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Key Economic Data
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)


Update No: 131 - (28/04/08)

The Kosovo conundrum continues
There is an ongoing saga in Serbia that concerns its breakaway province of Kosovo. Kosovo is populated 90% by Albanians, who share nothing in common with the Serbs except propinquity and so subjection for centuries, first to the Ottomans and then from 1878 to the Serbs themselves. 

It declared its independence from Serbia in February and has been recognized by 38 countries. The Serb government fell as a direct consequence. New elections to parliament are to be held on May 11. 

Serbia defended before the U.N. Security Council its decision to hold local elections in Kosovo after the territory declared its independence. Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic called the independence declaration an "illegal act" and said the May 11 elections would go on despite opposition by the United Nations. "We believe it is important that everywhere in Kosovo, where citizens recognize the Republic of Serbia as their state, they choose in a democratic way their own municipal, as well as parliamentary, representatives," Tadic said in remarks prepared for April 21's closed council meeting.

Western world outcry
This is causing a massive rumpus. U.N. officials have warned Serbia against holding the vote because it would breach the world body's mandate for Kosovo, which it has administered since 1999, when NATO airstrikes stopped Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. That warning was reiterated on April 21 by Kosovo's U.N. administrator, Jochim Ruecker of Germany.

Kosovo's Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, who also briefed the closed council meeting, said afterward that his government respects dual citizenship for all citizens in Kosovo, "but local elections ... are illegitimate." He called Kosovo "a country of opportunity" whose goal is to be a member of the European Union and NATO.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said it was unacceptable that Serbia has decided to go ahead with the local elections. "President Tadic: efforts to conduct these municipal elections are a provocation, and I call on you not to proceed with them," he said in prepared remarks sent to U.N. media.

The British government, faithful as ever to Washington, wants Serbia to reverse its decision to try to hold the "ethnically based elections" in Kosovo, Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said.

Russian support
But Russia's U.N. ambassador, whose country has close ties to Serbia, backed Tadic. 

Vitaly Churkin criticized the U.N. mission in Kosovo, saying he told Ruecker at the closed council meeting "that his presentation and his actions were not objective. We believe that the Serbs have every right to conduct their parliamentary and municipal elections when they see fit." 

Who is right here?
It would be interesting to have the opinion of a top international jurist or two on this matter, such as Lord Goodhart of the UK. He distinguished himself in 2003 by adjudging the war in Iraq by the Anglo-Americans perfectly legal, even while being strongly against it himself on pragmatic grounds that it would lead to disaster. 

It is possible to have a great sympathy for the aspirations of the Kosovar Albanians for de jure as well as de facto independence, which they already have, while acknowledging that under international law the Serbs have a case. 

After all there is little doubt which sort of candidates would win – the separatists. The writing has long been on the wall for the Serbs as regards Kosovo. They might as well forget about it and get on with putting their own house in order. 

Serbia's pro-EU officials urge pre-entry deal before May vote
Pro-Western Serbian officials urged the Netherlands on April 22 to endorse the Balkan country's pre-entry deal with the European Union despite Belgrade's failure to arrest war crimes fugitives. Belgrade has not yet signed the pre-membership deal with the European Union because it has not fulfilled a key demand set by the bloc to arrest former Bosnian Serb military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and ex-political leader, Radovan Karadzic.

The two are sought on genocide charges by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands, for allegedly orchestrating the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, and other atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Belgrade leaders and some EU officials have said that signing the deal would give a lift to the pro-Western camp in helping to keep nationalists out of power in May 11 parliamentary elections.

The vote is considered crucial for Serbia's future as it could mark the return to power of the ultranationalists, more than eight years after the ouster in 2000 of the late former strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

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