Ultras win Serbian election
Ultranationalists gained the most votes in Serbia's general election on 21 January 2007. However, a group of pro-European parties is likely to form Serbia's new government coalition.
The results of Serbian parliamentary elections will be assessed when EU foreign ministers get together on 22 January 2007. The election results are crucial for the future status of Kosovo and will also determine the path of EU-Serbia relations.
The ultranationalist "Radicals" party led by Tomislav Nikolic in absence of Vojislav Šešelj, who is on trial for war crimes, won 28.7% of votes, followed by the pro-European "Democratic Party" under leadership of President Boris Tadić, with 22.9%, while Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica's centre-right party "Popular Coalition" gained 16.7% of the votes, according to the Serbian NGO Centre for free Elections and Democracy (CeSID). The turnout was 60.4%.
Nevertheless, the nationalist camp seems to be split and a group of pro-European parties are likely to form a government coalition. Tadić said: "Parties from the democratic side have won a two-thirds majority in parliament and this is an important signal to Europe." He added: "The Democratic Party will insist on holding the prime minister's post."
The EU and the US would like to see a coalition government between the Democratic Party of Tadić and Koštunica's Popular Coalition, in order to develop closer ties between the EU and Serbia.
The EU suspended negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia on 3 May 2006, due to Belgrade's lack of co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. The EU still awaits the delivery of alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic.
Elections were overshadowed by the unresolved status of Kosovo, which has been under international civil and military administration since the 1999 conflict.
The Commission's recent progress report criticised Serbia on the handling of Kosovo's aspirations for independence, but also praised its co-operation concerning the smooth handling of Montenegro's independence from Serbia in 2006.
German Chancellor and EU Presidency holder Angela Merkel told Reuters ahead of the elections: "We need maximum satisfaction in Kosovo but also satisfaction, or at least no turbulence, in Serbia." She added: "First, we want to see the democratic powers in Serbia strengthened after the election and then we will do everything we can to negotiate astutely while still moving ahead with political decisions."
Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said: "I expect that a new reform-oriented and pro-European government in Belgrade will make rapid progress towards the EU."
- EU foreign ministers are to discuss EU-Serbia relations and the future status of Kosovo when they meet on 22 January 2007.
- On 26 January, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari is to present a plan for the future status of Kosovo.
- A UN Security Council decision on its future status is expected in March or April 2007.