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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: 155 - (25/04/10)

It takes time for people to make up after a terrible fall-out. It is perhaps at last happening in the Balkans.

Perhaps peace at last
Almost 15 years after the wars in former Yugoslavia, the Serbian and Croatian presidents are leading a new push toward reconciliation in the conflict-scarred Balkans.

In an unprecedented move, Serbian President Boris Tadic launched an initiative that on March 31 resulted in Serbian parliament’s declaration condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces.

Two weeks later Croatian President Ivo Josipovic made an equally unprecedented move, expressing before the Bosnian parliament his “regrets” for the role his country had played in the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia. Next day Josipovic visited the central Bosnian village of Ahmici, a symbolic site where Bosnian Croat forces killed 116 Muslim civilians in April 1993.

In terms of population and the strength of their economies, Serbia and Croatia are the regional heavyweights to have emerged out of the former Yugoslavia.

Both countries also harbour ambitions of joining the EU, which would be difficult without putting their past conflicts behind them.

The fact that their leaders are making efforts to overcome the legacy of past conflicts can only be beneficial for the entire region, said Ivan Vejvoda of the non-governmental Balkan Trust for Democracy.

In a sign of the apparent understanding emerging between the two presidents, they have met three times in less than a month. In addition, Josipovic on April 16 reiterated his wish to solve in “other ways” — out of the court in other words — the issue of reciprocal genocide complaints filed by Serbia and Croatia to the International Court of Justice.

Tadic recommended the same thing late last month.

He expressed a hope on April 16 that Serbia and Croatia could demonstrate a “real maturity” to address “problems of the past in a different rather than in a traditional way.” He also advocated “joint government meetings,” something unthinkable until now.

The complaints of genocide allegedly committed during Croatia’s 1991 to 1995 independence war are a key obstacle to a genuine breakthrough in bilateral relations.

Zagreb denounces the role of Serbs, who were then led by Slobodan Milosevic. Belgrade accuses Croats for the massive violence against Serbs in Croatia.

A refusal to accept that one’s own side committed atrocities has been common throughout the Balkans for a long time, and a major obstacle to reconciliation efforts. “One of the Balkans’ ills is that people are only prepared to talk about victims in their own nations and not those in other nations,” Tadic said in an interview to a Bosnian television in January. “Until now, the leaders ... have paid tribute only to victims belonging to their own nation, condemning only the crimes of other” nations, wrote analyst Jelena Lovric in the Croatian daily Jutarnji List.

The final reconciliation still to come
The fact remains that the process of reconciliation, fostered by the EU to which all western Balkan countries hope to join, will still be very long, for both psychological and political resistance is strong.

The reactions to the Serbian parliament’s declaration on Srebrenica and to Josipovic’s gestures in Bosnia are revealing. Bosnian Muslims deplored that the word genocide was not included in the declaration, while Bosnian Serbs felt that it ignored crimes committed against them.

And Josipovic’s initiatives in Bosnia raised a political storm in Croatia, angering Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, who criticized him for not consulting her over the moves.


The Churchillian echo
Winston Churchill famously said of Russia; " It is a mystery, wrapped in a conundrum, wrapped in an enigma." This could be said of several countries and peoples, including the Russians' soul-mates, the Serbs.

What is less often quoted is that Churchill went on to say: "But there is perhaps one clue to the mystery of their behaviour, the pursuit of their self-interest."

This could also said to be true of several nations.

The big one – a treasure trove in the offing
There is a big story coming out of the Balkans that affects Serbia intimately. It is that Kosovo is one of the richest places on Earth for mineral resources.

It does not have much in the way of oil and gas. But it has Europe's largest coal deposits, as also of gold and silver, bauxite, cobalt, chrome, manganese, nickel and much more.

If this had been known ten years ago or so, the Serbs would have been even more tenacious than they were to defend their original patch, as they see Kosovo. Perhaps it is just as well that they weren't in the know.

Who was?
There is a tale to tell here. Evidently, certain circles knew about it at least two years ago when a piece appeared in a February number of the Wall Street Journal, mentioning the discoveries. But this did not receive the follow-up one might have expected.

Clearly, it was thought better not to provoke the Serbs, who had still not accepted their exclusion from Kosovo as a permanency. It was - and is - a hot enough potato as it is.

“Serbia cannot enter NATO with Kosovo”

For instance, Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that Serbia must give up its fight for Kosovo if it wants to become a member of the NATO alliance. He said that Russia would then have to question its stances towards Kosovo, adding that “We cannot be bigger Serbs than the Serbs themselves,” daily Blic writes.

“All NATO member-states have not recognized (the independence of) Kosovo. Those are Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia who have not. But according to international law, and the NATO statute, such a situation is an obstacle for Serbia joining the Alliance,” Rogozin said. He said that the stance of most NATO member-states will not change, which means that the Alliance can accept Serbia as a member-stated only with “new” borders—without Kosovo.

“Belgrade will have to officially recognize Priština’s sovereignty, which will also change the stances of Madrid and Moscow,” he said.

Asked what Moscow’s opinion is on the discussion of Serbia’s Atlantic integrations, Rogozin said that he understands the stances of the Serbian politicians and military elite that want Serbia to join NATO.

He pointed out that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Serbia does not have to join NATO first if it wants to join the European Union. Rogozin said that it is hard for him to understand how Belgrade can speak of NATO integration when there are still images in the capital of damage done by the 1999 NATO-led bombing.

“The problem of Kosovo is there as well, since most NATO member-states have recognized its independence, also, there is the demonization of the Serbian people, the flagrant anti-Serbian double-standards of the West towards participants in the wars of the former Yugoslavia…Has that been forgotten? Russia would not understand Serbia’s decision in favour of NATO considering everything I have mentioned,” Rogozin said.


The Economist's point of view:-

Base camps: Rumours of a Russian base in Serbia reflect Balkan hysteria, not reality
Feb 4th 2010 | BELGRADE | From The Economist print edition
EVERYONE in the Balkans loves a good conspiracy theory, especially one that involves energy pipelines and military bases. According to some people with a bent against Serbia and Russia, the Russians are plotting to create a thinly-disguised military base in Serbia. That would be the Kremlin’s first new European base since the end of the Warsaw Pact, and could seem a response to NATO’s expansion in the region. Every country around Serbia is either in NATO or wants to be.

The story of the Russian base started in October when Dmitry Medvedev was visiting Belgrade. It was announced then that a new joint centre for emergency co-ordination would be created in the Serbian town of Nis. The site was an all-but-unused airport, named after Constantine the Great (the Roman emperor who was born there). The Russian partner will be the emergency ministry, a powerful semi-military outfit whose activities include disaster relief but also errand-running for Russia’s security services. The ministry has long played a role in Serbia, for example in mine-clearing.

But speculation has mounted that the Nis facilities could be used for spying or even turned to military use, should the need arise. What has most excited the conspiracy theorists is that Nis is close to the point where a controversial planned gas pipeline, South Stream, will cross Serbian territory. The pipeline is a joint venture between Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, and Italy’s energy company, Eni. The route crosses the Black Sea, enabling Russia to bypass Ukraine, seen as a troublesome transit country, and deliver gas direct to the Balkans, central Europe and Italy.

Serbia’s emergency-planning chief in the interior ministry, Predrag Maric, firmly denies any notion that Russia is opening a military facility by stealth. Nis will not be a military base, he insists, pointing out that his ministry and the Russians have invited no fewer than 11 countries from the region to a conference in Belgrade this month to discuss their part in the establishment of the logistics and training facility in Nis.

The theories circulating among bloggers and others about Russian intentions echo earlier ones about outsiders’ geopolitical goals in the region. Many believe that it was oil, not worries about Serbian brutality in Kosovo, that lay behind NATO’s bombing of Serbia (including Nis airport) in 1999. After the war the Americans built Camp Bondsteel, a base capable of housing 7,000 men, in Kosovo. Conspiracy theorists said the real purpose of the camp was to safeguard the planned AMBO oil pipeline that aimed to pump Russian and Caspian oil from across Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania.

Yet more than 16 years after it was first mooted, the AMBO pipeline remains only a line on the map. Bondsteel has no runway. And there are only 1,400 American troops left in Kosovo. When the total number of NATO-led troops in Kosovo drops from its current 10,000 to the planned 2,300 Camp Bondsteel may close for good.

Nis airport and Bondsteel are easy to spot on Google Earth. Harder to find is a real military base, opened last November by the Serb authorities and often dubbed the Serbian Bondsteel. It lies close to Kosovo in the Bujanovac area of south Serbia, home to many ethnic Albanians. Their leaders complain loudly about the militarisation of the region. Yet the Serbian base can house only 1,000 men. “I’m not losing any sleep over it,” says a senior NATO official. He says he is aware of the possible Russian presence in Nis but is unworried by its implications. Meanwhile Windjet, an Italian low-cost airline, has just started flights to Constantine the Great airport.

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