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Serbian Opposition Protests EU Candidacy as Talks Delayed

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Serbian opposition parties called for an immediate halt in President Boris Tadic’s policies pushing the Balkan nation toward the European Union.

Supporters of the Serbian Radical Party, whose leader Vojislav Seselj is standing trial at The Hague-based United Nations war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, burned an EU flag in front of the president’s office in Belgrade at a rally today, demanding an end to Serbia’s application to the bloc.

Serbia’s bid to become an official candidate for EU membership will probably be delayed to March because of continued tensions with Kosovo, the onetime province that declared independence in 2008, according to a draft EU summit statement today.

“The only thing worse than being accepted as an EU candidate is the extension because it gives Brussels more time to try to disintegrate our country in the next three months,” said Dragan Todorovic, one of the party leaders, as a police cordon protected the president’s office in central Belgrade. “The question is whether the EU will exist in three months.

The EU decision is due to be announced in the afternoon and Tadic will address the nation later in the day, his press office said.

‘Ready to Surrender’

The Radicals accuse Tadic of ‘‘being ready to surrender 15 percent of Serbian territory, all enterprises and banks, lower pensions and do whatever the European Union demands for the candidacy,’’ the party said on its website.

In an article posted on his website yesterday, Tadic said ‘‘Serbia could plunge into the darkness of nationalism if left outside the EU.’’

Backers of opposition parties including the Serbian Progressive Party, led by Tomislav Nikolic, and the Democratic Party of Serbia of former Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica re-erected roadblocks yesterday in the north of the breakaway province of Kosovo, state-run Tanjug newswire said.

Local Serbs first erected roadblocks in July after Albanian-dominated Kosovo declared a trade ban on Serbian goods, seeking to gain control of cross-border trade in the province’s Serb-populated north.

NATO Peacekeepers

Serbs have maintained the roadblocks since and occasionally clashed with the troops of the North Atlantic Organization Treaty, who try to ensure free access to checkpoints.

Tadic’s ruling Democratic Party made Serbia’s EU candidacy its policy priority after the victory in 2008 elections. They face elections in the spring.

Analysts in Belgrade, including Vladimir Todoric of the New Policy Centre, said attaching conditions to the candidacy ‘‘is unprecedented” as “you either grant the candidacy or don’t.”

“Such a decision is damaging and short-sighted,” Todoric told state-broadcaster RTS today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gordana Filipovic in Belgrade at gfilipovic@bloomberg.net

Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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