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The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929. Occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941 was resisted by various partisan bands that fought themselves as well as the invaders. The group headed by Marshal TITO took full control upon German expulsion in 1945. Although communist in name, his new government successfully steered its own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades. In the early 1990s, post-TITO Yugoslavia began to unravel along ethnic lines: Slovenia, Croatia, and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia all declared their independence in 1991; Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" in 1992 and, under President Slobodan MILOSEVIC, Serbia led various military intervention efforts to unite Serbs in neighboring republics into a "Greater Serbia." All of these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In 1999, massive expulsions by Serbs of ethnic Albanians living in the autonomous republic of Kosovo provoked an international response, including the NATO bombing of Serbia and the stationing of NATO and Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo. Blatant attempts to manipulate presidential balloting in October of 2000 were followed by massive nationwide demonstrations and strikes that saw the election winner, Vojislav KOSTUNICA, replace
Update No: 068 - (01/01/03)
Serbia has failed for the third time this year to elect a new president, leaving it after January 5th without a head of state. For on that day the incumbent, Milan Milutinovic, a Milosevic crony and indicted war criminal, who faces prosecution in the Hague when his term expires, is obliged to retire.
On a bitterly cold day on December 8th only about 45% of the electorate turned out, just as last time in October, so invalidating the result. After three nugatory attempts it is not clear where Serbia goes from here, since such a series of failures was not anticipated in the constitution. The speaker of parliament, Natasa Micic, a 37 year old protégé of Serbian Premier Zoran Zjindjic, takes over temporarily under the old constitution, which may then be amended so that the parliament can elect the new president, very much what Zjindjic hopes for.
The front-runner in each election has been Vojislav Kostunica, the successor to Milosevic as president in October of 2000. He has easily attracted a clear majority of votes cast, 58% on this occasion, but on an endorsement from only just over one quarter of the registered electorate.
His main opponent was Vojislav Seselj, a seriously sinister nationalist who led paramilitary forces in Croatia and Bosnia in the nearly 1990s and won the dubious backing of Milosevic.
The importance of the electoral fiasco is that the Serb presidency is due to become far more important than before, effectively replacing the presidency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which comprises Serbia and Montenegro. Indeed the Yugoslav presidency is due to expire within months, leaving Kostunica without a job.
For the Union of Serbia and Montenegro is to come into being in place of the Yugoslav republic. It will be a far looser construction. An initial deal was signed in March, but nothing got off the ground. Then a meeting was held in October to settle matters in dispute. This led to another deal signed on December 6th, two days before the third election which everyone expected Kostunica to win easily. Hence perhaps why the demise within months of the Yugoslav presidency was agreed by him so readily.
Kostunica versus Djindjic
The real reason for the failure of the vote on December 8th is the result of a long-standing feud between Kostunica and the Premier Djindjic. Two years ago the two were in a reformist alliance to topple Milosevic.
But they are flat-out rivals and have since been at loggerheads, Djindjic forcing the pace of reform and cooperating fully with the International Court of Justice in the Hague in handing over Milosovic and other war criminals, where Kostunica has wanted them to be put on trial at home.
Djindjic rightly fears that if Kostunica were to attain the presidency, he would try to bring down the government. Kostunica could force early elections to parliament, which Djindjic would be likely to lose. Many of the premier's supporters whose numbers are dwindling as his promises have not been fulfilled, stayed at home rather than vote for his adversary. In doing so they may just have saved the day for him.
But Kostunica is contesting the validity of the election, charging that the electoral lists were packed with names of people long since dead or gone abroad or unqualified to vote for other reasons. He has filed a complaint to that effect to the Serbian constitutional court. It is not yet clear whether the court will accept the challenge. But President Kostunica, aware that he is fighting to save his political career, is prepared to bring down the Djindjic government if he can by joining forces with ultra-nationalist Radical Party leader Seselj, so at least some observers aver. Certainly, as far as Kostunica is concerned, everything is yet to play for.
The shape of the union to come
As regards the all-important forthcoming union between Serbia and Montengro, according to the recent agreement the two sides would share a UN seat, while after three years each could hold a referendum on whether to go independent. But it has not been decided how to set up a federal parliament. The key issue is whether each republic should directly elect its parliamentarians or whether the MPs should be seconded by each republic.
Kostunica wants a popular vote to give the assembly an authority. But the Montenegrin President and pre-independence leade,r Milo Djukanovic, is against that, citing fears that then the federal parliament would have too much authority and overshadow each republic's existing parliaments. The Montenegrin clearly wants as loose a confederation as possible. "We must be pragmatists and adopt what we have agreed on so far," he says, leaving the issue until later. This is rather an obvious ploy to bury it.
At stake is the very nature of the confederation and whether the two sides are likely to remain together in three years' time. Djukanovic is angling to win a referendum on independence for Montenegro then; at least that is the likeliest meaning of his actions. Anything that weakens federal structures ahead of that is, therefore, to be welcomed.
Djukanovic has clouded the picture by taking over the premiership and relinquishing the presidency; but he remains the man in charge. Former premier and now parliamentary speaker of Montenegro, Filip Vujanivic has become acting president until the results of presidential elections on December 22nd are known.
Big arms scandal
Serbia has been generally welcomed back into the international fold. It is now receiving aid, credit and attention in large measure, while reforms are under way, being pushed forcefully by Djindjic.
But in October a big scandal blew up that threatens relations with the West. It transpired that a Bosnian Serb firm, Orao (Eagle), and a Yugoslav one, have been selling parts and equipment to Iraq to refurbish its military aircraft. This is in total contravention of the UN embargo of arms sales to Iraq.
The Federal Government has fired the deputy defence minister, Ivan Djovic, and the head of Yugoimport, Jovan Cekovic. Further heads may have to roll. It turns out that Dusan Mihajlovik, the interior minister of Serbia, is also the chairman of Yugoimport's board. He claims to be unaware of any deals with Iraq, even while ordering the organised crime squad to investigate.
The scandal has become a major embarrassment for officials in Belgrade. Serbian Justice Minister, Vladan Batic, has also demanded the resignation of Federal Prime Minister, Dragisa Pesic and Defence Minister, Velimir Radojevic. Batic made the demand as leaders in Belgrade clashed over who was responsible for the scandal that could result in renewed sanctions against the country. The Chairman of the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Claude Jorda, has told the UN Security Council that Belgrade is still not cooperating with investigators.
In neighbouring Croatia, meanwhile, police raided a ship in the port of Rijeka recently, on suspicion of weapon smuggling. Interior Ministry spokesperson Zinka Bardic said the ship Boka Star, registered in the Kingdom of Tonga but owned by a Montenegrin citizen, was under surveillance as suspicious since it entered Croatian waters. Unsurprising, one might think, with such a provenance.
EFG Eurobank Egasias inks Post Banka Ad re-contract
In keeping with Greek EFG EurobankErgasias' wider strategy to expand activities in southeastern Europe, the bank has signed a pre-contract for the acquisition of 67 per cent of the total share capital of Yugoslav bank, Post Banka AD. Yugoslav Post and the Yugoslav Telecommunications, the major shareholders of Post Bank Ad, together with other minor shareholders of Post bank agreed to transfer their shares to EFG Eurobank Ergasias, a press release said. In addition, the parties agreed to immediately take all the steps needed to acquire the necessary approvals by the relevant authorities in Greece and Yugoslavia, in order for the final contract to be signed as soon as possible. Following the signing of the final contract, EFG Eurogbank Egasias will undertake an action plan for the growth and development of Post Banka's activities, in line with similar plans already underway in Post Bank Bulgaria and Bank Post Romania.
British UN official offers Kosovo prospect of proper power supplies
UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] Pillar IV head, Andy Bearpark, said that in three or four years' time, the citizens of Kosova [Kosovo] would have a sufficient supply of electricity, KosovaLive web site has reported.
Bearpark's statement came only a few days after he signed a memorandum of understanding on energy supply and exchange on behalf of Kosova in Athens, Greece, together with representatives of nine southeastern European countries.
The energy ministers of nine southeastern European governments met on 15th November in Athens and committed themselves to creating a regional electricity market and to its integration into the internal electricity market of the EU.
According to Pillar IV officials, officials from Kosova, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Greece, FYROM [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia], Turkey and the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] signed the memorandum of understanding. Croatia has indicated that it will sign the agreement in the near future.
By signing the memorandum, the governments of these states have agreed to open their national markets according to the EU Electricity Directive by 2005.
Bearpark said that with this agreement, Kosova would have a better future regarding energy supply. According to him, the agreement does not foresee that Kosova will have sufficient energy in the short term, but that it will be achieved in the future.
Bearpark, who comes from Great Britain, noted that in his country, citizens are left without power only in the case of disaster. He added that the energy consumed in Britain is not only produced by Britain itself, but also in Norway, France and other European countries.
This kind of agreement also exists between EU member countries. With the implementation of this memorandum, consumers who pay for their electricity will have sufficient power, regardless of whether Kosova's power plants are working or not.
Serbian trade unions warn against "hasty" privatisation of tobacco factories
Foreign partners are not interested in domestic tobacco so after privatising tobacco factories in Serbia, domestic producers and processors of raw tobacco can put a lock on their doors, a representative of the DIN [Nis Tobacco Factory] branch of the Tobacco Industry Trade Union, Tomislav Miljkovic, has told FoNet News Agency.
He said that all DIN's trade unions made an appointment with directors of all "legal entities which deal with tobacco processing and representatives of associations of individual tobacco producers" for 3rd December.
"We would like to warn the public against consequences of hasty privatisation of domestic tobacco factories," Miljkovic said.
He said that the Serbian Agency for Privatisation [APS] had called DIN's independent trade union and the SDP [Trade Union of Tobacco Producers] for a discussion about a social programme but noted that trade unionists had unanimously decided not to attend that meeting and called them [APS officials], instead, to come to Nis "to talk about the social programme before the members."
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