Serbian president wants Kosovo in Serbia and Serbia in EU

Other News Materials 15 February 2008 20:35 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Serbia's re-elected President Boris Tadic was sworn in Friday at a ceremonial parliamentary session promising to do everything possible to retain sovereignty over Kosovo while striving to join the European Union.

After taking his oath, Tadic said his main goal as president would be to implement the programme the citizens voted for, above all, helping Serbia reach its goal of becoming a strong and stable member of the European Union and defending Serbia's claim to Kosovo.

"These two principles are equal to one another, because Serbia can only defend Kosovo from within the EU. Only a stable and economically strong Serbia can protect its interests," Tadic said at a press conference following the inauguration.

President Tadic said his goal would be for Serbia to become a candidate for EU membership by the end of 2008, because the citizens overwhelmingly and with great certainty, affirmed in the elections that they want a European future for Serbia.

"No one has the right to disown Kosovo, because it is not anyone's private property, but at the same time, no one has the right to block Serbia from its European future, because Serbia is not anyone's private property," Tadic said.

Parliamentary speaker Oliver Dulic scheduled the ceremony to swear in Tadic for a second, five-year term after the final results of the February 3 election run-off were announced on Thursday evening.

The Serbian constitution adopted in 2006 states that a person can serve only two mandates as president, but maintains that the term for the first person elected after the constitution's adoption would be counted as his or her first, giving Tadic the ability to run once more.

The pro-European leader of the Democratic Party (DS) narrowly beat ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), in a race seen as a referendum-like vote in which Serbia would decide on either a European future or isolation.

Upon entering the parliament before taking his oath, Tadic shook hands with Nikolic before taking his seat.

By far the most pressing issue in the presidential campaign was the future status of Kosovo, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians, who demand independence from Serbia.

While both candidates claimed that all measures would be taken to ensure Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo - which Serbs see as the heartland of their religious and national identity - the differences were evident in the potential reactions to its independence.

Nikolic called for the severance of relations with all countries who recognize Kosovo's independence, which the United States and a vast majority of European Union members have already vowed to do.

Tadic, however, campaigned on the notion that Serbia's path to Europe and future within the EU were both irreversible and the nation's top priority.

Kosovo is expected to unilaterally declare independence on Sunday, with Serbia claiming it would "annul" such a decision through its parliament and fight with all available diplomatic and legal means to keep Kosovo under its sovereignty.