Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vu?i? yesterday (17 January) called for early elections in a bid to cement stability as the Balkan country negotiates its accession into the European Union.
Vu?i? made his announcement during a meeting of his conservative, pro-EU party’s leadership in Belgrade, two years before new elections are actually due under the Serbian constitution.
The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) holds an absolute majority in parliament with 158 of 250 seats.
In order for early elections to happen, the prime minister can either resign or he can ask President Tomislav Nikoli? – who is an ally and founded the SNS party – to end the parliament and call for a snap vote.
A parliamentary poll would then have to be held within 60 days.
“My decision is that we will have elections… Serbia needs four more years of stability so that it is ready to join the European Union,” Vu?i? said.
On 14 December, nearly two years after the launch of accession negotiations with the EU, Serbia opened the first two chapters, on financial control, and the normalization of relations with Kosovo.
The opening of accession talks appears partly linked to Europe’s migration crisis – the continent’s worst since World War II – as the EU had earlier called for a pause in adding new members to the bloc.
Serbia has been hard hit by the migrant crisis as it has been a major transit point for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and misery, and seeking to start new lives in EU countries like Germany and Sweden.
Still, the EU has ruled out any enlargement of the bloc before 2020 even for countries that have started accession talks.
Serbia must “by 2020 complete its reform process and reach the gates” of EU accession, Vu?i? said.
“We want a society that wants to work hard and we want Serbians to tell us if they want the same thing.”
Kosovo is key issue
In March 2014, the SNS was swept back to power in a vote that was held two years before parliament’s mandate was due to expire.
Serbia, which fought a war with Kosovo in 1998-1999, does not recognise its sovereignty.
More than 100 countries recognise Kosovo’s independence, but it is not a United Nations member state.
The EU in October signed a long-awaited accord with Kosovo, which is also a potential candidate for accession.
A new EU-backed court to try war crimes by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the Kosovo conflict will open this year in The Hague.
The 1998-1999 war pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas seeking independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo against Serbia’s forces, who withdrew from the territory after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign.
Almost eight years after Kosovo won its independence from Serbia, the EU is trying to smooth relations between the Balkan neighbors, but many among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority are opposed to concessions made to Belgrade.