Books on Serbia & Montenegro
% of GDP
Update No: 097 - (26/05/05)
Belgrade expects to start EU membership talks in October
Officials from Belgrade and Brussels said recently that they expect the European
Union to launch Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) on the path to membership by
scheduling the start of stabilisation and association talks for October.
Visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said it was his "personal
goal to have the talks start on the fifth anniversary since the democratic
change in Serbia and the end of Slobodan Milosevic's regime. Rehn arrived in
Belgrade and was due to visit Podgorica to discuss the conditions and deadlines
required for the talks.
Rehn's visit came a week after the European Commission approved the feasibility
study. On April 25th, the EU Council of Ministers discussed SCG, and the study
received a green light to start talks in the autumn.
Serbian Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, said his cabinet was preparing a
comprehensive "national strategy" in preparation for the association
process. EU officials earlier said that the positive feasibility study was a
reward for SCG's progress with reforms and cooperation with the Hague war crimes
tribunal. Belgrade was, however, warned that it must remain committed to meeting
its international obligations to keep the approach to EU alive.
SCG has to deliver several more indicted suspects to the Hague tribunal, most
notable fugitive former Yugoslav army and Bosnian Serb generals, Nebojsa
Pavkovic and Ratko Mladic.
Rehn said: "All suspects must be delivered… without unnecessary
delays." Rehn also met the SCG President Svetozar Marovic and other
officials of the union of Serbia and Montenegro, before departing for the
Montenegrin capital Podgorica for talks with Prime Minister, Miko Djukanovic.
A step forward was taken on April 12th when the European Commission indicated
that the two-state entity, Serbia-Montenegro, including formally Kosovo, was
ready to enter into a closer relationship with the EU. But this does not mean
It is being offered a Stability and Association Agreement - seen as a step
towards full membership. The turning in of war crime suspects to the Hague is a
precondition of full entry. The Serb prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, has
hitherto insisted on 'voluntary surrender' by the suspects. But, as 10 of them
have been handed over in as many weeks as of mid-April, there is a sign of
toughening up by the government against the suspects. It is obviously mindful of
how much is at stake in its relations with the EU and the US.
There is a particular reason for doing so this summer, with a dread anniversary
in the offing. "We would like to close the chapter this summer, ten years
after the Sebrenica massacre," said Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus,
referring to the murder of at least 7,000 Muslim men and boys by the Bosnian
Serb Army in July 1995.
Donor Conference for Kosovo's Cultural Heritage Under Way
The Kosovo problem remains a sore issue, six years after the conclusion of
the war. A donor conference aimed at raising money to preserve Kosovo's cultural
heritage opened on 13th May in Paris. The meeting was organised by UNESCO, in
co-operation with the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNMIK.
Sponsors hope to gather the funds needed for the restoration, preservation and
protection of monuments and other sites of significant historical importance.
Experts say as many as 75 monuments are considered in need of urgent restoration
In other news, UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen discussed recent developments
in Kosovo with Macedonian Defence Minister Jovan Manasijevski during their
meeting in Pristina on May 12th. Jessen-Petersen said implementation of
standards is on track, but much remains to be done.
Kosovo is a ward of the international community, as is Bosnia, with 20,000 NATO
and EU soldiers on the ground keeping the peace in the two of them. Kosovo is
still formally part of Serbia-Montenegro, but in practice is independent.
The standard of living is abysmal; unemployment is high; crime and lawlessness
are rife. But it at least has a good man as its president in Ibrahim Rugova, a
pacifist, French-trained intellectual. He has an unenviable difficult task,
which he is discharging very well so far. Peace generally prevails. The two-year
war between Serb security forces and Albanian resisters at the end of the 1990s
has not resumed, although there have been only too many individual instances of
violence. Kosovo does, indeed, still fester. Hence the need for the troops.
An interim UN mission still administers the province, along with an elected
government, while troops from 30 countries provide security. As Rugova said on
April 15th in The International Herald Tribune: " Both the international
community, stretched as it is by crises around the globe, and we who live here
are anxious for Kosovo to complete its transition from chaos to stability. And,
despite continuing difficulties, success is in sight."
Rugova attributes the improvement to the government of Ramush Haradinaj, elected
in October last year, "that accomplished more in 100 days than its
predecessors in the previous three years." This government and its
successor have concentrated on the Standards, an intermeshed set of 61 reforms
necessary for stability and incorporation into the European family. Haradinaj
made tolerance and the rule of law his watchwords. He showed his respect for the
latter by turning himself in when indicted by The Hague. Soren Jessen -Peterson,
the head of the Interim UN Mission in Kosovo, praised him for his dignity and
In March the new Assembly voted in a new government by a large majority, a
continuation of the coalition between the Democtatic League of Kosovo and the
Alliance for Kosovo's Future, headed by Basjam Kosumi as premier. Kosumi is
continuing the policy reform and reconciliation. He is aiming to complete 90-95%
of the 61Standards within a year. Slavisha Petkovic, a Serb Kosovar, has been
made Minister for Returns and Communities, with the third largest budget among
the ministries, $18m. Patriarch Pavle, head of the Serb Orthodox Church,
recently agreed to accept $5m to repair damage done to its churches in Kosovo by
rioters in 2004.
The UN has yet to decide on the final status of the province. It is likely to
opt for its eventual independence, but only when both Serbia-Montenegro and
itself join the EU.
Goodbye to Montenegro
Actually, Montenegro also wants out; it is to hold a referendum on
independence next year. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Miodrag Vlahovic said in
Prague on 10 February that Montenegro wants to join the EU and NATO as an
independent country and not remain "hostage" to Serbia's reluctance to
cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. He argued that Montenegro is
"patient" and willing to discuss any number of possible political
formulas regarding its statehood, providing that such options do not compromise
its "right to international recognition." He said he believes that
Serbia and Montenegro can find a better basis for understanding in a union of
independent states than in the current "non-functioning" joint state.
Rejecting arguments that Montenegrin independence would have a destabilizing
effect on the western Balkans, Vlahovic stressed that such a development would
defuse long-standing tensions in both regional affairs and Montenegrin internal
Vlahovic's remarks come at a time when the future of Montenegrin statehood
continues to be the top political issue in that republic. With a population of
about 650,000, Montenegro has more inhabitants than Luxembourg (480,000), which
currently holds the rotating EU Presidency.
At the heart of what historians call "the Montenegrin question" is the
fact that there has never been a consensus among Montenegrins in modern times as
to whether they are a separate, distinct people or a special branch of the
Serbian nation. In 1918, led by the young and educated urban classes, Montenegro
opted for union with Serbia. Today, those same social groups tend to favor
scrapping the joint state with Serbia, which was set up in 2002-03 under EU
pressure. The government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is committed to
independence, particularly through a referendum. A recent poll suggests that
about 44 percent of the population would vote for independence, while 40 percent
The Union 'Does Not Function'
Speaking at RFE/RL, Vlahovic addressed a number of issues relating to
Montenegro's role in the Balkans and its future as an independent state. He
stressed that independence "will not change anything" in practical
terms for ordinary people, noting that the union "does not function"
at present and would be best done away with for everyone's sake. Asked about
Serbian arguments that Serbian voters should also participate in the referendum
on the grounds that an independent Montenegro would deprive Serbia of its access
to the sea, Vlahovic said that only Montenegrin citizens can determine
Montenegro's political course, as is the case in virtually every democracy. He
argued that Serbia does not use the Montenegrin port of Bar, anyway, but does
most of its shipping through Thessaloniki in Greece. The minister stressed that
Montenegro's future is as part of the "European family" as an
independent country "and not as somebody's access to the sea."
Vlahovic added, however, that some form of a "union of independent states
on the model of the EU" could be set up between Belgrade and Podgorica in
which everyone would benefit. He warned against a "Balkan zero-sum
game" approach in which there would be only winners and losers, stressing
instead that "we could stay together with Serbia while being
independent" in a way that would help bridge the divisions within
Montenegrin society as well as between the two republics. Vlahovic nonetheless
said that Serbia must treat Montenegro seriously as a partner and agree to its
international recognition, otherwise Podgorica will have no choice but to go its
Impact On Kosovo
Asked about any impact of Montenegrin independence on Kosova's future,
Vlahovic argued that the two issues are unrelated. He said that relations
between Belgrade and Podgorica have "different dynamics" from those
between Belgrade and Prishtina, adding that Kosova "is not Montenegro's
problem" and that his country is not involved in resolving the Kosova
That having been said, Vlahovic noted that it is important for internationally
recommended standards to be enforced in Kosova, especially "individual and
collective rights" for the non-Albanian minorities. He pointed out that
Montenegro itself is determined to remain a "functioning multiethnic and
multicultural state...to which we are very dedicated." The minister said
that Montenegro's Albanian minority enjoys some benefits, such as "positive
electoral discrimination." As proof that the Albanians are integrated into
Montenegrin society, he noted that two of the Albanian deputies in the
parliament come from ethnic Albanian parties while two others belong to
"civic parties" that embrace all ethnic groups.
EU And NATO Membership
While arguing that Montenegro must become an "independent European
state...with the political and cultural capacities to solve all our problems in
a peaceful and democratic way," Vlahovic also stressed the importance of
his country's joining the EU and NATO, starting with the U.S.-sponsored Adriatic
Charter that includes Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania. He feels Montenegro can
achieve these goals more quickly without being tied to Serbia. He argued for
what in Croatia is known as the "regatta principle," in which each EU
applicant proceeds at its own pace irrespective of what others do or do not
Montenegro has a proud military tradition, and no discussion of Montenegro's
future would be complete without a reference to its fighting capacities.
Vlahovic referred to the current military of Serbia and Montenegro as a bloated,
"old-fashioned, and costly army without any reforms or civilian
control." He noted that the current "ineffective" navy includes
2,500 men, while that of Croatia, which has a much longer coastline, consists of
700 men in what is essentially a modern coast guard operation.
Stressing that Montenegro is a peaceful country that does not plan to use its
military, Vlahovic called for a "small, democratically controlled,
multipurpose army not exceeding 3,000 men," fully integrated into the
Adriatic Charter and NATO and advised by experts from Europe and the United
States. He said that it might be possible to form a joint military with Serbia,
but only if each state controls the forces on its own territory and if the joint
force is integrated into NATO.
Serbia welcomes positive report from European Union
Serbia's foreign minister said recently he welcomed a European Union report
indicating the bloc was ready to start formal negotiations aimed at Serbia
eventually joining the Union, New Europe reported.
"With the positive assessment from the European Union expressed in its
feasibility study … we do not have the right to delay any further," Vuk
Draskovic said following talks with his Greek counterpart Petros Molyviatis
during a one-day visit to Athens.
The European Union released a study recently saying it was ready to negotiate
with Serbia-Montenegro on the stabilisation and association agreement, seen as
one step toward possible membership in the bloc. On the issue of Kosovo,
Draskovic said Serbia would never accept an independent province, but did not
rule out the possibility of approving certain forms of autonomy. "Our
position is clear, something more than autonomy and something less than
independence," he said.
"This means that our existing borders with Albania cannot change. Let these
borders become European borders," he added. Kosovo has been under UN
control since the 1998-1999 war which left about 10,000 people dead.
FOOD & DRINK
Coca-Cola buys 100% of Vlasinka
The Coca-Cola Company announced it acquired 100% of Vlasinka shares, a leading
producer of mineral water in Serbia, through its Greek subsidiary Coca-Cola
Hellenic Bottling Company SA, New Europe reported recently. The acquisition of
Vlasinka includes production facilities at Surdulica in southern Serbia and the
mineral water brand Rosa. The move is in line with the Greek company's strategy
of expanding into the non-carbonated drinks sector. Coca-Cola HBC has operations
in 26 countries, including many parts of Europe and Russia. The Coca-Cola Co has
an indirect, 24% stake in the Greek bottler. Coca-Cola is one of the leading
worldwide producers of soft drinks. Company's revenue in 2004 rose 4% to reach
US$21.96bn, net income climbed 12% up to US$4.84bn. Company's brands are
Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite.
Serbian, Russian Chambers of Commerce sign cooperation agreement
The chairmen of the Serbian and Russian Chambers of Commerce signed an agreement
on cooperation in Moscow recently. Slobodan Milosavljevic and Yevgeniy Primakov
signed the agreement which is intended to lift the level of commercial and
technical cooperation between the two associations, Radio B92 text web site
Under the agreement, the chambers will encourage stronger links between Russian
and Serbian companies, organizations and business representatives and their
associations. The chambers of commerce in both countries will secure a wide
range of economic and legal information on commercial matters, the condition and
prospects of the national markets, possibilities for export and needs for
imports. The agreement also covers plans to mount seminars, symposia and
conferences and organize exchange of trade delegations.
Premier invites foreign investors to Serbia
The fifth international investment summit in Belgrade is set to begin, with most
Serbian officials of the opinion that Serbia has a lot more to offer today to
foreign investors than it had in the past several years, Radio B92 text web site
Still, most international investors feel that if bureaucracy and corruption were
further minimized in Serbia, the investment atmosphere would be even better.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said that Serbia has recovered
economically significantly, and that the fact that many new investors have
surfaced in Serbia is proof of that. He added that there had been more foreign
investments in Serbia in the first three months of this year than in the same
period in 2004.
"I am inviting you, honoured guests, to join the Serbian economy, because
Serbia has a good chance of becoming your next big business success. In the
period that is ahead of us, we will put in extra efforts in order to strengthen
our economy and legal system, and show that we are reaching European
standards," Kostunica said.
Many investors agree with Kostunica, regarding the fact that putting money into
Serbia is now an easier and more secure process, but believe that there are
several vital obstacles that still need to be taken care of. Michael Ahern,
president of the Council of Foreign Investors, has told B92 that Serbia still
needs to work on its international image.
"My business partners ask me many times how it is to be living and working
in Belgrade, which clearly shows that they think that there is something strange
about this country. That is why the image that Serbia has needs to be changed,
because most people who come here are pleasantly surprised," Ahern said.
According to Joanisa Kostodopulos, member of the Helenik Petroleum Oil Company's
chief council, the Serbian government has technical problems it needs to take
care of internally first.
"It is true that there is much bureaucracy. For one licence you need to go
through 20 institutions. It is encouraging to hear that ministers are about to
adopt new laws, but until that happens, many new workplaces will continue to
wait to be opened," Kostodopulos said.