Sunday

20th Aug 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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

Opinion

Serbia: deja vu no more

In a sign of gradual normalisation, Serbia's core concerns now mirror those of much of Europe, writes Dimitar Bechev.

Opinion

The euro crisis should not stop enlargement

Neglecting the Western Balkans because of the euro crisis would be dangerous for the EU and undermine all the progress made in the region since the dark days of the 1990s, writes Dimitar Bechev.

Opinion

EU must open its eyes to Balkan realities

The EU does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation in the Balkans, even though it has hundreds of diplomats and officials posted to the region, writes Jeton Zulfaj.

Opinion

Overcoming the plot against Turkish democracy

One year after an attempted coup, what Turkey needs is not biased and groundless criticism but more cooperation, dialogue and understanding, writes its Europe minister Omer Celik.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides