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Serbia at the crossroads as voters decide on EU links

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Serbia at the crossroads as voters decide on EU links

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It is a defining moment for Serbia as the country votes in a general election that will shape future relations with Europe. Serbs are deeply divided over how to respond to the West’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

President Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party advocates closer ties with the EU despite its stance on Kosovo: “I’m totally sure the people in Serbia are going to vote for a European future and also to contribute, in terms of our capabilities, to defend our legitimate interests in Kosovo-Metohia, to defend our territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

His party was trailing slightly to Tomislav Nikolic’s hardline nationalist Radical Party who want to put moves towards EU membership on hold over the Kosovo issue. They say eight years of acquiescence to the West and harsh market reforms have brought Serbs only humiliation and poverty.

A victory for the Radicals would likely strengthen relations between Serbia and Russia. As neither party looks like getting a big enough majority to govern alone outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is likely to play a key role in forming the next government. He has moved closer to the Radicals’ position over Kosovo and is thought unlikely to renew his alliance with the Democrats.