EU urges Serbs to vote for European future
(dpa) - The European Union's foreign ministers Monday urged Serbian voters to support the country's pro-EU forces as Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government formally stepped down and called for early elections in May.
"We have an opportunity for the people of Serbia to choose their way forwards. I hope very much they will continue pushing for a deep and solid relationship with the EU," the 27-member bloc's top foreign policy official, Javier Solana, said.
On Monday, the EU's 27 foreign ministers began a regular monthly meeting in Brussels.
The meeting was scheduled to discuss issues including the Middle East peace process, Zimbabwe's democracy and international trade talks.
But the collapse of Serbia's government, which came as coalition parties fell out over the issue of how to deal with the EU following the support of many EU states for Kosovo's secession, looked set to dominate proceedings.
"We hope that the European forces will win ... I don't think there is any other possibility for our Serbian friends than the EU. Where should they go?" Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel, who chaired the meeting, said.
"Europe needs Serbia and Serbia needs Europe. Were Serbia to sink into self-isolation, it would clearly be to the detriment of the economy (and) politics ... of Serbia, but also of the entire region," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband said the EU should continue to offer Serbia "a hand of friendship."
"There is a shared view right across the 27 EU countries that we have a responsibility to ensure that the Serbian people know that we remain committed to ensuring that their country has a strong place in the EU of the future," he said.
But ministers nevertheless insisted that the EU itself had no intention of interfering in Serbia's political process.
"The EU can't mix itself in what's happening in Serbia. We have to give positive signs, say that the EU wants to work with Serbia on a very constructive basis," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.