Books on Serbia & Montenegro
% of GDP
Update No: 105 - (30/01/06)
Serbian negotiating team adopts platform for Kosovo talks
There is no more important question for a state than where your frontiers end.
This is the key issue of the Serbian state today.
Serbian negotiators led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica are calling for the
establishment of Serb municipalities in Kosovo as well as constitutional and
legal protections for the Serb community there.
Belgrade's negotiating team for the Kosovo status talks has adopted a platform
and appointed a delegation for the upcoming meeting on decentralisation, to be
held in Vienna. The January 5th ession was the second for the team, which was
chaired by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
The platform calls for the formation of Serb municipalities in Northern
Mitrovica -- that is, northern Kosovo, central Kosovo, and southeastern Kosovo
around Gnjilane and Metohija. Together, these municipalities would amount to a
"The existing and newly formed municipalities with a Serb majority would
not be a compact territory, but would be functionally linked and thereby provide
for an institutional framework for the normal life and certain survival of the
Serb community in the province," the platform reads.
The document, parts of which were presented to the public Monday (9th January),
also calls for the most important Orthodox Christian places of worship in Kosovo
to fall within the Serb entity.
According to the negotiating team, three kinds of constitutional guarantees and
legal protections should be provided for the Serb community. Firstly, its
position must be "defined in a manner that will not give any constitutional
or legal grounds to the Albanian majority to treat Serbs as a minority or to
impose on the Serbs any solution that is against their vital interests."
Secondly, Serbs must be granted all individual rights and freedoms that the EU
countries, the state union, and Serbia grant to their citizens. Thirdly, Serbs
must be given constitutional guarantees and institutional mechanisms that will
ensure their normal life and survival in the province. The easiest way to ensure
these guarantees is through decentralisation, the document reads.
The Serb negotiators outlined a set of guiding principles for the platform:
sovereignty and territorial integrity, essential autonomy for Kosovo within
Serbia, the creation of a Serb entity, and the protection of Orthodox holy
sites, cultural heritage and property.
The Kosovo Albanian side has also finalised its decentralisation proposal. The
document contains basic principles for the reform of local self-rule and
"guarantees the territorial integrity of Kosovo", Kosovo Local
Self-Rule Minister Ljutfi Haziri said recently.
According to Haziri, it is a serious proposal "which the Kosovo delegation
will offer the ethnic communities." He urged the Serb community to accept
the plan, explaining that it is founded on constitutional solutions that refer
to the immediate future of Kosovo with its status resolved.
Search is on for fugitive Mladic -Serbia Minister
The Croatians have stolen a march on the Serbs. They have allegedly acquiesced
in the capture and trial in The Hague of their untoward general, Ante Gotovina,
responsible for abominable war crimes. They are on track for EU membership as a
The search is on for General Ratko Mladic and other top war crimes fugitives,
the Serbian defence minister said on January 11th, accepting a part of the
military's blame that the suspects are still at large. "The search to
locate the suspects is on as we speak," General Zoran Stankovic said,
adding he couldn't provide details of the ongoing operation.
Serbia is under intense international pressure to find and extradite Mladic and
Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, both sought for more than a
decade by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
The court indicted Mladic and Karadzic on genocide charges in connection with
the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica - the
worst carnage in Europe since World War II - and for a three-year armed siege of
Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, during the 1992-1995 war.
Mladic is thought to be hiding in Serbia under the protection of hard-liners in
the Serbian military, while Karadzic is believed to be moving between Bosnia,
Serbia and his native Montenegro.
Stankovic said the "military had in the past period some activities which
were not in accordance with The Hague tribunal's" demands to hand over the
fugitives. "We will certainly remove those obstacles," Stankovic said.
The hunt for Mladic intensified after police intercepted one of his cell phone
conversations, a Serbian security official told The Associated Press.
The interception of Mladic's chat with his friend - which could lead the police
to his hiding place - appears to be the most concrete progress so far in
Serbia's hunt for war crimes fugitives.
Serbia's President Boris Tadic, however, said on National Television the
information he has "does not lead me to conclude that we are finally close
to solving the (Mladic) problem."
Will the EU suspend association talks as Serbia and Montenegro fail to arrest
indicted war criminals?
The European Union began negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro on a
Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) only three months ago, but the
talks already hang in the balance due to Belgrade's lack of cooperation with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The next round of talks is planned for the last week of February but may not
happen at all if ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and EU representatives
determine cooperation to be insufficient.
A shrinking list
Relations between Belgrade and the ICTY improved throughout 2005 as scores of
war-crime indictees surrendered following Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav
Kostunica's calls for them to give up. But the ICTY wants Serbia to extradite
four more men: Zdravko Tolimir, Stojan Zupljanin, the former leader of Croatia's
Serbs Goran Hadzic, and the most prominent of them all, former Bosnian Serb
military commander General Ratko Mladic.
In addition, Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic is seen as a common
obligation of Bosnia and Serbia. The Belgrade authorities and the ICTY
prosecution believe that another indictee, former Serbian police commander
Vlastimir Djordjevic, is hiding in Russia.
The deputy director of the Serbian government's office for association with the
EU, Srdjan Majstorovic, said on January 9th that the Belgrade authorities had
been "clearly told" that SAA negotiations could be suspended because
of the war crimes issue.
"In the mandate for the talks with Serbia and Montenegro, the European
Commission said that the negotiations could not be completed and the SAA signed
without [Serbia's] full cooperation with the ICTY. However, the talks can also
be frozen if Belgrade fails to cooperate fully with the tribunal. Chief
prosecutor Carla Del Ponte will make the final assessment of the
cooperation," Majstorovic said.
He added that the EU officials involved in the talks mentioned no specific
deadline for the resolution of the cooperation issue.
It became clear in recent months that Serbia and Montenegro were facing an
uphill struggle to get the SAA talks going again in February 2006: during her
last visit to Belgrade in December, Del Ponte expressed her disappointment over
the failure to arrest Mladic, and she also criticized the authorities in
Belgrade when reporting to the UN Security Council.
The head of the government office for association with the EU, Tanja Miscevic,
stated in an earlier interview that once suspended, restarting the talks would
be very difficult since all EU member states, not just the European Commission,
had to agree on such a move.
While EU officials have not given any formal deadline, Serbian Deputy Prime
Minister Miroljub Labus, who heads the Serbian negotiating team, said at the end
of the last round of talks in December that the next round would not take place
unless full cooperation was forthcoming. Labus told Belgrade media on December
21st that cooperation was an absolute condition for talks to continue and that
it was not happening yet.
The chief of the European negotiating team, Teresa Sobietski, said on the same
day that the matter of cooperation was important, adding that she expected the
Serbian government to take steps toward finishing the job as soon as possible so
the talks could move on. She said that such issues from the past put a strain on
the government, the EU, and foreign investors.
10,500 new companies registered in 2005
In 2005, 10,500 new companies were founded in Serbia, according to Serbian
Minister of Economy, Predrag Bubalo, which is a good sign of moving towards
success. If this success is repeated in 2006, it will be the best sign of proper
implementation of economic reforms, which is the opinion of international
institutions as well, New Europe reported.
The Director of the Business Registers Agency, Dragisa Okolisanov, said that
80,000 companies are currently operating in Serbia, 35,000 contracts have been
registered in the Financial Leasing Register, and that around 5,000 requests for
the registration of security rights have been submitted to the Register of
Pledges. In only one year, he pointed out, three business registers were
established representing the unique "identification card" of domestic
economy, and these are the Financial Leasing Register, Register of Pledges and
Register of Business Entities. Okolisanov said that within one year the Agency
managed to enter the European Commercial Registers Forum (ECRF) and the European
Business Register (EBR) these are the two most important organisations that link
together European registers. It also started cooperation with business registers
in Norway, Ireland, Great Britain and Macedonia. Okolisanov stressed that one of
the novelties is that as of Jan 1st this year, all 80,000-business entities will
have to submit their annual financial statements to the Agency. He announced the
implementation of a government programme called "One Stop Shop" which
should improve state administration and provide citizens with a more efficient
service by enabling them to carry out all administrative tasks necessary for
registering a company in one and the same place.
Serbia, Hungary build gas storage facilities
Due to severe cold weather gas supply from Russia has been reduced by 20 per
cent so Serbian Minister of Energy and Mining, Radomir Naumov, and
representatives of the Hungary's oil and gas company MOL signed an annex to the
long-term, a new supply contract, New Europe reported.
Naumov talked about the privatisation of the Serbian oil company, NIS, because
Hungarian companies have expressed interest in it. MOL Chairman-CEO, Zsolt
Hernadi, said that all the gas Hungary receives from Russia will be delivered to
Serbia. The Serbian Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, received the same
assurance at the Serbian government's meeting with MOL representatives.
Hernadi added that reduced supply is not a problem of only one country, but of
the entire Central European region. Alternative ways of supplying gas to Serbia
and Hungary were discussed at the meeting, and one of the solutions could be to
build underground storage facilities inside or outside the territory of Serbia.
Assistant Minister of Energy and Mining, Slobodan Sokolovic, specified that the
integrated southeast Europe energy market was another topic at the meeting, as
well as security measures for safe delivery of gas.
He explained that underground gas storage is an example of precautionary
measures, and that the meeting also concerned Hungary and Serbia's joint
investments in these underground storage facilities. MOL managing director,
Sandor Fasimon, said that MOL can supply Serbia with 10 million cubic metres of
gas a day during the winter.
Meanwhile, Russia's Gazprom has vowed to fully restore gas supplies to Serbia,
Gazprom Deputy CEO and Gazexport general director, Alexander Medvedev, announced
at a meeting with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, Miroljub Labus, in Belgrade,
Interfax News Agency reported.
Medvedev explained that "The gas reductions are caused by frigid
temperatures and problems which Russia has in the transport of gas," the
Serbian government's press service said. "He promised that the
normalisation of gas supply will begin as soon as possible. Serbia will again be
receiving the agreed 10 million cubic metres of gas per day," it said. At a
meeting with Serbian Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, Energy and Mining
Minister, Radomir Naumov, and Capital Investment Minister Velimir Ilic, Medvedev
said Gazprom is interested in investing in Serbia's gas infrastructure and in
establishing long-term strategic relations in the energy sector with that
country. The parties agreed to intensify direct negotiations between the
relevant Serbian and Russian ministries and between Gazprom and the Serbian gas
company, Srbijagas, aimed at implementing joint investment projects. In
particular, this includes the completion of the construction of an underground
gas storage facility in Banatski Dvori and the gas pipelines Nis-Dimitrovgrad
and Mokrin-Arad. Russia's involvement in the construction of both the
underground storage facility and the gas pipelines is essential, Naumov said.
Serbia is interested in completing the underground storage facility as soon as
possible to provide uninterrupted gas supplies to the country throughout the
year. It was earlier reported that the facility should be completed by next
winter and that its completion would cost about 200 million Euro.
PTT Srbija signs loan contract of 17.4m Euro
Mobtel, mobile telephone operator has to take 17.4 million Euro from the state
telecommunication and postal company, PTT, according to the Serbian Ministry of
Finance. PTT Srbija signed a loan contract with Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank
International on taking over Mobtel's accounts receivable worth 71.4 million
Euro, thus becoming the biggest creditor of this mobile telephone operator. The
signing of this contract is of great importance for the state, as PTT Srbija has
been granted a long-term loan with 15-year repayment period, three-year grace
period and annual interest rate of 4.3 per cent, New Europe reported.