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


Update No: 125 - (26/10/07)

The Kosovo conundrum
The gravest issue facing Serbia as a state entity is the status of Kosovo. It challenges its very identity in the eyes of many Serbs. 

It is not objectively clear why they feel it is so vital, given that de facto it has been independent for years. Inhabited by Albanians, it is no longer an integral part of Serbia at all. 

But it has a lot of Serbian Orthodox churches, some of great beauty. And then there is the great matter of the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, fought in Kosovo. This was lost by the Serbs and inaugurated a half millennium of subjection to the Ottomans, only ended in 1878, thanks to the help of the Russians. The Serbs have the unique perspective of seeing the Russians as genuine co-faithful and liberators. What is ironic about the totemic value of the Battle of the Field of the Blackbirds is that the Albanian princes brought their forces to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Serbs,all under Hungarian command, to suffer and to die with them, against the mighty Ottoman army on that day. 

The Serb leader is standing pat on a legalist position. Kosovo "will never be independent," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said at a convention of his Democratic Party of Serbia on October 14th in Belgrade. "Kosovo could become independent only if Serbia recognized it or if the United Nations Security Council violates the UN Charter," he said at a DSS conference at which the party was due to vote on its new party programme. 

"The whole world knows well that neither Serbia would ever recognize Kosovo's independence, nor the UN Security Council violate the UN Charter," Kostunica said. "That means Kosovo will never be a UN member state." 

Dismissing speculation that Serbia may attempt to trade Kosovo for a fast-track approach to EU membership, the nationalist premier added that Serbia would not recognize Kosovo regardless of "any pressure, threats and conditioning."

Away from the West 
The DSS assembly was voting on a party programme that marks a clear turn away from the West and towards Russia, including a declaration of opposition to NATO membership. It was also set to re-elect Kostunica as its president. 

The DSS is grateful to Moscow which this year blocked apparently imminent independence for Kosovo in the UN, forcing more talks on the status of the breakaway province. The talks were launched in August and were tentatively scheduled to end on December 10. 
Kostunica made his remarks just as Belgrade and Pristina negotiators were due to start another round of talks in Brussels, under the mediation of the United States, Russia and the European Union. 
But with Serbia adamantly against independence and Pristina, representing the Albanian majority, interested in nothing but independence, the talks were apparently doomed to failure even before they started. 

Fait accompli looming
Kosovo Albanian leaders, who represent 90 per cent of the population in the province, threatened to unilaterally declare independence after December 10. But whether after a UDI they would get international recognition is a separate matter.

If this were to happen, it seems that there is precious little Belgrade can do about it. The world is hardly going to look idly by while the Serb army invades Kosovo, having rescued it from it in 1999. The Serbs need to forget about Kosovo and concentrate on matters closer to home, but that is advice for a rational world, not necessarily the one we inhabit.

Kostunica re-elected
Kostunica has been re-elected the leader of his ruling Democratic Party of Serbia, the party said on October 15th.

Kostunica, who has led the party since it was formed in the early 1990s, was chosen at a party assembly, the spokesman Andreja Mladenovic said. The re-election was a formality with nobody challenging the country's conservative leader.

Kostunica came to power in Serbia in 2000, replacing former strongman Slobodan Milosevic as president of what was then rump Yugoslavia.

Kostunica switched to the post of prime minister in 2004 and is currently serving his second term as head of government.

The fight against crime and corruption
There are far more real problems than Kosovo for the re- elected leader to confront. Serbia's failure to meet the Council of Europe (CoE) demands in the fight against corruption has re-awakened concern over the country's future and EU integration. 

Even though Serbia is listed as a country with high corruption, on the Transparency International list it has improved its standing. This leading anti-corruption organisation reported that Serbia improved by 11 places in the anti-corruption fight, with an index increase from 3.0 to 3.4 on a scale of 10. 

Corruption is, nevertheless, still wide-spread, but is at least discussed, because, for the Serbs, corruption is seen by too many as a sort of virtue, a short cut to arrive to the 'job done'. And it doesn't matter that the same 'job', is destroying the country's economy and the lives of millions. Corruption in Serbia is a cancer wound of unseen proportions.

It is not clear what Kostunica, or any alternative leader, could really do about it. 

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