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Serbia's President Calls Early Elections

Serbia's President Boris Tadic has dissolved parliament and called for early elections within the next two months. The move follows the government collapse after a dispute over Kosovo's independence and Serbia's European Union integration. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

Speaking on national television, Serbian President Boris Tadic said he wants new elections in May.

"In accordance with the constitution of Serbia... I signed the decree on dissolution of the parliament ... and the decision to call the elections for May 11," he said.

The announcement followed Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's resignation. His Democratic Party of Serbia had failed to solve a dispute over Kosovo and European Union membership with coalition partners from President Tadic's Democratic Party.

Mr. Kostunica and nationalists have vowed to stop Serbia's integration into the EU until the 27-member bloc rejects Kosovo's break from Serbia. They are angry that most EU countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state.

President Tadic and his pro-Western supporters also oppose Kosovo's independence, but they see EU membership as the best way forward. Mr. Tadic told television viewers Serbia's future is at stake.

Mr. Tadic says the elections are a democratic way for citizens to determine how Serbia should develop in years to come. He adds that the elections are a new chance for Serbia to strengthen its territorial integrity and its economic perspective through European integration. Mr. Tadic explains that the elections are a chance for Serbia to confirm its democratic credentials and to change things for the better.

The European Union hopes Serbs will choose parties supporting European integration, says Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

"Now, with the elections coming, we hope that the European forces will win. I have seen some encouraging signs: we have seen some opinion polls, we have seen some demonstrations of students, intellectuals, young people. I think that to be quite frank, there is no other possibility for our Serbian friends than the EU," he said.

The EU wants to sign with Serbia an agreement that would put it on track to membership.