04 July 2012
The new Serbian president, Tomislav Nikolic, has been making waves in the international community since winning the May 20th run-off election against incumbent Boris Tadic. Since Nikolic and his center-right Serbian Progressive party and its allies won 73 out of 250 seats in the National Assembly, Nikolic has been making some controvsial statements regarding some of Serbia’s neighbors. Nikolic won with 50.21 percent of the vote, while Tadic won 46.77 percent.
The shocking statements from Nikolic began with an interview the president did before the second round of elections on May 6th with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In the interview, Nickolic stated that a “greater Serbia was his unrealized dream” and “Vukovar was a Serbian town in which Croats should not return.” The Croatian President, Ivo Josipovic and other officials have spoken out against Nikolic’s comments.
Josipovic and other leaders from the Balkans did not attend Nikolic’s inauguration due to the comments, and the Croatian president cancelled a trip to Belgrade that was supposed to take place at the end of June. During the war following Croatia’s claim to independence from Yugoslavia, Vukovar experienced severe damage from the Yugoslav army that was led by Serbs. After Vukovar fell to the Yugoslav army, over 200 Croats were killed. Many Croatians still view Vukovar's story as a difficult topic.
This was the only controversial statement from Nikolic. He recently told Montenegrin state television, “There was no genocide in Srebrenica.” The International Court of Justice and the UN war crimes tribunal have both ruled the massacre of over 7,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 as genocide. The massacre is the worst atrocity to occur in Europe since World War II.
The international community has condemned the remarks by Nikolic. A spokesperson for the European Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, said that the comments were “attempts to rewrite history.” Hansen also said, “The atrocities in Srebrenica in July 1995 were a crime against all humankind, and we should never forget it, and we should never allow it to happen again.”
On June 14th, the Associated Press reported that EU officials would discuss Nikolic’s recent comments with the new president. While meeting in Brussels, Nikolic attempted to show that Serbia was prepared for EU membership. He claimed, “There is not better future for Serbia than membership in the Union.”
During the meetings with EU officials, Nikolic was also urged to form a government soon. Neither Nikolic’s Serbian Progressive Party nor Tadic’s Democrats acquired enough votes to become a single majority. The Socialists hold the key to which party will form the coalition government, and both the Serbian Progressive Party and the Democrats are courting the Socialists to enter a coalition. No deal has been brokered yet, but Tadic claimed to be nearing a deal with the Socialists and the Liberals. If this happens, Tadic will become the new Prime Minister, a post he vowed to not seek before he lost the election.
A new government must be formed by September 5th.
Alex Cooper is pursuing an undergraduate degree in government and community studies of Eastern Europe at the College of William and Mary. His interests include civil society strategies and community organizing in post-Communist Europe and Eurasia.