22nd Oct 2016

Serb nationalist wins elections, pledges EU allegiance

  • Nikolic: 'These elections were not about whether Serbia will go to the EU' (Photo: Micki)

Serb nationalist Tomislav Nikolic has said he backs Serbia's EU bid after his surpise victory in presidential elections on Sunday (20 May).

He beat the incumbent and Western-favoured candidate Boris Tadic with 50.21 of votes after opinion polls had predicted a Tadic win.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The 62-year-old Nikolic was deputy prime minister under the so-called "butcher of the Balkans" Slobodan Milosevic. In the post-war years, he ran the far-right Serbian Radical Party together with Vojislav Seselj - currently on trial for war crimes - before re-branding himself as pro-European.

He said after his victory on Sunday that: "Serbia will not walk away from its path to the EU."

But his campaign focused on the Serbian economy and quality of life rather than its EU prospects.

Serbia is suffering from high sovereign debt, corruption, 24 percent unemployment and low wages, with average monthly salaries at around €400. Nikolic pledged to increase taxes on the rich to help pay for social benefits and pensions and to invest in agriculture and industry.

"These elections were not whether about Serbia will go to EU, they were about solving problems that [Tadic's] Democratic Party has created in Serbia," he said.

For his part, Tadic lost the vote despite succesfully steering Serbia to EU candidate status earlier this year.

Widely endorsed by EU leaders in the run-up to Sunday's vote, he gained the EU status at the cost of normalising relations with breakaway Kosovo and delivering two Serb war crimes fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, to join Nikolic's former ally Seselj in The Hague.

Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party also won parliamentary elections on 6 May and aims to form a ruling coalition with the Socialist Party, led by Milosevic's wartime spokesman Ivica Dacic.

Meanwhile, top EU officials Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso messed up their reaction to Sunday's vote.

The pair first congratulated Nikolic three hours before polls closed and six hours before the official result, raising concerns that their remarks might have influenced the vote. They retracted the message shortly afterward and published a new communique on Monday, with a European Commission spokesman calling the whole business a "technical mistake."

A senior Western diplomat based in Pristina previously told EUobserver that Nikolic is disliked in Brussels and Washington. "Nobody takes him seriously," the source said in an interview late last year.

Update: this story was amended at 12.30 Brussels time on 21 May to include the latest information on the EU statement gaffe


Serbia and the convenient spy

The manufactured cold war between Croatia and Serbia has been a convenient distraction from some of Serbia's domestic problems.


EU's Kosovo meddling risks Balkans chaos

The EU and the US are is unfairly pressuring Kosovo to ratify a border deal with Montenegro against the will of the opposition. It could bring trouble to the Western Balkans region.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity