’s ban on seaborne shipments of Russian oil goes into effect.
Serbia’s NIS - a gas storage and oil refining company - receives crude oil via tanker shipments from Croatia’s Krk island after it is piped through the Adriatic pipeline, JANAF.
The EU ban will cut NIS refineries off from Russian crude.
So far, NIS has been receiving some alternative supplies from Iraq and other countries.
Speaking to the Financial Times on Sunday, Vucic said Belgrade was considering “all the possibilities”, including taking over NIS.
"If there were other sanctions against Russian-owned enterprises, it will be a huge problem for us. We will have to act anyway... we have to secure enough oil and gas to our people. If nobody wants to work with NIS... then we will act," Vucic told FT.
For now, no decision has been made, and Vucic indicated that nationalization was not required at the moment even if it is an option on the table.
Earlier, there were discussions about the potential for the government of Serbia and Hungary’s MOL energy company to acquire the Russian stakes. However, those talks have not progressed.
Serbia, a key ally of Russia, is also in talks with Hungary to build an interconnector pipeline to continue to supply Serbia with Russian crude amid EU sanctions.
The Serbian president’s interview with the Financial Times comes just days after Germany warned the country against deepening its ties with Moscow, saying such moves could jeopardize its bid to join the European Union.
An unnamed German government source told Euractiv on November 1st that while “the relationship with Serbia is complex–there is light as well as shadows. Serbia’s relations with Russia are certainly part of the shadows”. The source said Belgrade must decide whether it is on Moscow’s side or the EU’s.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com