Alex KrugerEU carrot to Yugoslav voters
Monday, 18 September, 2000
The European Union has delivered its strongest message yet to the Serbian people that a vote to oust President Slobodan Milosevic in forthcoming elections would bring an end to economic sanctions.
In a statement released on Monday, EU foreign ministers said: "A choice, leading to a democratic change, would lead to a radical modification of the European Union's policy towards Serbia."
Calling the poll "a crucial political choice," the ministers said the new policy will also involve reconstruction aid and help bring Yugoslavia out of international isolation.
The EU imposed a wide range of sanctions, including an oil embargo, financial sanctions and travel restrictions against Belgrade last year over its persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Presidential and legislative elections are due to take place in the country on 24 September.
Our correspondent in Brussels says EU officials believe the Serbian authorities are preparing for a massive electoral fraud. They have called on the Serbian people to turn out to vote in large numbers, making any attempt to rig the election more difficult.
The move coincides with a separate EU announcement of measures to boost trade with Albania and all of the former Yugoslav republics - except Serbia.
A BBC correspondent says the move is designed to further highlight the benefits of voting Mr Milosevic out of office to Serb voters.
But Serbian President Milan Milutinovic accused the West on Monday of trying to prevent reconstruction and "enslave" the Serbian people,
"They are ... using all means, political, economic and diplomatic, to prevent the reconstruction of our country, to break up the unity of the people and to try, if they can, to enslave us," he said at a ceremony to inaugurate a crude oil processing plant at the town of Pancevo.
Analysts say a concerted effort by opposition groups in Yugoslavia to unite behind a single candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, has given them the best chance in years of ousting President Milosevic.
Recent opinion polls suggest that Mr Kostunica, described by correspondents as a respected and moderate nationalist, enjoys almost twice the support of Mr Milosevic.
As the election campaign approaches its climax. Mr Milosevic has announced his intention to visit Montenegro on Wednesday, his first visit to the republic since his election as President in July 1997.
Relations between the two republics have, however, been strained since Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic said he would ignore the election result.
Mr Djukanovic, who is keen to foster closer links with the West, says constitutional changes made by Mr Milosevic last year give him an unfair advantage in the polls.
World leaders in the dock
The trial opened in Belgrade on Monday of Western leaders who are accused of war crimes relating to the Nato bombardment of Yugoslavia last year.
Among the accused are US President Bill Clinton, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.
None will be present, although the court has appointed lawyers to represent them.
Correspondents say the trial appears to be timed to coincide with the run-up to next week's elections.