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Experts: Serbia Election Results Show Nation Wants Closer Euro Ties - 2004-06-30


A panel of experts in Washington assessed the impact of Sunday's presidential election in Serbia, which was won by pro-Western reformer Boris Tadic. The experts say the rejection of the Radical Party nationalist candidate means Serbia wants to be integrated into western European structures.

A former official in the Yugoslav foreign ministry, Vladimir Matic, says the election could bring a renewed effort to implement the market-based reforms that stumbled after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in March of last year.

Mr. Matic, who is now a professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, says what remains to be seen is whether the feuding reformists in Belgrade will be able to cooperate. Though the new president, Boris Tadic, and the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, are both considered reformers, they are not allies. Mr. Matic says they will have to work together to win passage of reforms.

"They [president and prime minister] will have to find some way to get along, to get some laws enacted, to get some things done, although reluctantly," he said.

Another panelist at the Washington conference, Charles English, who is responsible for southeastern Europe affairs at the State Department, says if Serbia want to have better relations with the United States it must boost its cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal. Mr. English says Washington will not permit the war crimes tribunal to be dismantled until Bosnian Serb indictees Radovan Karadjic and Ratko Mladic are brought to justice.

"We will not be waited out, he said. "If patience is required we show that kind of patience to try them at such time that we can find them. But that time needs to be much sooner and not later."

The chief prosecutor for the tribunal has alleged that war-time Bosnian Serb military commander Mladic has been hiding in Serbia.

Dan Serwer, the director of the Balkans project at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says cooperation with The Hague is in Serbia's own interest.

"It's a question of internal security for Serbia itself. The dismantling of the nexus of war criminals, secret service, army that brought such devastation to a good part of the Balkans in the 1990s is absolutely critical to the progress of democracy in Serbia itself, whether the international community is demanding it or not," he said.

In electing the reformist Boris Tadic, Serbia now has a president for the first time in over two years. Previous attempts to elect a president all ended in failure because the turnout did not reach the minimum percentage prescribed by the law.

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