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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: 122 - (26/07/07)

The death of Djindic revisited 
Just over four years Serbian para-militaries carried out an assassination of their prime minister, Zoran Djindic, an act of high treason. He was gunned down by people who must have had links with his own bodyguards, the Red Berets, indeed were in mobile phone communication with them as to his exact movements. It took place in 2003.

It is a great tragedy, comparable to the 1963 Kennedy assassination forty years earlier. John Kenneth Galbraith, US ambassador to India at the time, and only recently deceased, has revealed that he had just about succeeded in persuading JFK to pull US troops out of Vietnam by November 12th, 1963, when ten days later he was gunned down by the fatal fire. Djindic was in a similarly irenic mood, convinced of the need for the Serbs to relinquish Kosovo, when he was killed. 

It is a chilling episode. He was promising to be the great statesman of Serbia. He had realised the folly of Solobodan Milosevic's statecraft - to cling on like grim death to whatever place was once Serbian, leading to three pointless wars. 

Kosovo, the last great unsettled question arising from the break-up of Yugoslavia, was once mainly Serbian. But now no longer, as Djindic well understood, and the consequences thereof. That is why he had to be got rid of. 

Kosovo's population is now 90 percent ethnic Albanian. The province has been run by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of killing and expelling ethnic Albanian civilians in a counter-insurgency war.

Vojislav Kostunica, Djindic's successor, is a stalwart Serb all right, as the assassins realised. He will not concede a Kosovan inch of ground. 

Kostunica says will not trade Kosovo for EU entry
He said many EU officials had said they expected Serbia to grant Kosovo independence before it could become an EU member. "There are many officials, many politicians who spoke about that," he said. 

"Serbia is open to giving Kosovo more autonomy. but it will never trade the province's independence for entry into the European Union," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said on July 16th. Kostunica said some EU diplomats had suggested Serbia trade Kosovo's independence for EU entry, an offer he called indecent.

He made the comments after meeting Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

The fatal chalice
"The offer is like this: if you want Europe you can forget Kosovo, if you want Kosovo you can forget Europe," Kostunica said. "Things cannot be like that. It's an indecent offer."

There is deadlock at the United Nations over the breakaway Serbian province, with Russia taking Serbia's side in opposing Kosovo's independence. The United States, Britain, Germany, France and Italy say it is inevitable.

Kostunica said: "There should be no new borders in Europe. (Serbia) should be accepted as it is. That means Serbia with Kosovo within itself, with Kosovo having the greatest level of autonomy."

Serbia hopes to have a so-called Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union in October, a first step towards full EU membership. Brussels has also said Serbia must hand over Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic before the SAA can be signed.

The rich irony
The anomaly is that from the strictly legal point of view the Serb position is more in line with international law than that taken by the Western powers. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 is quite explicit - no intervention whatsoever in the internal affairs of a foreign state is permissible under international law. After the orgy of interstate warfare that comprised the Thirty Years' War, it was a very reasonable provision - cujus regio, ejus religio. 

But this gives priority to the sanctity of states, their utter inviolability, to that of the individuals that make them up. However vile or repressive a regime, however arbitrary its original assumption of power, it has international law on its side in defence of the status quo. Hence why China, the US and the UK felt justified in helping the murderous Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese, who consequently took a decade to oust them from 1979. Hence the opposition of the Organisation of African States to the Tanzanian eviction of Idi Amin from Uganda in the same year, which was a more expeditious affair. Pol Pot was deemed more worth saving than the Ugandan bruiser, whom nobody attempted to rescue. 

Kosovo is inalienably part of Serbian territory, according to international law. That is that for eternity. Once Serbian, forever so. Except that common sense decrees otherwise. There is a higher court of justice than any formal semblance of one, international or not. The Serbs will come to realise that in due course - international public opinion. 

Serbia Approves Pro-Democracy Government 
Serbia's parliament earlier in May had voted for a hard-liner as their new speaker, an admirer of Milosevic and all that and a member of the far rightist nationalist Radical Party. But the parliament approved a new pro-democracy government on May 15th, two days after the Eurosong victory, overcoming efforts by anti-Western ultranationalists to derail the vote and force new elections.

The 133-106 endorsement of the coalition government came only a half hour before a midnight deadline on May 14th to approve the government or call new elections. The euphoria about the victorious Eurosongstress was at its height.

Parliamentary elections in January had produced no clear winner, and months of bickering followed. Serbia's Radicals, who ruled with the late President Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, had stalled the approval of the government with lengthy debates in apparent hopes of missing the deadline.

New elections would have likely benefited the Radicals, who won the most seats in the parliamentary elections but not enough to govern. The European Union and the United States had repeatedly urged pro-democracy groups to forge a coalition and ensure that the increasingly popular Radicals remain at bay.

The coalition government consists of pro-Western Democrats led by President Boris Tadic, and the conservative Democratic Party of Serbia, headed by moderately nationalist Vojislav Kostunica. The two groups forged a last-minute power sharing deal.

The new government will face its first major test in a few weeks when the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on a plan to give independence to the southern province of Kosovo.

Kostunica has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with all states that recognize Kosovo's split from Serbia, while Tadic has advocated a moderate approach. Kostunica said Serbia wanted EU membership but not at the price of losing Kosovo. "Membership in the European Union is a clearly defined goal of this government," said Kostunica, who has headed the government since 2004. "But there will be no territorial concessions. Kosovo is a part of Serbia and it will always remain so."

Western nations support independence for Kosovo, rejecting Serbia's offer of broad autonomy for the ethnic Albanian-dominated region. Russia has sided with Serbia, leading to fears of a standoff in the Security Council.

Serbia's political drama climaxed in mid-May when Kostunica _ still unable to reach a power-sharing agreement with Tadic _ suddenly endorsed Serbian Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic as the speaker of the parliament, the No. 2 position in the country.

That alarmed Western officials and Serbia's neighbours, who feared renewed tensions in a region that went through four bloody wars during the Milosevic era.

But with the last minute-agreement between the pro-democracy groups, Nikolic was forced to resign after only five days in the job.

Only hours before the vote, the radicals interrupted the session after news that the military police unsuccessfully searched a Belgrade motel for Bosnian Serb wartime commander Gen. Ratko Mladic. The fugitive is wanted on genocide charges by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. The Radicals, however, consider him a war hero.
Last year, the European Union suspended pre-membership talks with Serbia because of its failure to capture Mladic.

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