Serbia bans US and British election monitors

Serbia's electoral commission has barred US and British observers from monitoring its presidential elections in protest over the countries' support for Kosovan independence.

A member of the commission from the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Slavoljub Milenkovic, said yesterday that the US and Britain would be prevented from sending monitors for the 20 January elections "because their countries want to destroy us and grab Kosovo away from Serbia".

The US and most EU nations back independence for Kosovo, which is populated by some two million ethnic Albanians. It has been run by the UN since 1999, when a Nato bombing campaign forced Belgrade to end its crackdown on an armed insurgency of Kosovan Albanians.

After more than two years of internationally sponsored negotiations, Serbia, backed by Russia, still fiercely opposes the imminent independence of Kosovo and has refused any solution other than broad autonomy. Belgrade did not react yesterday to a report in The New York Times that claimed the US and Germany have agreed to recognise the independence of Kosovo, and will push the rest of the EU to follow suit after the outcome of the Serbian presidential elections, the second round of which is to be held on 3 February.

Senior EU officials told the paper that the US President, George W Bush, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had agreed that it was imperative to secure the stability of the western Balkans by coordinating the recognition of Kosovo between the US and the EU.

Nationalism and anti-Western sentiment are growing in Serbia as it seeks to keep Kosovo from breaking away. The issue of Kosovan independence, which had been on the back-burner since 1999, came into sharp focus after international negotiations over the province began in 2005. Those efforts finally collapsed at the end of last year, prompting the Kosovan government-elect to warn that it would go ahead and declare independence in early 2008.

It provided a further opportunity for the conservative, nationalist government of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to rally Serbs, most of whom consider Kosovo to be the cradle of their medieval state and religion. His harsh rhetoric on Kosovo has created an atmosphere resembling the nationalist era of former leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Kostunica's frequent diatribes against the EU and its planned mission for Kosovo are pushing Serbia away from signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, which would give Serbia freer trade access to the European Union. Alongside this, Serbia's reluctance to hand over the remaining war crimes indictees is also not helping relations.

Mr Kostunica's insistence on closer ties with Russia also worries many. Serbs are deeply split over the issue, as no significant aid has ever been forthcoming from Russia in the recent past. No major Russian investments have been allowed since the fall of Milosevic in 2000.

However, Mr Kostunica's government now seems ready to sell the family jewellery, Oil Industry of Serbia (NIS), to Gazprom, Russia's state-run energy giant, in a murky deal for a knockdown price of €400m (£300m) by the end of next week, a move that anaylsts say could further endanger Serbia's access to the EU.

The European Commission yesterday voiced concern over the sale of NIS. Spokesman Krisztina Nagy said: "The Commission hopes that the sale of an important asset such as the Serbian oil company will be open and driven by objective, commercial and economic interests."

Serbia finds itself at a crossroads over the conflicting issues of Kosovo, the EU and relations with Russia just days before the presidential elections, which are considered crucial for the country. Voters are to chose between the reformist and pro-Western President Boris Tadic, and the ultranationalist SRS candidate Tomislav Nikolic. With their choice, they will also decide if Serbia will continue down the road of EU integration or return to its nationalist, isolationist past.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 4 Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?