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Books on Serbia


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: 111 - (25/08/06)

Kosovo the conundrum
Serbia has lost Montenegro, a grievous blow. Montenegro is a splendid place, just south of Croatia on the Adriatic with magnificent mountain scenery. It has a great future as a tourist centre. It may even have huge oil reserves offshore, a secret better kept until after independence. 
But Serbia still has Kosovo, a poisoned chalice if ever there was one. It would be much better off without it, as France was without Algeria, as De Gaulle, verily a world statesman, well realised.
Serbia unfortunately has no equivalent to De Gaulle in place. 
Violence flared in the province when the Kosovo Liberation Army, supported by ethnic Albanians, came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule in the mid-1990s, triggering a brutal Yugoslav military crackdown. 
Serbian forces began a campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' against Kosovo Albanians, triggering the NATO bombing campaign that drove Serb troops from the province. Some 800,000 people fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and some 10,000 died in the conflict.
For once the world did something, the US intervening to put an end to the misery in 1999.

Serbian intrangisence
Serbia's government hasn't changed its position on the status of the breakaway province of Kosovo, according to an official announcement. Comments made by the government's coordinator for Kosovo indicating that it might be ready to divide the province had been "misinterpreted and taken out of context," the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia spokesperson Andreja Mladenovic, said in early August. 
Serbian government coordinator for Kosovo Sanda Raskovic Ivic was quoted as saying to the BBC that Serbia might agree to split Kosovo in a compromise solution, with Belgrade retaining under its control 15-20 per cent of the province. The statement caused commotion and confusion in Belgrade, because the Kostunica's government has so far roundly rejected independence for Kosovo, offering ethnic Albanians only wide autonomy.
Raskovic-Ivic's statement was actually, talking only about two kinds of autonomy in Kosovo, one for ethnic Albanians with regard to Belgrade, and the other for minority Serbs, in respect of Kosovo's Albanian-dominated institutions, said Mladenovic. 

'No to partition'
Kosovo's overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority of 1.8 million wants independence - which is opposed by its tiny 100,000 Serb minority and by the Serb authorities. The international community, which has safeguarded peace in Kosovo since it was put under United Nations control in 1999, also opposes partitioning, and is trying to arrive at a compromise solution in ongoing UN-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina. 
Seven rounds of UN sponsored talks in Vienna have however yielded scarce results, triggering speculation that the UN might be forced to impose some kind of phased independence.
"The partitioning of Kosovo will not be tolerated, period," said UN administration spokesman in Pristina, Alexander Ivanko. Politicians in Belgrade also insist that Serbia cannot be partitioned, and that Kosovo must remain within its boundaries.
"To all those who are thinking about an imposed solution, Serbia can respond right now that such a solution would be unacceptable," Mladenovic commented.

German diplomat named Kosovo's new UN governor 
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has chosen veteran German diplomat Joachim Ruecker to be the next UN governor of Kosovo, the United Nations announced on August 15th. 
Ruecker, who now serves as head of economic reconstruction for the UN mission in Kosovo, will be the sixth UN administrator in seven years for the southern Serbian province. He may be its last as the international community considers granting it independence in a process due to be wrapped up by the end of the year. 
Ruecker, 55, will succeed Soren Jessen-Petersen of Denmark, who announced his resignation in June. 
Kosovo has been under UN administration since 1999 following Nato bombing that expelled Serb forces to end what Western powers said was repression of civilians in fighting an ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency. 
Ninety per cent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanians. UN-brokered talks are under way to determine whether Kosovo will remain part of Serbia, as sought by the government in Belgrade, or becomes independent, as the vast majority of Kosovo's residents insist. 
The talks that are to determine the future status of the province began in February and are expected to continue until the end of the year. 
Ruecker has held a variety of posts in Germany's Federal Foreign Office, beginning in 1979. Before going to work for the United Nations, he headed the Foreign Office's Budget and Finance Division in Berlin. 
In his work in Kosovo, he has led efforts to revitalize the ravaged economy in the province, where unemployment is 60 per cent. UN officials in Kosovo said an advantage of his appointment to the top UN job was that he could hit the ground running.

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Serbia raises 1.5bn Euro from telecoms privatisation

Serbia recently completed the disposal of a mobile phone network in the country's largest privatisation deal to date, giving support to investor confidence in the face of lingering political problems, the Financial Times reported on August 2nd.
Telenor, the Norwegian mobile telecommunications company, made the winning 1.51bn Euro (US$1.9bn) bid for the state-controlled Mobi 63 network, which claims 45 per cent market share.
The winning bid out-stripped government expectations for the sale of the company, which recently came under state control after its private-sector main shareholder fled Serbia amid accusations of corruption. Privatisation officials said they had expected the auction would easily top 1bn Euro, including the 220m Euro licence price, but "not go this high."
Telenor - already active in neighbouring Montenegro - won 100 per cent ownership plus a 10-year operating licence for Mobi 63 over regional rival Telekom Austria after eight rapid-fire bidding rounds.
The brisk bidding "shows there are not so many assets left" in the regional telecoms market, said Martin Schlaff, head of an Austrian private investment group that held 30 per cent of Mobi 63 prior to the sale. "Obviously the bidders who went so far strongly believe in Serbia's growth potential." 
Before the Mobi 63 sale, Serbia's largest privatisation was the 518m sale of Nis Tobacco to US-based cigarette company Philip Morris in 2003.
Serbia - still nursing political wounds from its 1990s wars - trails behind its neighbours in free-market economic reforms. Yet some investors say the former Yugoslavia's most populous republic is ripe for foreign investment as other ex-communist markets cool down.
Schlaff said he would have liked to hold on to his Mobi 63 shares, though "not for that kind of money."
The government insisted he sell as par to the same package to a major strategic investor.
The Schlaff group had first bought into the local mobile service provider - known until four months ago as Mobtel Serbia - as majority owner, buying 51 per cent from a family company led by Serbian entrepreneur Boguljub Karic.
Karic fell foul of the authorities and fled the country earlier this year to avoid bribery charges. The government - his co-owner and supposed partner - also accused him of hiding dividends from their joint venture.
In April, the government reached a debt settlement with Schlaff, opening the way for re-privatisation under the new brand, Mobi 63, which has about 2.5m users.
Telenor officials said they were not worried about legal risks arising from Karic's former involvement.
Telekom Austria, however, said it declined to bid higher for Mobi 63 because it saw more promise in going after the expected third mobile network licence.

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