Saturday, April 07, 2012

Balkans: Will Serbia change its politics towards Kosovo?

Relations between Serbia and Kosovo
Ksenia Obratzova

Serbian President Boris Tadic announced his resignation ten months before the expiration of his term. The resignation does not mean withdrawal from politics. Tadic intends to run for an early election to be held in the country on May 6. Despite the allegations against him, Boris Tadic does not doubt his victory.

Speaking about his resignation and his intention to run for the third term, the Serbian president stressed once again that the leitmotif of his program is the "European integration and the preservation of the integrity of the country." However, these two items are the cause of the most complaints about Boris Tadic.

It is no secret that the EU will embrace Serbia only if it formally renounces Kosovo. However, such a step will not be forgiven by the people. On February 24, the representatives of Serbia and the Albanian authorities have signed a special agreement on the status of the area. The document stipulates that Belgrade does not recognize Kosovo's independence, but the region is entitled to participate in regional organizations in the Balkans. In addition, the Serbian and Kosovar police officers will work together to guard the border. De facto, this means that Serbia has taken another step towards the recognition of Kosovo for the sake of the desired EU membership.

At the end of last year, Tadic desperately tried to convince the Serbs that the main problem of the country is not the rebellious region, but the economy, and this problem can only be solved if the country becomes a member of the EU.

"The big problem of the country is economic issues, not Kosovo. Without a strong economy we cannot solve the Kosovo issue," said Tadic, adding that the country simply cannot be successful without the EU membership, which means that joining the European Union remains his main strategic direction.

"Today, no country can function alone, and therefore every political decision should be made taking into account the fact that everything is interconnected. The fact that the EU is currently experiencing economic problems does not mean that Serbia has a future outside of the EU. On the other hand, we do not refuse to cooperate with other countries," said the head of Serbia.

However, the long wait seems to have cooled the ardor of the Serbs towards the European Union. A study conducted in December showed that over 23 percent of Serbian citizens understand that they will have to pay with the recognition of Kosovo's independence for the membership in the EU. 59 percent of Serbs believe that in this case they do not need the EU. Moreover, if a referendum was held on the entry of Serbia into the European Union, 52 percent of the citizens of Serbia would say "no."

Tadic, however, does not give up and continues pounding away on the line: Serbia needs the European Union, and without it the country has no future.

Analysts believe that Tadic resigned in order to ensure victory of his Democratic Party in the parliamentary elections to be also held on May 6. Currently, it does not have the most promising prospects. But if the voters vote for Tadic, they may automatically put a checkbox on the ballot of his party.

Apart from Tadic, their intention to run for president was announced by the country's Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, who heads the Socialist Party of Serbia, the leader of the conservative Serbian Progressive Party Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Cedomir Jovanovic and former Prime Minister Milan Panic of Yugoslavia.

However, the main rival of the incumbent president, according to the established tradition, is the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party Tomislav Nikolic. In the last presidential election, Tadic beat Nikolic only in the second round, and then only with a small margin of four percents.

Now the party of Tomislov Nikolic is well ahead of the Party of Boris Tadic, so that the probability that Nikolic takes presidency at the third attempt is very high.

In contrast with Boris Tadic, Nikolic does not believe that without the EU Serbia would die. In his view, the EU is a good option, but only on condition that Serbia does not give up Kosovo. Tadic's rival has much more reverence to Russia than his rival.

Apparently, the upcoming presidential elections in Serbia will be every bit as hot and unpredictable as the elections of 2004 and 2008. The real question is not even about who will win this election, but the changes of the policy of Serbia regarding Kosovo and the EU in case of change of power.