Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)
"Kosovo to stay Serb"
The Serbs are taking a tough line on Kosovo, Premier Vojislav Kostunica is a
hardliner on the issue, even if not quite as much as Milosevic was.
The support of Russia is all-important here. Putin is in assertive mood. He is
opposing Western designs across the board. The Serbs have, anyway, a very
special place in Russian hearts. They were liberated by Tsarist Russia from the
Turks in 1878, independence then confirmed at the Treaty of Berlin. They were
defended by them from the Austrians and Hungarians in 1914, that by triggering
off a series of treaties, ensured a world war.
Milosevic only backed down in 1999 over the Kosovo War because of top-rank
Russian intervention by former premiers Chernomyrdin and Primakov. As Milosevic
said at the time:"If even the Russians think we have to retreat, then we
The UN is wary of countries seceding. It is unlikely to agree to a unilateral
declaration of independence by Kosovo. But Kosovo is de facto independent
Serbia distances itself from Europe and builds on Russia
After many of his ministers attacked NATO in August, Kostunica finally addressed
the issue himself.
Never would his country join the military alliance, which in 1999 had bombarded
Serbia without justification, and now intended to erect a "NATO state"
in the breakaway province of Kosovo, he said.
In the same breath, the national conservative Kostunica praised Russia. Serbia
would "never forget" that only Moscow has so far managed to prevent
Russian business to the rescue too
Kostunica's shift of foreign policy coordinates is accompanied by his wooing of
"Aluminium king" Oleg Deripaska is to buy major mine Bor, while
Aeroflot is to take over the rundown Serbian airline JAT. Even state-owned oil
company NIS - the largest company of all - should ideally come into Russian
The EU remains on hold
The European Union, meanwhile, has been observing the situation and invited
Kostunica to Brussels to clarify whether or not he was just paying lip-service
with his support for his country's joining of the EU.
However, Kostunica's traditional euroscepticism is well known. He has publicly
shown himself to be fed up with ever new conditions from Brussels. Belgrade's
radio and television station B92 quoted political scientist Dusan Pavlovic, who
even thinks a government coalition of Kostunica possible with the extremely
nationalist Serbian Radical Party, that would certainly affront Brussels.
Switch to the right imminent?
The Radicals recently spelt out their "dream" that Serbia could become
part of the Russian state. In any case, Kostunica's current coalition with
President Boris Tadic's Democrats (DS) is fragile.
Tadic's DS backs Serbia's membership of NATO and should feel provoked even more
by Kostunica's recent move. The coalition government is already facing a crucial
Kostunica has been refusing to call presidential elections as agreed and
prescribed by the constitution because polls suggest that his opponent Tadic
would be likely to win.
Kostunica's political calculations are simple but tactically sound, commentators
say. If the elections take place after the threatening loss of the breakaway
province Kosovo, Tadic is likely to lose against Radical leader Tomislav Nikolic,
it is predicted.
In a heated national atmosphere the Serbian prime minister could justify a
coalition with the extremists and would so get rid of the democrats he dislikes