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Serbia's Presidential Elections Seen as a "New Start", Panel Tells VOA Audience

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2004 - Participants in today's Voice of America panel discussion "Serbia's Presidential Elections: A View from Washington" said the election of Boris Tadic last Sunday bodes well for Serbia, but the country still faces significant challenges.

Charles English, the Director of the U.S. State Department's Office of South and Central European Affairs, described Tadic as "a friend of the U.S, and more importantly, a friend of democracy." But he warned that Serbia faced serious choices ahead and had to meet its international obligations, stressing that "chief among them is its obligation to cooperate fully and completely with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia."

Panelist Vladimir Matic, a professor at Clemson University and the former Yugoslav Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, agreed that Tadic's victory represents "another battle won in the long war of the transformation of Serbia." He said that Serbia needed "to complete transition, to tackle reform of police and military, and to reform its judicial system, thus dealing with the endemic corruption and a powerful shady economy."

The panel, moderated by VOA Serbian Service Chief Maja Drucker, was broadcast live by radio and television to Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. In addition to questions from the live audience, the panelists answered questions submitted by VOA Serbian Service's affiliated stations in Serbia-Montenegro.

Another panelist, University of Maryland professor John Lampe, cautioned that "the good news represents a new start...and the last chance for Serbia." Lampe said "a priority for this new electoral alliance is the economy and the judicial process," but he added Serbia must realize that the road to joining the European Union leads "through Brussels."

The panelists agreed that Sunday's election of Boris Tadic, who is seen as being a pro-Western reformer, provides his country with a sense of renewed unity but still does not remove the international obligations associated with the issue of war crimes.

Daniel P. Serwer of the U.S. Institute of Peace suggested that cooperation with ICTY was also a matter of internal security. Serwer said "the dismantling of the nexus of war criminals, secret services, police, (and) army that brought devastation to the Balkans is absolutely critical to the progress of democracy in Serbia." Karadzic and Mladic must face justice in The Hague because Serbia is not safe without them in custody, he concluded.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. VOA broadcasts 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 87 million people. Programs are produced in Serbian and 43 other languages.

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