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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: 127 - (19/12/07)

The coming new nation
Kosovo is on the brink of declaring independence from Serbia, of which it remains a province, despite being run by the United Nations since 1999. The 90 per cent of the Kosovo population that is Albanian demands it.

The US and most European countries are ready to endorse it. But that does not guarantee it can come peacefully.

Fears of a new conflagration
The prospect of a new Balkans conflict came closer in early December after Serbia made threats of “war” with the breakaway province of Kosovo. After a four-month peace initiative failed to resolve the fate of the disputed territory, European diplomats, and even the Pope, made fresh appeals for Serbs and Albanians to avoid violence.

Concerns grew after Aleksandar Simic, adviser to Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, said that his country would defend its sovereignty “using all means” at its disposal. “The State has no recourse other than war when someone does not respect the UN Security 

Council,” he told Serbian state television. “Serbia has had negative experiences from certain armed clashes during the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, and this is why we are more prudent and cautious now, but, of course, state interests are defended by war,” said Mr Simic, a member of the Serb negotiating team.

Commitment to peaceful methods
Actually, in a very welcome development on December 14,Serbia has promised it will not use violence if Kosovo declares independence, the German defence minister told reporters. Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said he had received assurances from his Serbian colleague, Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac. "The Serbian side does not want to use or provoke violence," Jung told reporters.

Formally still part of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the UN since a NATO-led bombardment in 1999 halted a Serb crackdown. The U.S. and EU nations have urged Kosovo's Albanian leadership to hold off on their planned declaration of independence until after the Serbian presidential elections in January. Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has inevitably made the issue the defining one of the elections.

Doubts remain
There is still a lingering suspicion that Kostunica might 'do a Milosevic,' on the matter, despite the statement of his defence minister. In a public statement, Koštunica said that he had given his answer once and for all when he had taken oath of loyalty to Serbia and the Constitution as prime minister before parliament – No to Kosovar independence. “Any Serbian prime minister would respond the same way to any suggestion that Serbia should renounce a part of its territory in return for some other benefit,” he declared, which seems entirely realistic.
The prime minister’s comments came in response to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s statement on December 13 that Serbia should recognize Kosovo’s independence in order to become a member of the European Union. Koštunica stressed that Serbia would not, under any form of pressure or offer of incentive, waive its right to preserve its sovereign identity and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized frontiers. Still, he made no mention of the use of force.

A tangled tale
It all goes back a long way – to June 28, 1389, as a matter of fact, when the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds ( or the Battle of Kosovo, for short) took place.
As it so happens, the Serbs lost that battle, losing their sovereignty over Kosovo, and indeed over Serbia itself, for nearly five hundred years to the Turks. Ottoman Turkey now dominated the Balkans. The Serbs only re-acquired their nationhood and independence in 1878, with Russian help - their Orthodox brethren.
The outcome of the First World War saw Serbia absorbed in a new entity larger than itself, Yugoslavia, but with the gratifying difference that Belgrade, not Istanbul, was the capital and mentor of the affair. The Serbs had arrived. Except that they hadn't. There were two forces unleashed by that war that were to prove stronger than the young Kingdom of Yugoslavia – Fascism and Communism, the first the initial victor and the latter the eventual co-victor of the Second World War. In Yugoslavia's case the Partisans under Tito owed a lot to British help, although they might well have won anyway. The confederation of Yugoslavia was to last until the 1990s, in which decade it fell apart.

The denouement of the turbulent decade
In March, 1999 NATO began bombing Serb forces in Kosovo and in Serbia until, 78 days later, Milosevic capitulated. In June NATO troops entered Kosovo. Less murderous than the earlier Bosnian war, in which 100,000 people died, the conflict nonetheless claimed an estimated 10,000 Kosovar lives and created 850,000 refugees. Sixteen months later the Milosevic regime collapsed; he was sent to the international court in The Hague and Serbia looked set to rejoin the world. The outlook is now undeniably bleak. The threat of violence is only just below the surface. Russia is a player in all this, supporting their slav co-religionists and offering an alternative to an EU future by Serbia adhering to a Russian political, commercial, and cultural/religious agenda.

The New Year will tell what is to become of Serbia.

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