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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: 128 - (04/02/08)

This was the most critical event since we last reported and the result of the run-off ballot was only finally known today, our publishing date 4thFebruary. Our report on SERBIA sets out the issues, but the results will not stop with the declaration of the results of the presidential election. 

SERBIA is perhaps THE most nationalistic state in Europe. Its position about Kosovo is roughly analogous to that of Britain when faced nearly a century ago with the imminent independence of what is now the Republic of Ireland. All the same kind of talk of ’indissoluble bonds,’ of ‘ sacred rights’ has recurred, and this from a people who ran it badly as a colony, treated its inhabitants as second-class - certainly less than full citizens. Then when the bill for all this has to be paid and the ‘natives are restless,’ the response was by state violence against theoretically, its own citizens. If Kosovo through some extraordinary ‘about–turn’, had agreed to stay a part of Serbia, such is the hatred and distrust between the peoples, based on both long term and recent history, it would anyway be ungovernable. 

SERBIA apart from its nationalism, has in common with its historic protector RUSSIA, a combination of violence, crime, and corruption, interwoven with its business and body politic, to a degree unrivalled even in the other Balkan countries. Even in the ‘nineties’ during the height of its frightful civil wars, there were some 400 Yugoslav ‘ export’ companies registered in Cyprus, when there was no foreign trade at all and these were fronts for money laundering, smuggling, gun-running, etc. Its people like all peoples, include some who are admirable and others who are despicable. During the Bosnian war there were ‘weekend soldiers’ who met up at Belgrade’s Intercontinental Hotel. Then, like in other countries men may go duck- hunting at weekends, they would drive over to Bosnia in the rear areas, well behind the fighting soldiers in the army lines. There, as a semi-official militia, they would visit and burn isolated villages and cold-bloodedly butcher the unarmed Bosnian or Croat civilians remaining. On Sundays they would go home to their families and Mondays, they would return to their offices and regular jobs. There has been little soul searching about this in Serbia, then or now. Serbs tend to respond with a litany of what was done to their people in other countries. 

They have kept and continue to keep the two most infamous Bosnian Serb war criminals, secure from arrest and at liberty, rather as though 12 years after the end of WWII, Hitler and his top general might still have been at liberty, in rural Germany. Serbs like this regard Kosovans, like the Bosnians, as untermenschen - and then they wonder why they are not loved. 

Ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic’s victory would have had some inevitable consequences. Kosovo would almost immediately declare UDI (as it probably will anyway). Then RUSSIA will correctly say that this is contrary to international law, and in the Security Council will veto any UN move to legitimize this. The USA and some EU countries (Cyprus and Romania definitely not, Greece, Spain, Slovakia, probably not), will nevertheless recognize the new state. But without UN legitimacy, half the world will not. Nikolic’s nationalists and allies will make pugnacious noises. There would have been violence. SERBIA would not have been considered for EU membership any time soon. They will anyway scorn the idea of applying to join the EU and seek only to confirm their fraternal bonds with RUSSIA. More young people would have emigrated. 
RUSSIA would have a new colony in the heart of the Balkans and their policy of buying large tracts of Montenegro - Serbia’s traditional outlet to the Adriatic Sea, as well as being Serbia’s largest foreign investor, would have been seen to have made sense. 

Centrist Boris Tadic, the incumbent president, notwithstanding his opposition to the severance of Kosovo (no politician standing for high office could do otherwise), will when push comes to shove, probably’ accept’ de facto, the current situation, will oppose any UDI but to get to de jure on that, might take some more bargaining, for which the time may already have run out. 

But with Tadic elected, SERBIA will be held not to have turned its back on the EU and efforts will continue to find a formula to mollify the mainstream Serbian voter – nothing will convince the hard-line nationalists. 

Prime-minister Kostunica now becomes the key player, and although he is equally dead set against SERBIA losing Kosovo, he too is held to wish to move his country towards EU membership. If a solution can be found, SERBIA will be rewarded with an advance up the list of EU candidates. If SERBIA withdraws its forceful objections at the UN, then RUSSIA will likely withdraw its threat to veto. In such circumstances, the independence of Kosovo would be formalised on the terms worked out by the UN. 

A way to go before that situation is reached, but if it could be done, big sighs of relief all around. In fairness, the Russian stance throughout, has been to support the elected government of SERBIA and to oppose ‘on principle,’ a declaration of UDI . That is not a dishonourable position, indeed it is the correct posture in international law, and this outcome does not represent a defeat for them. They have got a massive residue of goodwill amongst the nationalist politicians and probably the ordinary people of SERBIA. Their growing economic interests in this Balkan country are unlikely to be in any way disadvantaged.

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