% of GDP
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929. Occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941 was resisted by various partisan bands that fought themselves as well as the invaders. The group headed by Marshal TITO took full control upon German expulsion in 1945. Although communist in name, his new government successfully steered its own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades. In the early 1990s, post-TITO Yugoslavia began to unravel along ethnic lines: Slovenia, Croatia, and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia all declared their independence in 1991; Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" in 1992 and, under President Slobodan MILOSEVIC, Serbia led various military intervention efforts to unite Serbs in neighboring republics into a "Greater Serbia." All of these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In 1999, massive expulsions by Serbs of ethnic Albanians living in the autonomous republic of Kosovo provoked an international response, including the NATO bombing of Serbia and the stationing of NATO and Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo. Blatant attempts to manipulate presidential balloting in October of 2000 were followed by massive nationwide demonstrations and strikes that saw the election winner, Vojislav KOSTUNICA, replace
Update No: 081 - (12/01/04)
The elections in Serbia just after Christmas are not good news for those who wish the Serbs well. The Radicals of firebrand Vojislav Seselj, in jail at the U.N. war crimes tribunal, came a clear first in December 28th's general election, but they cannot secure an absolute majority in Parliament, even with fellow indictee Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists. Serbia's feuding reformers will probably unite to keep ultra-nationalists from power, but their coalition will be unstable, giving the resurgent Radicals the chance to pounce in fresh elections if it collapses.
Any Radical role in government would mean a return to international isolation while a reformist coalition's goal would be to continue the journey towards the European mainstream begun when Milosevic was toppled as Yugoslav president in 2000.
Reformists in disarray
The reformist camp can just form a majority -- but only if all four of its member groups represented in Parliament work together. With a track record of squabbling and some tough early challenges ahead, few are betting they will stay together long.
If early elections follow, hard-liners -- key players in the Balkan wars of the 1990s which killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions from their homes -- would be the only major alternative for voters dissatisfied with the outgoing cabinet. It looks as if there will be elections again within 18 months.
The Radicals is a party that Serbia's neighbours see as synonymous with ethnic cleansing and Western diplomats view as so odious they refuse to meet with its officials. It could yet be in control of the biggest republic of the former Yugoslavia.
"I expect the four parties of the democratic bloc will probably form a majority in Parliament and the government because for all of them the alternative is much worse," political analyst Vladimir Goati said. Goati raised the spectre of Germany's Weimar Republic after World War I, when chronic instability and repeated elections radicalised voters and allowed Hitler to come to power.
Lurch to the right
Any government of liberals, conservatives and monarchists in the reformist camp will not only have to overcome policy differences. It also will be under pressure to take a more anti-Western stance from a strong Radical-led opposition.
Cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal -- seen as vital by the United States and the European Union -- will be especially tough. The West has made clear Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander charged with genocide, should be in custody if Belgrade wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace cooperation program at the alliance's Istanbul summit in June But ex-Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will hold most power in any reformist cabinet and he has a history of hostility towards the court. He once said it made his stomach turn.
Soon after taking office, a new government faces a March 31 deadline from the U.S. Congress to show it is cooperating with the tribunal or risk losing financial aid.
A government led by self-styled moderate nationalist Kostunica and facing a strong ultra-nationalist opposition could also find it more difficult to make compromises over Kosovo.
The southern province has been under international rule since NATO's 1999 air war to end Serb repression of its independence-seeking ethnic Albanian majority. Major powers are edging towards trying to get an agreement on its final status.
"The combination of the Parliament now is such that we will again have elections in a year and a half and during that period we might see two different governments," said Dusan Janjic, a political analyst affiliated to the pro-reform camp.
The Radicals already appear to be looking ahead. Asked about the prospect of an another early election, party General Secretary Aleksandar Vucic replied: "We have nothing against that because I think we're going to win an absolute majority."
Kosovo environment minister outlines priorities, new laws for 2004
The minister of environment and spatial planning, Ethem Ceku, said that the priorities for 2004 will be designing and approving six laws: the law on construction, law on residence, law on water, law on air, law on protection of nature, and the law on National Park Bjeshket e Nemuna, KosovaLive web site reported.
Reporting on the ministry's year-long work, Ceku said that during 2003 it approved the Law on Spatial Planning, Law on Environmental Protection and determined the priorities for 2004.
The ministry has inherited from UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] administration only the Department on Environment and the Institute of Hydrometeorology, whereas now it has the Spatial Planning Department, Department of Residence, Construction Department, Department of Water, Department of Administration, the Spatial Planning Institute, as well as the Kosovar Agency for Environmental Protection.
Ceku said that the ministry created the vision for political level, economic, social and cultural level, and all other aspects for ensuring overall development of society.
According to Ceku, the political level envisions integration into the field of communications, such as air, railways, telecommunications and energy.
The ministry has undertaken activities that bring immediate results, be it to the quality of life, or encouraging citizens to maintain values through campaigns; such was "Kosova - my home."
Ceku said that the funds allocated to the Ministry of Environment for 2003 were 3m euros, and 95 per cent of that amount was spent. The ministry has requested 34m euros for 2004, but it received only 3m euro, which puts at risk many projects that it fears will not be implemented.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Romanian, Serbia sign free trade agreement
The dynamism of the cooperation activities and commercial exchanges between Romania and Serbia and Montenegro will, as of 2004, be under the sign of the Free Trade Agreement, a document negotiated since 2001 and signed on 23rd December, said Eugen Dijmarescu, minister delegate for trade at the Economy and Trade Ministry, Rompres News Agency reported.
The agreement signed by Dijmarescu and Amir Nurkovic, minister of interior economic relations of Serbia and Montenegro, calls for the setting up, during a transition period, of a free trade area between the two states, by observing the provisions of the World Trade Organization.
Customs taxes for industrial products will be eliminated once the agreement takes force, except for a small range of industrial products for which liberalization will be made gradually until the end of the transition period on 31st December 2006.
While at present trade between Romania and Serbia and Montenegro amounts to no more than US$160m, commercial exchanges will increase from 2004, following the agreement signed recently, and they will draw the two states' business communities into more efficient cooperation.
The two sides also agreed to abandon customs taxes for certain farm products, on a mutual basis, upon the agreement's taking force. Such products include live animals, certain grain, fruit, vegetable material. A range of perishable goods benefit from a cut in customs taxes within certain tariff limits. Such goods include cows, beef, some vegetables, grain, margarine, meat products as well as some sugar products and packet soups.
The enforcement of the agreement, planned to take place in the first half of 2004, will boost trade flows between the two countries and will also stimulate foreign portfolio investments, having major political connotations, Nurkovic said.
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