EU to warn new Serbian president over nationalist rhetoric - InfoNews

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EU to warn new Serbian president over nationalist rhetoric

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, right, gestures to the President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic, upon arrival at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
June 14, 2012 - 8:36 AM

BRUSSELS - The European Union will warn Serbia's new president to tone down his nationalist statements if he wishes to see his nation progress toward membership in the bloc, officials said Thursday.

Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic, who is in Brussels for the first time since his election last month, has questioned whether the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, during which Bosnian Serb forces killed some 8,000 Muslims, constitutes genocide.

He also angered neighbouring Croatia with claims that Vukovar, a Croatian town destroyed by Serb forces in 1991 during Croatia's war for independence, is a Serbian city.

But Nikolic, a former ultranationalist who shifted from being staunchly anti-Western to pro-EU, has been more conciliatory recently.

In his speech at the inauguration ceremony on Monday, Nikolic pledged to press on with his pro-EU policies, declaring that "Serbia's road to the EU is the road to the future."

Two officials said that EU leaders will also urge him to quickly form a government that would resume talks on normalizing ties with Kosovo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of standing rules.

Serbia spent much of the 1990s ostracized and isolated from the EU after its then-strongman Slobodan Milosevic started wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to stop the war in Kosovo, forcing Serbia to relinquish control there. Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

Serbia's leaders insist that Belgrade will never recognize Kosovo's secession, even though it is ready to continue talks with its former province for the sake of further EU integration.

In March, the EU made Serbia an official candidate for membership.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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