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Election of pro-West candidate may speed EU entry

Latest update : 2008-02-04

Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the EU Commission, hailed Boris Tadic's win as 'a victory for democracy in Serbia and the European values we share.'

European leaders on Monday hailed the re-election of pro-West President Boris Tadic as a trigger to speed Serbia's path towards EU membership, while preparing for Kosovo to declare independence.
   
"Yesterday saw a victory for democracy in Serbia and for the European values we share," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso enthused in a letter to Tadic.
   
"We wish to accelerate Serbia's progress towards the European Union," he added after incumbent Tadic defeated pro-Russian ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in Sunday's run-off vote.
   
At the same time the EU gave the green light for a mission to help ease Kosovo's transition to independence from Serbia, although with no launch date given, diplomatic sources said.
   
The governments of the 27 EU member states gave their agreement to the 2,000-strong mission, mostly police and justice officials, but it will not be deployed until the formal go signal is given, the sources said.
   
There were messages of satisfaction from many EU capitals at Tadic's win -- seen as both helping Serbia's path to membership of the bloc and decreasing the tensions over Kosovo.
   
Many Europeans also pointed to the impressive 67 percent turnout rate as a good democratic sign.
   
Tadic's re-election shows that "he has united the majority of citizens behind him with his vision of bringing the country closer to Europe," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
   
His Italian counterpart Massimo D'Alema said he was convinced the victorious Tadic would work towards "growing stabilisation in the region and his country's full return into the international community."
   
The United States, which like the majority of EU nations also supports Kosovan independence, said it hoped "to build a productive relationship with Serbia on matters of common interest."
   
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped that an interim agreement between the EU and Serbia could be signed "in the coming days."
   
The interim deal was drawn up after the Netherlands blocked moves to sign a broader Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), the first formal step to EU membership.
   
The Dutch want Belgrade to first bring UN war crimes suspects, notably former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
   
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he hoped the election could help here too.
   
"We expect from the re-elected president and the Serbian government concrete steps to anchor Serbia in the European Union, starting with full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia," he said.
   
Solana declined to say when UN-administered Kosovo, with its largely ethnic-Albanian population, should make its expected declaration of independence, which most EU nations back.
   
In the European messages of congratulation and satisfaction there was little mention of the breakaway Serb province, whose independence plans are opposed by both Belgrade and Moscow.
   
Tadic has voiced opposition to the scheme, but is deemed an easier partner than the nationalist Nikolic for the West to deal with.
   
Most observers expected the independence declaration between now and early March.
   
However some EU nations are less than enthusiastic at the prospect of Kosovo's independence, particularly those facing their own separatist movements.
   
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain have all voiced various levels of opposition.
  

Date created : 2008-02-04

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