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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: 133 - (30/06/08)

New premier for new government
Finance minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, was nominated on June 27 to become prime minister of a new pro-European coalition government.

If confirmed by Parliament, Mr. Cvetkovic, 57, a low-key technocrat in the pro-Western Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic, would succeed Vojislav Kostunica, the departing nationalist prime minister. Mr. Kostunica, who helped lead the revolution that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, has railed against the West in recent months.

The formation of a government, perhaps as soon as early July, comes after weeks of intense jockeying and is the result of an unlikely alliance between Mr. Tadic's pro-European Democratic Party and the late Mr. Milosevic's Socialist Party, which fought a war against the West in the 1990s.

By agreeing to form a coalition, Mr. Milosevic's old party paradoxically would be helping to bring Serbia back into the European fold. Mr. Cvetkovic is expected to focus on Serbia's drive to enter the European Union while trying to improve its economy. Serbia is among Europe's poorest countries. 

The Democrats won the most seats in a parliamentary election on May 11, but not enough to form a majority in the 250-seat Parliament. Mr. Kostunica's nationalist party initially wooed the Socialists, but the talks broke off when it became clear that the Socialists wanted to link Serbia's future to the European Union, while Mr. Kostunica was seeking to forge closer ties with Russia. 

"I expect the new government to be stable, to work for the national interest and European integration," said Ivica Dacic, the leader of the Socialist Party. 

While Serbian liberals on the whole have embraced the prospect of a pro-European government, many also say they are uneasy with the decision by President Tadic to join forces with Mr. Milosevic's old party. Some analysts say the coalition of former ideological rivals could prove unstable and short-lived. 

The European Union has applauded the likely formation of the pro-Western coalition and has signalled that it could accelerate Serbia's prospects for joining the bloc. Many Western leaders also hope that a pro-European government will be more likely to hand over indicted Serbian war criminals, while tempering its stance on Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February.

Kosovo ready to leave
There are saner Serbs who are well aware that Kosovo is a lost cause. The majority in parliament seems to be shifting towards them. It refused a request in mid-June by Premier Vojislav Kostunica that it nullify the new Kosovo constitution. After all a state is only a reality, as Max Weber pointed out a hundred years ago, "in so far as it exercises a monopoly of violence in a given territory." Belgrade patently does not do that any more in Kosovo since the 1999 war, a rerun of which is unthinkable.

It is a curiosity that the Serbs have made their creation myth a major defeat, the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, when they went down to the Turks in Kosovo. This meant subjugation for centuries for the entire Balkans, including Albania, to the Ottomans. 

The Albanians, who had fought and died side by side with the Serbs at this seminal battle, adapted to five centuries of occupation by the Ottomans by becoming 70% Muslim, as did of course the Bosnian Muslims. They have paid dearly for it of late. So have the Albanian Kosovars. 
Milosevic and two figures still abroad in the region, Karadzik and Mladic, were the villains here. 

The Croats sniff a chance
Risky places are indeed risky. But they imply an upside as well as a downside.
The more unusual and original places are the better for business. Croatia is a great business place, as also is Kosovo. Putting the two together makes excellent sense.

After Zagreb officially recognised Kosovo in March, the Croatian business sector was initially apprehensive about possible economic reprisals by Serbia; however, there were none. Croatian companies returned unhindered to the Kosovo market, where they had previously achieved a measure of success. 

"Kosovo offers great opportunities for investors and businessmen in different fields," says Iliriana Shehu, a Croatian Chamber of Commerce representative in Pristina, in a recent interview with the Croatian weekly Nacional. She helps her country's companies to begin operating in Kosovo and says the business benefits both countries. 

Those companies seek to expand in Kosovo, while Kosovo needs investors who bring essential skills and charge reasonable prices. More than 80 Croatian firms are operating there in different fields, such as construction, insurance, banking and financing, fashion and food, including Ledo, Croatia's regional ice cream giant. 

In addition, Austrian, Turkish and Slovenian companies are starting to invest in and organise joint ventures with young Kosovo entrepreneurs. Kosovo authorities tried to facilitate the process earlier, but it still takes 23 days and five legal steps to start a business. 

The Croatian company Konstruktor, based in Split, just won the contract to build the Balkans' highest skyscraper in Pristina. Over the next six years, it will rise to a height of 165 metres, accompanied by a business centre, residential area and shopping mall. Planners envision it as the biggest business project in modern Pristina, worth more than 300m euros. 

Croatian construction firms developed a strong reputation in Kosovo through the reconstruction of the Pristina airport by the Zagreb-based company Ingra. Its work received positive reviews, thus opening a path for other Croatian companies. 

Subsequently, another construction company from Zagreb, IGH, won a tender to build one of the major roads in Kosovo, the Pristina-Urosevac road. The European Investment Bank will cover the cost of the project. Completion is expected in three years.

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