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Books on Serbia


Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $
GNI per capita
 US $ 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Update No: 114 - (28/11/06)

Djindjic widow enters politics, tops ballot list 
The widow of Serbia's slain Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic confirmed on November 16th that she has officially entered politics, topping her late husband's Democratic Party ticket for the Jan. 21 parliamentary elections in Serbia. "For me, this is my contribution to efforts to bring about democratic change in Serbia," Ruzica Djindjic said. "I want the Democrats to finish the job my husband started." 
Djindjic's assassination in March 2004 remains an open wound for Serbia, still struggling to build democracy and continue reforms he launched as the Balkan republic's first democratic head of government since World War II.
Ms Djindjic's name is first on the list of candidates the Democratic Party is fielding for the race for the 250-seat assembly in the upcoming vote, Democratic Party deputy chief Zoran Sutanovac said. The high placement on the ticket practically guarantees Djindjic a seat in parliament. 
Speaking to reporters in downtown Belgrade, where the Democrats marked the International Day for Tolerance, an annual Nov. 16 observance declared by the United Nations, Djindjic said the upcoming elections in Serbia are "extremely important." 
The elections are a chance to secure a win for "the kind of democratic policies" her husband advocated before he was gunned down outside the government headquarters in the Serbian capital in March 2003, she said. 
Djindjic refused to speculate on who would be the Democrats' candidate for the post of prime minister, saying she did not see herself in that role but would "be ready" to take it if her party asked it of her. A female premier would "certainly enforce the position of women in Serbia," Djindjic added. 
Ruzica Djindjic is a close friend and staunch supporter of Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic, her husband's successor at the helm of the Democratic Party. 
The Democrats are one of the largest parties in Serbia, but are not in the government of conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. The January elections are expected to pit Serbia's increasingly popular ultranationalist Radicals and their hardline allies against a range of moderates and democrats, including Tadic's and Kostunica's group. 
Serbia's early parliamentary elections became necessary after the republic adopted a new constitution this month and after Montenegro, Serbia's last partner from the former Yugoslavia, declared independence in June. The elections could also spell the end to Kostunica's minority government which has been falling apart amid resignations on Serbia's increasingly polarized political scene. 

NATO has bad news for Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia 
Three Balkan countries that were hoping to take their first step toward membership in NATO at a summit meeting this month were disappointed. There was no invitation to Serbia, Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the 26-nation alliance's Partnership for Peace at the Nov. 28 and 29 meeting in Riga, Latvia, because of concerns about war crimes and timing issues related to Serbia's future, the diplomats said.
The main obstacle is reluctance by Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States to reward Belgrade or Sarajevo while two fugitives indicted for major war crimes Bosnian war of the 1990s are at large. 
Serbian elections in January and a looming decision on the future status of the breakaway province of Kosovo are also factors, although Serbia's supporters contend that those are reasons to take Belgrade into NATO's embrace now rather later. NATO, like the European Union, has made closer ties with the former Yugoslav republics conditional on their cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, is pressing both organizations to stand firm until Serbia hands over the former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and until the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is captured.
Del Ponte has given Montenegro, which broke from Serbia after a referendum this year, a clean bill of health. But some NATO diplomats argue that Serbia's sense of isolation and victimization would be compounded if the alliance moved forward with Montenegro alone.
NATO recently opened its first military mission in Belgrade, seven years after it bombed the city to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo and end Belgrade's assault on the ethnic-Albanian majority.
Neighbours like Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia argue that giving Partnership for Peace status to Serbia and Bosnia would bolster military reform, improve security and help to fight organized crime, terrorism and arms smuggling throughout the Balkans. "We don't want any security black hole in southeastern Europe," a senior diplomat from one of those countries said.
Partnership for Peace membership gives access to a wide menu of cooperation, including joint training, military exercises and political consultations.
Opponents of an invitation to the three Balkan nations at Riga said the credibility of the Hague war crimes tribunal was at stake. Others added that NATO could look foolish if hard-line nationalists won the Serbian elections or Kosovo descended into violence.

The Kosovo conundrum
With the world focused on Iraq and other matters, Kosovo has fallen off the reckoning. That inattention will end soon; a decision about the province's fate is looming. The United States and its European friends have repeatedly stated their intention to make the difficult decision before the end of the year on whether to separate Kosovo from Serbia. This decision - crucial to the future of an unstable region - will test Western determination. 
Kosovo is inhabited 90% by Albanians, who are 77% Moslem and have little in common with the Serbs, loyal to The Serb Orthodox Church. The whiff of jihad is in the air, although the support of the West in the War in 1999 and subsequently has restrained its emergence.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanians have proclaimed that they will not accept any tie to Serbia, no matter how tenuous. Throughout the 1990's, they virtually opted out of Serbian-run Kosovo by creating parallel institutions. Their forced mass exodus in 1999 and Nato's subsequent intervention, which ended Serbia's rule and established a quasi-state under UN administration, has made anything other than independence intolerable.
Negotiations this year in Vienna, brokered by the UN, showed that an agreed settlement between Serbia and Kosovo on its 'final status' will not happen. Talks continue but, as UN negotiator and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari diplomatically told the Security Council, they are effectively dead.
No Serbian leader will agree to Kosovo's independence, because nationalism remains the dominant political force in the country. Indeed, Prime Minister Kostunica, the apostle of Serbian nationalism, has been trying in every way to undermine Kosovo's interim government. The main purpose of his new constitution is its preamble, which enshrines Kosovo as an inalienable part of Serbia.
Sometime over the next month or two, the Balkan Contact Group - the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia - will consider Ahtisaari's recommendations on Kosovo's final status and possibly propose a solution to the Security Council, which must make the final decision. In public, all Contact Group members have tried to leave the question of Kosovo's final status open, but informally the US and some of its allies have told the two parties that they will propose independence this year.
Some members of the Security Council - particularly Russia and China - are opposed to or sceptical of an imposed settlement, and few governments favour dividing up another country's territory, however compelling the circumstances. Whether the Security Council will approve independence largely depends on averting a Russian veto, which will require considerable diplomatic effort.
The nature of the independence bestowed is also important. An independent Kosovo must be secured and its minorities protected. Northern Kosovo, now largely under Belgrade's control, must not be partitioned off in all but name. In the interest of reducing the blow to Serbia, the Security Council must avoid granting independence in ways that are so contorted that the new state cannot effectively function.
If the Security Council fails to reach a decision on final status, it will produce a grave situation: Kosovo would declare independence unilaterally, and all nations would have to make up their mind whether or not to recognise the new state. If that happens, it is likely that the Serbs of North Kosovo would declare their own independence. At a minimum, Serbia would campaign strongly against recognition.
In fact, Serbia's government is already trying to persuade the West to postpone a decision until mid-2007. It claims that if Kosovo is granted independence, the ultranationalist Radical party will come to power in the next elections, and believes that holding elections as early as this year will cause the contact group to delay a proposal to the security council. News From Albania is that the UN's special envoy for Kosovo says that he will not submit his report on Kosovo until after Serbia's election in January. Moreover, the government has encouraged the leaders of Bosnia's Republika Srpska to threaten to hold their own referendum on separation from a still fragile Bosnia. And they continue to push - unsuccessfully - for Ahtisaari's removal in order to prolong the Vienna talks.
The timing of the constitutional referendum appears to be a part of this delaying strategy. Some hope that postponement will stimulate violence in Kosovo and further encourage western reconsideration of independence.
That tactic may be working. Many EU countries are worried about the implications of taking away a country's territory, as well as the impact of Kosovo's independence on Serbian democracy. Given Serbia's political instability, they question the harm of a short-term postponement - albeit mostly self-inflicted. But delay only offers more room for Kostunica to find ways to make a security council decision more difficult.
The West must ignore Belgrade's siren song. Serbian politics will be chaotic and unstable for the foreseeable future, and Serbian politicians will attempt to present this as an excuse to avoid facing the loss of Kosovo. Likewise, there will be problems establishing ties between Serbia and Kosovo under any circumstances.
But failure to proceed definitively now on Kosovo's final status will produce a worse Balkan situation, one that blocks Serbia's move toward the West and ultimate membership in the EU, condemns Kosovo's ethnic minorities to dangerous ambiguity, and imperils fragile states like Bosnia and Macedonia.
No realistic solution exists for Kosovo but independence. If Serbia wants to join the West, it must not forsake that opportunity by trapping itself in its nationalist past.

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