Balkan Leaders Boycott Serbian Presidential Inauguration

Posted June 11th, 2012 at 8:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Balkan leaders boycotted Monday's inauguration of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic over his recent controversial remarks about the 1995 massacre of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina's eastern town of Srebrenica.

Only Montenegro's president attended the inaugural ceremonies in Belgrade. The leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia stayed home.

Earlier this month, Mr. Nikolic, a former far-right nationalist, denied that the killing of 8,000 Muslim males by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica was genocide. The International Court of Justice and the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal ruled the Srebrenica massacre fit the legal definition of genocide.

He did call the Srebrenica killings a “grave crime” whose perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Mr. Nikolic also angered Croats by calling the Croatian border town of Vukovar a Serb area to which Croatian refugees should not have been allowed to return. Serb forces heavily bombed Vukovar in the early 1990s.

President Nikolic said in his inauguration speech that differences over the past jeopardize the future of the Balkans. He said those differences will be solved through dialogue.

He also promised to keep Serbia on the path to the European Union, which he called Serbia's road to the future.

Mr. Nikolic won a May 20 presidential runoff election against incumbent President Boris Tadic.

Mr. Nikolic has toned down his nationalist rhetoric in recent years and now regards himself as pro-Western.


Stefan Fuelle, EU enlargement commissioner (in English):

“For the progress of the entire region and the light of the good level of relations that Serbia has established in recent years with its neighbours, it will be paramount that you, as new president, pass very clear and forthcoming messages and delivering on the promises that you have made to the Serbian people.”

President Tomislav Nikolic, new Serbian president (in Serbian) :

“I would like to underline that I will implement the politics of peace, stability and cooperation in the region. Serbia and its children are gazing toward the future, and that is why I will not allow that differences over the past to jeopardise our future.”