Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic said he was interested in intensifying work on the South Stream project plans to pipe gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then ashore for onward transit to Greece, Italy and Austria.

“This is a project which should ensure Serbia’s long-term energy security and enable substantial progress in the national economy,” Nikolic said on Tuesday at a meeting with the speaker of Russia’s State Duma Sergei Naryshkin.

The meeting with Nikolic became the last venue in the program of Naryshkin’s two-day visit to Serbia. Nikolic and Naryshkin “expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation between Serbia and Russia, particularly with respect to joint economic projects”, the Serbian president’s press service said.

“Russia has a correct understanding of Serbia’s position on the Ukraine crisis,” President Nikolic said. Russia also understood Serbia’s willingness to become a European Union member, since the EU was the most significant trade partner for Russia as well, the press service quoted Naryshkin as saying.