Update No: 113 - (26/10/06)
There is no part of the advanced world that needs a statesman
more than Serbia. It is in a pickle, pretending to arrogate rights over Kosovo,
which it has forever lost.
Kostunica sets Serbia on course for early polls
Serbia will hold an early election after a referendum within weeks on a new
constitution reasserting its sovereignty over Kosovo, the prime minister said on
Setting his course for a tumultuous conclusion to a year that has not resolved
Serbia's crunch problems, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the new
constitution, approved unanimously by parliament, ensures that "Serbia will
defend Kosovo with all democratic and legal means."
To the watching world, this is an asinine course of action, pre-set for
disaster, but to a Serbian politician hoping to get re-elected, the perspective
will look different..
"Kosovo is ours," he told parliament.
Kosovo's 90 per cent ethnic Albanian majority demands independence from Serbia,
whose troops killed some 10,000 Albanians and embarked on a massive ethnic
cleansing campaign during an Albanian guerrilla insurgency in 1998-99, until
NATO bombed Serbia for nearly three months to compel its withdrawal.
Milosevic, the author of the tragedy, is dead. The Serbs have learnt nothing
that they are prepared to face up to, and their leaders know the resentful mood
of their people, after the recent amputation of Montenegro.
On October 13th, the European Union effectively told Belgrade it would not
resume frozen talks on Serbia's EU membership aspirations because Serbia had not
kept its promise to arrest Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Rako Mladic,
indicted in 1995.
This has become a diluted threat because the program of new candidate states
joining the EU is now on hold, as the EU agonises over the whole question of
The West insists that it wants to see a democratic Serbia joining the EU, but is
adamant that Serbs cannot escape justice for atrocities committed by their
forces in the 1990s.
Serbia's new constitution will replace the old Socialist blueprint, defunct
since the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in 2000. It treats
Serbia as a single republic, following the last departure in the break-up of the
Yugoslav federation when Montenegro declared independence in June.
Greater Serbia is all
The constitution's main symbolic point is to reaffirm that the heartland
province of Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbia, and that Kostunica, a
moderate nationalist, has not given in to Western pressure to concede it.
Anti-government demonstrators chanted slogans against the constitution on
October 14th, saying it was a rushed job pushed through for political reasons,
not constitutional reasons.
No major political party in Serbia will publicly concede that Kosovo may be
lost, despite polls indicating only 12 per cent of Serbs think it may still be
Pro-Western parties fear that to do so would cripple them in the coming election
battle against the ultra-nationalist Radical party, Serbia's strongest.
Kostunica set no date for the snap election, but pundits say it will be in mid
or late December. Parliament set an October 28-29th date for the referendum to
ratify the constitution. If it passes, Serbia can call for new elections 45 days
Kostunica told a news conference earlier that he had asked the liberal G17 Plus
party which supports his minority coalition not to carry out its threat to quit
this weekend but to stay on until preparations for the elections were completed.
"I am sure that all this will go very fast. The government is bringing its
mandate to a close," he said. "We have a job to do. We have a
referendum and after that elections and there is nothing more important for
Serbia than that."
"I am convinced the people will confirm at a referendum that Serbia needs a
new democratic constitution and that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia,"
Belgrade has warned Western powers leaning towards granting Kosovo independence
that it will set a dangerous precedent in the ethnically mixed Balkans, and
could also boost the electoral strength of Serbia's ultra-nationalist Radical
Party, the main threat to the re-election of a pro-western government.
There is another major implication. Russia has made it known that it is opposed
to granting independence to Kosovo - and that could mean a Security Council
veto, which hideously complicates the Kosovo question!
An invitation to Moscow?
Moreover the signal to Serbia is that once again, as many times in their
history, fellow Orthodox Slav Russia is their 'best friend'. If as no doubt,
some members of Russia's hierarchy would like to drive a wedge of influence and
investment into Europe, and to set up a Moscow centred region of influence as
opposed to that of Brussels, then a resentful Serbia, excluded from even the
beginnings of membership of the EU, could easily look eastwards.
That has a bearing on the fact that other Balkan states have had their EU
ambitions savagely interrupted, and if Serbia were to turn to Moscow it could
thereafter be attempting to form some voluntary Russia-oriented association with
a rump of other 'outsider' Balkans states, if it appears that the EU nations
really are opposed to further enlargement.
Tekhsnabexport to export spent nuclear fuel from Serbia
Russia's OAO Tekhsnabexport has signed a contract on exporting 2.3 tonnes of
spent nuclear fuel from a research reactor in Serbia, the company said, Interfax
News Agency reported.
Tekhsnabexport won a tender announced by Serbia and has signed a contract for
the first preparatory stage. The first stage is expected to last about 18
months, Tekhsnabexport said. Within this period the spent fuel will be audited
and prepared for delivery to the Mayak Production Association. The current
project is a part of a Russian-US programme on the return of spent nuclear from
research reactors to Russia. About a quarter of the total costs will be covered
by the United States, the company said.
Serbia signs agreement with Germany
Serbia signed a debt-for-investment agreement with Germany, one of the Paris
Club creditors. Under the agreement, 25m Euros of Serbian debt to Germany will
be written off, in exchange for a 5.5m Euro investment by the Serbian government
in a project revitalising remote heating systems. Serbia will be relieved
immediately from paying interest on the debt, while the principal will disappear
from the books once the project is completed. After the accord was signed,
Serbian Finance Minister, Mladjan Dinkic, said his country would explore other
such arrangements, setimes.com reported.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
IBM eyes investment in Serbia
The international technology giant IBM opened a new office in Belgrade on
September 28th and said it is exploring other investment opportunities in
Serbia, setimes.com reported.
Addressing a news conference, general manager for Central Europe, Brandon Riley,
said the move is aimed at backing increased investments in Serbia. IBM is
particularly interested in industry, the banking sector, telecommunications, the
public administration sector and energy, he added.