Tadic wins EU backing as pressure mounts in Serbia

THE narrow re-election victory of Serbia’s pro-West president, Boris Tadic, drew EU applause yesterday, but piled pressure on an unstable government in Belgrade as Kosovo prepares to declare independence.

In a result likely to nudge Serbia closer to integration with the European Union, the electoral commission gave Tadic 50.6% of Sunday’s vote against 47.7% for pro-Russian ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic.

The biggest loser was conservative nationalist prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, whose party is the weaker partner in an uneasy ruling coalition with Tadic’s Democratic Party. Kostunica refused to endorse Tadic in the election, because the president would not take a tougher line against EU support for Kosovo’s decision to break away from Serbia.

“Serbia chose the path towards the European Union. The stability of the government will now be tested,” said the newspaper Blic after a night of wild celebrations by Tadic supporters in Belgrade.

The government, said Blic, could collapse in the coming days, if Kostunica continued to block the signing of a deal the EU offered Serbia on political dialogue, free trade, visa liberalisation and educational co-operation.

Kostunica had demanded Tadic oppose the signing, due on Thursday, unless Brussels renounced plans to send an EU mission to ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo, which is planning to declare independence within days.

EU nations yesterday gave the green light for the mission without setting a launch date, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.

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