Voting is underway in Serbia in a close presidential election which could determine the future of the Balkan nation as it prepares to lose its breakaway province of Kosovo. Incumbent Boris Tadic – slightly trailing his ultranationalist rival Tomisalv Nikolic in the polls – says the only way forward is Europe: “I am sure that at the end of the day, Serbia will chose the European path because of the future of this country and especially the young generations. I am very optimistic in terms of the final results of these elections.”
Nikolic, a former ally of the late dictator Slobodan Milosevic, has benefited from growing anger among Serbs at Western backing for Kosovo’s independence. He puts his trust in Russia: “There will be no more blackmails and humiliation. Russia is a much closer partner to Serbia. Our path to Russia is open. If the EU wants to open up its doors and no longer impose obstacles, we will be glad to join the EU.”
Top of the agenda in this campaign was the state of the economy. Many Serbs are worried about jobs and better living standards. The future of Kosovo also features high on the list.
While both candidates oppose independence for the province, regarded by Serbs as their historic heartland, Nikolic has made clear ties with the EU could suffer if the bloc recognises Kosovo’s secession.
Tadic on the other hand supports plans for a deal with the EU to open up access for Serbs even if the bloc backs Kosovo’s independence.