Update No: 163 -
Tadic a statesman
President Boris Tadic of Serbia is
turning out to be that rare thing on the
world stage – a true statesman. He is
making a very serious attempt to reconcile
the Croats and the Serbs.
This is a formidable undertaking after
what has happened between them of late.
Earlier this year, the Serbian president
went to Bosnia to commemorate more than
8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Serb
forces at Srebrenica in 1995. Moreover,
Tadic has become the first Serbian leader
to pay his respects to Croatian victims of
a notorious 1991 massacre. During a visit
to a memorial to 260 people murdered at
Vukovar, he gave a statement expressing
his "apology and regret".
Vukovar was captured in November 1991
after a three-month siege by the Serb-led
Yugoslav army. The victims of the massacre
had sought refuge in the town's hospital.
But two days after Vukovar was seized,
they were led to the site of a pig farm
and shot, their bodies left in a mass
Time for mercy and reconciliation
Mr Tadic arrived in Vukovar on a ferry
which crossed the Danube from the Serbian
town of Bac. He was welcomed by Croatian
President Ivo Josipovic, another figure
who is growing in stature on the world
stage. The two men went together to the
memorial at Ovcara and laid wreaths at the
site of the mass grave.
Mr Tadic said he had come to bow down
before the victims to open the way for
forgiveness and reconciliation. “I came
here to share words of apology; to express
our sympathy; to create the possibility
for Serbs and Croats... to turn a new page
"We will finish this process of
reconciliation and Serbia and Croatia will
be two friendly, neighbouring countries,"
They later laid wreaths in the village of
Paulin Dvor where 18 Serbs and an ethnic
Hungarian were killed by Croatian forces
in December 1991.
Misdemeanours best remembered but then
Croatia has described the event as an
attempt to relax relations between the two
countries. But a number of Croatian
right-wing parties and war veteran groups
have objected to the visit. Several
mothers of people killed in Vukovar
attended the wreath-laying ceremony and
turned their backs on Boris Tadic as he
The Hina news agency reported that
protests took place in several cities and
dozens of members of the right-wing
Croatian Party of Rights lit candles in
the centre of Zagreb to remember the
victims of Vukovar.
More than 1,000 civilians died during the
battle for the town. After it fell, 22,000
non-Serbs were expelled. More than 400
people from the town are still listed as
First election in Kosovo
Serbia is by and by becoming a Western
country. The big problem is of course
Kosovo, that wants out.
Citizens of Kosovo went to the polls on
December 12th to choose their
representatives in the 120-seat
parliament. It was the first general
election since since Kosovo declared
independence from Serbia in 2008. About
1.6 million people were eligible to vote.
The snap vote was called after former
President Fatmir Sejdiu stepped down in
September, triggering the collapse of the
Twenty-nine political parties, coalitions
and citizens' initiatives, including eight
representing Kosovo Serbs, competed in the
race. According to the Kosovo Electoral
Law, Serbs are guaranteed ten of the 120
seats in parliament, regardless of
turnout. More than 30,000 observers
monitored the election process.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's party won
the most votes in Kosovo's first election
since it declared independence,
preliminary results showed on December 13,
although the vote was marred by
allegations of ballot stuffing.
But Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, or
PDK, will need coalition partners to
govern. And finding them may be difficult
because the prime minister's party has
been tainted by allegations of high level
corruption and reports of electoral fraud.
It was not immediately clear whether
Thaci's rivals would accept the election
The most likely to collaborate with Thaci
are two small parties that finished third
and fourth in the voting, former rebel
leader Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the
Future of Kosovo and businessman Behgjet
Pacolli's Alliance for New Kosovo.
Kosovo's new government will have its
plate full, between trying to boost the
ailing economy and launching new talks
with Serbia, which does not recognize
Thaci's opponents, however, view the vote
as an endorsement of a corrupt government
that is heading for a collision with
Kosovo's Western backers. One of Thaci's
closest aides, Transport Minister Fatmir
Limaj, is being investigated by European
Union police for allegedly embezzling
millions of euros from road tenders.
Reflecting international pressure for
Thaci to rid his party of corruption,
Kosovo's international overseer, Pieter
Feith, urged him to create "a government
that is clean, competent and credible."
Thaci's PDK finished first in the
election, with 33.5 percent of the vote.
In second place was the Democratic League
of Kosovo, Thaci's former coalition
partner, which drew 23.6 percent. Thaci is
unlikely to court that party, though, as
it was a falling out between those two
parties that led to the early election.
Newcomer Albin Kurti's Self-Determination
party, which won 12.2 percent of the
votes, is also an unlikely partner despite
sharing a common nationalist background.
Kurti criticized Thaci harshly during the
campaign and vowed not to enter a
coalition with him.
Kurti's presence in parliament could prove
difficult for Thaci, who is to enter
sensitive talks with Serbia. Kurti
advocates unification with Albania and
opposes any talks with Serbia.
Trailing were the prime minister's two
most likely coalition partners, the
Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, which
won 10.8 percent, and the Alliance for New
Kosovo, which won 7 percent.
By and large, Serbs in the north of
Kosovo, where they are in the majority,
heeded calls from Serbia _ which still
claims sovereignty over Kosovo _ and
boycotted the election. In general, those
Serbs living in enclaves surrounded by
Albanians took part.
Just over 45 percent of 1.6 million
registered voters cast their ballots,
Doris Pack, a member of the European
Parliament, and an election observer, said
observers were alerted to possible
"serious fraud" in the central region of
Drenica, the traditional stronghold of the
prime minister's party. She said the high
turnout was suspicious and the voting
pattern was reminiscent of that in
"Can you believe that more than 95 percent
went out to vote for the same party?" Pack
said. "I don't think that would be
possible ... not in a country like Kosovo
where we are trying to install a
She urged Thaci to use his authority to
stop fraud. It was not immediately clear
if a rerun would be needed in poling
stations in Drenica.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Dell said "ballots
in the box exceeded the number of
signatures in the voters' book," in
Reaction from the EU
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy
chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement
commissioner Stefan Fuele congratulated
Kosovo's voters for the "calm and orderly
manner in which the majority of the voting
A joint statement said it was now up to
"the competent authorities to certify the
results and deal with complaints and
appeals in line with the relevant laws and
Ashton and Fuele said they looked forward
to working with the new Kosovo leadership
and to facilitating dialogue between
Pristina and Serbia.
"We have much work ahead of us in the
coming year so that Kosovo can further
advance toward the EU," the statement
Outside of joining the EU, the two
countries are also to start talks aimed at
settling disputes, while discussing the
future of Kosovo's Serb-run north.
Kosovo's leaders say they will not back
away from independence, while Belgrade
maintains Kosovo is part of Serbia.