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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: 119 - (30/04/07)

Back to basics
There is nothing more important to a state than its territorial integrity. Any state worthy of the name has to exercise a monopoly of three things - violence, taxation and the issuance of money.
But this multiple monopoly is exercised within a given territory. The question of what that territory consists of, of what are its borders, becomes of paramount importance.
Serbia is in that quandary today, because of Kosovo. 
It is exceptionally interesting that everyone of stature on the world stage is extremely interested in this business; highly relevant as this apparently obscure Balkan affair is to them. 

Serbia seeks allies in drive to halt Kosovo's ambitions 
Serbian president Boris Tadic warned on April 19th that an independent Kosovo could destabilise the whole of Europe as Belgrade launched a diplomatic offensive to stop the mostly ethnic-Albanian region winning sovereignty. He was making the most of the fact that an obscure event on June 28th 1914, the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, changed the world forever. 
Senior officials from Russia and China were in Serbia to discuss Kosovo, which fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, France and the United States - want to see granted so-called conditional independence as soon as possible. 

"If Kosovo gets independence, European stability will be jeopardised. Serbia will never recognise the independence of Kosovo," Mr Tadic said at a conference attended by leaders of the countries along the Danube. 
The office of the Serb Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, claimed that he had received support for Serbia's stance on Kosovo from Chinese vice-premier, Hui Liangyu. "Liangyu pointed out that China opposes an imposed solution for Kosovo and is against setting deadlines for finding a solution, adding that a compromise solution for Kosovo must be found through negotiations of the two sides, Belgrade and Pristina," Mr Kostunica's office said in a statement. "Liangyu stressed that only a compromise solution could contribute to the preservation of the peace and stability in the region." 
Meanwhile, Moscow's ambassador to London, Yuri Fedotov, reiterated that Russia did not favour a Security Council vote on Kosovo until Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians had reached a compromise. 

Vitaly Churkin, Moscow's ambassador to the UN, went further, denouncing Washington's plans to present swiftly a resolution on Kosovo as "destructive." 
Analysts say that Serbia's leaders are relying on Russia and China to block Kosovo's drive for independence but may be overplaying their hand by pushing Moscow and Beijing towards an unwanted diplomatic confrontation with Washington.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said that the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirms Serbia and Russia's joint principled policy and adamant stance that while resolving the Kosovo issue, UN Charter and the effectual Resolution 1244, guaranteeing sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN members, must be respected. 

In a statement to the Tanjug news agency, Kostunica said that Martti Ahtisaari made a cardinal mistake when he came out with a proposal directly breaching the UN Charter and all effectual norms of international law on which the entire world order is based, and added that it was clear the proposal was doomed to fail. 
The Serbian Prime Minister said that Serbia must now look to the arrival of the Security Council mission, initiated by Russia. He also added that the issue of the return of the displaced must be given priority in the mission's goals. 
We fully agree with the stand exposed by Lavrov that arrival of the Security Council's mission would be a good move for starting new negotiations, Kostunica said and noted that Serbia strongly supports the idea of preparing a new negotiations cycle in the best possible way. 

He underlined that all states members of the UN Security Council should unreservedly reject as classical blackmail the threats of Albanian terrorists that they will cause mass violence should they fail to get independence and that such threats cannot be a reason for not starting new and real negotiations. 

Serbia goes on
The European Union urged Serbia's reformers to overcome their differences and form a coalition government, almost three months after parliamentary elections, Serbia & Montenegro Today reports.
"Serbia has much at stake in the rapid formation of a new government," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Serbia held a general election January 21, when reformist parties together garnered enough votes to form a government if they agreed to share power. But talks have stalled over demands by Serbia's outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica that he retain the post - even though his party didn't win the largest number of votes. Unless a new Cabinet is formed by May, new elections will have to be held. 

The EU fears that widespread disappointment among pro-reform voters could pave the way for a return of Serb nationalists who were ousted in 2000 with former President Slobodan Milosevic. Their theme tune would of course be retention of Kosovo.


Nothing could be more relevant in this context than the following from the International Herald Tribune of March 27th:-

Tale of two worlds for Kosovo politician 
By Nicholas Wood
Depending on whom you talk to here, Ramush Haradinaj, a stocky ethnic Albanian, former guerrilla commander and, briefly, Kosovo's prime minister, is either one of most impressive leaders to emerge in the Balkans in recent years, or a gruesome war criminal. Some say he is both.
Haradinaj began to stand trial at the UN tribunal in The Hague this month charged with the killing of 40 people in 1998, during the conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla group and the Serb-dominated security forces. Two other former members of the army are on trial with him.
The prosecution's leading witness, Tahir Zemaj, his son and nephew were shot and killed during the investigation. Another witness, Kjutim Berisha, died two weeks before the trial opened when he was hit by a car in the Montenegrin capital.

More than a third of those giving evidence on behalf of the prosecution are allowed to conceal their identities, more than any other case in the tribunal's history, according to the prosecution team.
But the most unusual controversy does not stem from the security measures, or the prosecution's gory allegations, but from the divisions the case has created between prosecutors at the tribunal and in Kosovo on the one side, and on the other, UN diplomats in Kosovo and Western governments that are among the court's biggest supporters.
For Western diplomats, Haradinaj was a key partner in their efforts to bring peace to the province, so much so that they tried to prevent the case from going to trial, according to a former head of the UN mission in Kosovo and the court's chief prosecutor. Once he was indicted, the UN mission supported Haradinaj's provisional release so he could continue to play a role in politics. He was given that release, lasting almost two years, the only indicted person to have been released by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in order to play an active role in politics.

Starting when he was first indicted, many diplomats and UN officials feared that their efforts at reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians would be set back.
"He moved this process forward in a way that nobody else has done," said Soren Jessen-Petersen, who was the head of the UN mission in Kosovo at the time of Haradinaj's indictment, in March 2005, just four months after Haradinaj became prime minister. 
Prosecutors both in Kosovo and The Hague argue that the United Nations and Western governments bent over backwards to stop the trial of someone charged with war crimes.
The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has referred to the case as "a prosecution that some did not want to see brought, and that few supported by their cooperation at both the international and local level."
In Kosovo, the former guerrilla commander is seen as one of the most charismatic leaders to emerge from the 1997-99 fighting. While the Serbian government vilified him as a terrorist, senior UN officials say he was instrumental in promoting reconciliation.

"He clearly understood that Serbs could and should be part of the society," said Jessen-Petersen. "And he had the credentials. Because of his background nobody could accuse him of betraying Kosovo."
Both before and after his indictment, Haradinaj proved helpful, Jessen-Petersen and other diplomats say.
In March 2004, during rioting across Kosovo, he was credited by Serbian Orthodox monks for preventing hundreds of rioters from attacking Kosovo's best known monastery. UN officials say Haradinaj also helped ensure that a visit to Kosovo by Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, in January 2005 passed without incident.
All along, international officials have tried to balance the need for political stability with the demands for justice. The UN administration in Kosovo repeatedly blocked the prosecution of Haradinaj in a case in which he was accused of attacking a rival family group of former fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The effect, according to the prosecution, was to create a sense of impunity around Haradinaj and to scare away witnesses.
"There was a general atmosphere of intimidation; they did nothing to change this atmosphere," said Jean-Daniel Ruche, political advisor to the chief prosecutor in The Hague. He said that senior UN officials had met with Haradinaj before his departure to the Netherlands at the time of his indictment in 2005 and when he returned there to stand trial. "This has had a chilling impact on our witnesses," he said in an interview by telephone.
The UN mission denies that its conduct had a detrimental impact on the tribunal and referred to three decisions by the tribunal supporting Haradinaj's provisional release. In each case the tribunal rejected motions from the prosecution arguing that his release would intimidate witnesses.

"In decision after decision, the ICTY Chamber has made it clear that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo is in the best position to determine what is in the interest of promoting peace and reconciliation in Kosovo," wrote Myriam Dessables, a UN spokeswoman in an e-mail.
The indictment contains details that are among the most gruesome brought before the tribunal: of prisoners being seized by men under Haradinaj's command, bound in barbed wire and dragged behind vehicles, and of women taken from their homes and raped repeatedly.

Haradinaj's supporters profess his innocence, saying there is no evidence to link him directly to the crimes, and suggest the court charged him simply to appear even handed in its prosecution of senior ethnic Albanians and Serbs.
As Haradinaj's indictment loomed in early 2005, Jessen-Petersen said he was aware that Western diplomats were trying to prevent the case from going ahead. He emphasized though that the UN mission in Kosovo had made no such approaches to the court.
But the UN mission stopped at least one prosecution of Haradinaj within Kosovo, according to two former members of Kosovo's justice department.

On July 7, 2000, Haradinaj led a group of men to a rival family's house in the village of Strelc in western Kosovo. A gun fight ensued, according to police investigators, in which Haradinaj was injured by a grenade. He was evacuated by U.S. personnel operating out of the main U.S. Army base in Kosovo, who also removed evidence of the shootout from the walls, according to Frederick Pascoe, a former U.S. police officer who investigated the shooting. Pascoe served with the United Nations in Kosovo.
When UN prosecutors tried to bring charges against Haradinaj, senior UN officials within the mission lobbied to prevent that, according to two former members of the UN mission's Department of Justice.
Kamudoni Nyasulu, an international prosecutor in Pec, in northwestern Kosovo, said that between 2001 and 2004 he repeatedly tried to bring the case to court.
"What I had was sufficient for a case," Nyasulu said, but he added that he was rebuffed by senior UN officials because the case was "politically sensitive."
In early 2005 another justice official at the United Nations tried again to bring the case to court but says he was directed in an e-mail by the head of the justice department not to.
"I was told we do not do the Haradinaj case," said the former UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Mobile phone market gets more competitive

Serbia has a lot of catching up to do in its telecommunications sector, where there are 36 telephone lines per 100 people - well below the European average. Many people share double-user lines, and only 60 per cent of the networks have been digitalised, the International Herald Tribune reported recently.
State-owned Telecom Serbia lost its eight-year monopoly in June 2005 and the National Telecommunications Agency has been established as an independent regulator, although the government's Telecommunications Development Strategy takes a cautious approach to change up to 2010, opting for "more methodical and gradual" liberalisation to avoid damaging Telecom Serbia as the market opens up.
Nevertheless, things are set to become more competitive in mobile telephony with the recent acquisition of Serbia's third mobile telephony licence by Austrian mobile operator Mobilkom. The new arrival will be up against Telecom Serbia's mobile arm, MTS, which currently has a market share of around 60 per cent and launched its 3G WCDMA network last December. The other competitor, Telenor Serbia, which was acquired by Norwegian telco Telenor last year, made its 3G network services commercially available in March.
A notable example of a success story in Serbia's telecom sector is Telekomunikacija and maintains telecommunication networks. Established in 1987, the firm has been achieving growth levels that have made it one of Serbia's most profitable medium-sized businesses.
General Director, Zoran Njegovanovic, believes Telekomunikacija - which also builds gas distribution networks - still has plenty of potential for development, but needs help to exploit it. "It is clear we cannot achieve a bigger profit rate without significant investment, and we would like to find a strategic partner that has the financial means, and if possible the knowledge and technology, to enable us to develop further," he says.
"With our knowledge, experience and skilled labour, we could become regional leaders in construction telecommunication and gas infrastructure."
Mr Njegovanovic says there are plenty of opportunities for developing business in the telecommunication sector, and urges investors to enter the market. "Investing in fixed telephony, not only in mobile telephony is a good platform for future investments. Cable TV is still underdeveloped, and internet use is a growing trend. Investors should take their place in the market as soon as possible because now is the time to do it."

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Repairing and upgrading the road network is vital for development

At the end of the 1990s Serbia's transport infrastructure lay devastated by war. Bridges, roads and airports lay in ruins, leaving the republic facing enormous challenges - firstly to restore everything to its pre-war level, and then to create a platform for further development. In addition to the war damage, there was a decade of economic disruption and lack of investment to make up for, the International Herald Tribune reported recently.
As far as the roads are concerned, the primary objectives have been reconstruction, repair and maintenance, but development of the infrastucture is also a priority in the National Development Plan, and a number of major projects are under consideration.
Spending has increased rapidly over the last six years, says Branko Jocic, Director of Roads of Serbia, the public company that manages the road network. "The complete halt that lasted for about 12 years has meant we have had to invest much faster and more intensively."
Funding comes from the national budget, financial credits, toll collection - a new, cashless, electronic toll collection system has been introduced - and fees amounting to 10 per cent of excise duty on petroleum products. In addition, international financial support has also been received from institutions such as the European Investment Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the World bank.
New projects are being financed through deals with the private sector, including concessions, build-operate-transfer (BOT), and public-private partnership (PPP). A consortium of Spain's FCC and Austria's Alpine-Mayreder recently won a 25 year concession for construction, use and maintenance of the Horgos-Pozega highway from the Hungarian border to southern Serbia - part of a project to build a traffic artery to the Montenegrin coast.
The most important projects are the Serbian sections of Corridor 10, a pan-European highway, running from Salzburg in Austria to Thessalonica in Greece, via a high-speed loop around the Serbian capital, Belgrade. These have been priced at 2 billion euros (US$2.6bn); Serbia itself has invested 800m euro. The EIB has provided a loan of 120m euro to build the link between Belgrade and Novi Sad, and for the reconstruction of a bridge over the Danube. A loan from the EBRD will pay for the construction of a parallel twin bridge nearby.
In December 2006, Greece announced it would be contributing 100 million euro for completion of the section from Leskovac to the Macedonian border, Which is of great importance to the regional development of southern Serbia.

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