The European Union breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday as Serbia reelected pro-Europe Serbian president Boris Tadic, delivering a blow to his rival, ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic.
Tadic has sought to improve Serbia’s ties with the West and put Serbia on the path to EU membership. Nikolic wanted to limit ties with the EU and instead ally Serbia with Russia. Tadic won by a slim margin in an election with a high turnout at 67 percent.
The election was thought to be pivotal to the looming independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo, which has for years been under UN occupation following the NATO intervention in the Serbian civil wars of the 1990’s. The EU now wants to take over policing of an independent Serbia. Though both candidates are opposed to Kosovo’s independence, Tadic sees membership in the EU as crucial to Serbia’s future. It is therefore thought that though he will protest any plan for Kosovo independence, in the end he will go along with it in exchange for a faster road to EU membership.
In a move to influence the election, the EU last week made a move to grant an ‘interim pact on trade and cooperation’ with Serbia, hoping to send the message to Serbians that more rewards would follow if they elected Tadic.
Now that the election has passed it may just be a matter of weeks before Kosovo declares independence, but it remains to be seen how Serbia, and perhaps more importantly Russia, react.