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