EU presidency welcomes Tadic's triumph

Other News Materials 4 February 2008 14:56 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Slovenia as European Union president Monday welcomed the re-election of Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic, but reminded Belgrade that progress toward EU membership would first come after the arrest of all war crime suspects.

Tadic defeated the nationalist challenger Tomislav Nikolic who campaigned on a promise to freeze Serbia's progress toward EU membership over Western support of independence for Kosovo.

Serbia and EU had initialled a Stabilization and Association Agreement last year, but its signing was blocked by Holland, over Serbia's failure to arrest war crime suspects.

In addition, the conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that he would not endorse the agreement in protest against Kosovo's movement toward independence under a planned supervision of an EU mission.

Following Tadic's win, the EU presidency encouraged Belgrade "to implement ... reforms necessary for advancing the Stabilisation and Association process," a major and formal step towards EU membership.

"The EU wishes to deepen its relationship with Serbia and to accelerate its progress towards the EU, including candidate status," the EU presidency said.

It however also warned of the "key importance of achieving full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague."

For that, Serbia needs to arrest the remaining four war crime suspects at large, most of all the Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa congratulated Tadic and said the election "reflected ... Serbia's determination" to remain on course toward membership of the EU.

Tadic ran a strongly pro-European campaign in spite of doubts instilled by Nikolic and Kostunica with the looming secession of Kosovo.

He won with a 50.5 to 47.9 per cent amid a record, 67 per cent turnout that reflected the referendum-like quality of the vote for the otherwise largely ceremonial function.