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Government Fallout Continues in Serbia over Kosovo, EU Membership

BY Admin  March 13, 2008 at 4:30 PM EDT

Serbian President Boris Tadic

“Elections are a democratic way for the citizens to determine how Serbia should develop in the years to come,” Serbian President Boris Tadic said in a statement on Thursday. Tadic also called for parliamentary elections to be held May 11.

The elections could help determine whether Serbia embraces the West — a position Tadic encourages — or returns to its nationalist course, the line that Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and conservatives want the country to follow.

Kostunica dissolved his government on Saturday because of a clash between his conservative cabinet members and Tadic’s pro-Western Democrats over EU membership. Kostunica resists becoming part of the 27-member bloc unless the EU acknowledges Kosovo as part of Serbia.

“Once again, Serbia is to choose on whether to move forward or go backward,” Dragan Bujosevic, a political analyst of independent NIN weekly, told the Associated Press.

Tadic has resisted linking EU ascension to the independence of Kosovo and would like Serbia to move closer to the West regardless of Kosovo’s status.

Kosovo, an area populated by 2 million people, most of whom are ethnic Albanians, was thrown into turmoil in 1999, when NATO forces, including American troops, launched a 78-day bombing campaign to stop Serbian forces from killing Albanians.

Since 1999, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations with NATO and EU forces remaining as peacekeepers. A UN-led process began in 2005 to determine the province’s future. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17.

Tadic won re-election on Feb. 3, beating his nationalist rival and vowing to continue Serbia’s pro-Western course, which includes seeking membership in the EU. Both Tadic and his opponent Tomislav Nikolic opposed independence for Kosovo.

Tadic denounced Kosovo’s breakaway, saying, “Serbia will take certain measures and do everything in its power to annul this illegal declaration of Kosovo’s independence. Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo.”

Throughout negotiations, Serbia insisted that Kosovo — considered the country’s historic and religious heartland — remain a Serbian province and declared its independence illegal under international law.

China and Russia — two veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council — backed Serbia, while the United States and 18 of the 27 EU members supported Kosovo’s independence.