Serbia PM Vucic announces snap election

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announces plan to hold snap election in bid to stabilise country amid EU accession talks

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic arrives for an EU-Serbia association council meeting at the European Council in Brussels on December 14, 2015

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday called for early elections in a bid to cement stability as the Balkan country negotiates its accession into the European Union.

Vucic made his announcement during a meeting of his conservative, pro-EU party's leadership in Belgrade, two years before new elections are actually due under the Serbian constitution.

The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) holds an absolute majority in parliament with 158 of 250 seats.

In order for early elections to happen, the prime minister can either resign or he can ask President Tomislav Nikolic - who is an ally and founded the SNS party - to end the parliament and call for a snap vote.

A parliamentary poll would then have to be held within 60 days.

"My decision is that we will have elections... Serbia needs four more years of stability so that it is ready to join the European Union," Vucic said.

In December, Serbia began the first two of 35 stages in negotiations for Belgrade to join the EU.

The so-called chapters in membership talks focused on Belgrade's normalisation of relations with its breakaway territory of Kosovo and on financial control.

The opening of accession talks appears partly linked to Europe's migration crisis - the continent's worst since World War Two - as the EU had earlier called for a pause in adding new members to the bloc.

Serbia has been hard hit by the migrant crisis as it has been a major transit point for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and misery, and seeking to start new lives in EU countries like Germany and Sweden.

Still, the EU has ruled out any enlargement of the bloc before 2020 even for countries that have started accession talks.

Serbia must "by 2020 complete its reform process and reach the gates" of EU accession, Vucic said.

"We want a society that wants to work hard and we want Serbians to tell us if they want the same thing."

Kosovo is key issue

In March 2014 the SNS was swept back to power in a vote that was held two years before parliament's mandate was due to expire.

Serbia, which fought a war with Kosovo in 1998-1999, does not recognise its sovereignty.

More than 100 countries recognise Kosovo's independence, but it is not a United Nations member state.

The EU in October signed a long-awaited accord with Kosovo, which is also a potential candidate for accession.

A new EU-backed court to try war crimes by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the Kosovo conflict will open this year in The Hague.

The 1998-1999 war pitted ethnic Albanian guerrillas seeking independence for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo against Serbia's forces, who withdrew from the territory after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign.