ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia: Nikolic Fosters Ties With East And West

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By Bojana Barlovac

President-Elect Tomislav Nikolic moves to fulfill his election-night commitment to build relations with “all three pillars of Serbian foreign policy – Russia, the EU and the US”.

The headquarters of the Serbian Progressive Party in New Belgrade have been busy in recent days as foreign ambassadors call on party leader Tomislav Nikolic following his election to the Serbian presidency on Sunday.

Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Konuzin was among the first to visit Nikolic and congratulate him on his victory over the Democrats’ Boris Tadic in the May 20 runoff.

Russian Embassy Spokesperson Svetlana Sevcenko said Konuzin and Nikolic had discussed bilateral cooperation.

Nikolic has also had meetings with Belarus Ambassador Vladimir Cusev, Czech Ambassador Hana Hubackova, and representatives of the Slovakian Embassy in Belgrade.

Nikolic has never made any secret of his orientation towards countries in the Eastern part of Europe but since he was expelled from far right Radicals in 2008 and founded his own party, the Progressives, he has repositioned himself as being more EU-oriented and has made frequent well-publicised working visits to Brussels.

In the last few days he has had meetings with German Ambassador Wolfgang Maas, Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio and US Ambassador Mary Warlick.

However, despite changes in his own and in Serbia’s foreign outlook, Russia continues to occupy a central position in Nikolic’s thinking and his first foreign trip since his election will be to Moscow, where he will attend the congress of Russia’s ruling United Russia Party on May 26.

On Thursday officials confirmed that that in Moscow Nikolic will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nikolic has indicated that he will visit Brussels immediately after his inauguration in early June. Miroslav Lajcak, visiting Belgrade on Thursday as an envoy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said he had delivered an invitation from Ashton and that Brussels would be Nikolic’s first foreign destination after his swearing-in at the Serbian parliament.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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