Rhein on Energy and Climate

Serbia has elected a new President. Against all odds and polls Tomislav Nicolic has won over the incumbent, Boris Tadic, though by a narrow majority.

The new President has dubious political credentials.

For most of his political career, he has been associated with the extreme right. He has been vice president of the Serbian Radical party whose founder, Vojislav Seselj, is facing trial for violations of human rights at the Hague Yugoslavia Tribunal.

Like most of his compatriots he has not digested Kosovo independence. In a recent interview he declared that he would rather renounce EU membership if that implied a commitment not to block Kosovo membership

The Serbian economy continues to be dominated by state companies and oligarchs from the Milosevic era who exercise an influence on political parties that reminds a bit of Ukraine or Russia. Corruption remains rampant.

The EU should therefore take a very close look at how Serbia functions in reality before taking the far-reaching decision of formally opening accession negotiations.

There is no urgency to do so. Let the new government do its home work, which also implies fully normalising relations with the neighbours.

The strong emphasis on the EU perspective during the election campaign has not helped Tadic in his plea for re-election. Serbs are far less keen on EU membership than several years ago. The new government needs therefore to focus on domestic reforms and try to fix the economy.

The EU should make it crystal-clear that it can do without Serbia, as long as the country has not thrown overboard its nationalist reflexes, even if that will take another 10 years.

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