Regional Boycott Overshadows Serb President’s Inauguration

Tomislav Nikolic pledged to work with everyone and conduct a policy of peace, stability and cooperation in the region – but his message was not enough to persuade several regional leaders to attend the ceremony.

Overshadowed by a boycott of the ceremony by several regional leaders, the inauguration of President Tomislav Nikolic began in the presidential building on Monday with the sound of the Serbian national anthem, “God of Justice”.

Nikolic said the European route was the way of the future, pledging to work with everyone for Serbia’s benefit and conduct a policy of peace, stability and cooperation in the region. “I will build friendships around the world because Serbia must have no enemies,” he said.

“Serbia’s European road is the way of the future, the way of economic prosperity and I will help Serbia continue on that road,” Nikolic added.

He would “work with everyone, in the East and in the West, because Serbia can only win that way, and has nothing to lose”.

The new President also said he would strive to maintain the territorial integrity of Serbia and attempt to bring together all political forces to establish a common policy on Kosovo, the former province that declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

At the end of his speech, he thanked his predecessor, Boris Tadic, who had discharged his duties in “this previous, exceptionally difficult period”. He also thanked the European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele for, as he put it, standing by Serbia.

The reception brought together numerous guests, including Commissioner Fuele.

“You should meet the expectations of your people and the entire region, and take Serbia closer to the EU,” Fuele said, adding that he looked forward to building cooperation with Nikolic and other Serbian institutions.

Other foreign guests were Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and diplomats from Russia, Slovakia, Greece, Italy Cyprus and Algeria.

But, regional leaders notably refused to attend Nikolic’s inauguration, owing to his controversial past and recent nationalist comments.

The inauguration ceremony was boycotted by Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, Slovenian President Danilo Tuerk, the Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic.

Nikolic caused controversy with his statements denying genocide in Srebrenica and calling the Croatian city of Vukovar ‘a Serbian city’ where displaced Croats should not return.

The only regional leaders attending the event were Milorad Dodik, President of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Nebojsa Radmanovic, member of the Bosnian Presidency, and Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic.

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