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Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)


Update No: 163 - (24/12/10)

Tadic a statesman
President Boris Tadic of Serbia is turning out to be that rare thing on the world stage a true statesman. He is making a very serious attempt to reconcile the Croats and the Serbs.

This is a formidable undertaking after what has happened between them of late.

Earlier this year, the Serbian president went to Bosnia to commemorate more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995. Moreover, Tadic has become the first Serbian leader to pay his respects to Croatian victims of a notorious 1991 massacre. During a visit to a memorial to 260 people murdered at Vukovar, he gave a statement expressing his "apology and regret".

Vukovar was captured in November 1991 after a three-month siege by the Serb-led Yugoslav army. The victims of the massacre had sought refuge in the town's hospital. But two days after Vukovar was seized, they were led to the site of a pig farm and shot, their bodies left in a mass grave.

Time for mercy and reconciliation
Mr Tadic arrived in Vukovar on a ferry which crossed the Danube from the Serbian town of Bac. He was welcomed by Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, another figure who is growing in stature on the world stage. The two men went together to the memorial at Ovcara and laid wreaths at the site of the mass grave.

Mr Tadic said he had come to bow down before the victims to open the way for forgiveness and reconciliation. I came here to share words of apology; to express our sympathy; to create the possibility for Serbs and Croats... to turn a new page in history.

"We will finish this process of reconciliation and Serbia and Croatia will be two friendly, neighbouring countries," he said.

They later laid wreaths in the village of Paulin Dvor where 18 Serbs and an ethnic Hungarian were killed by Croatian forces in December 1991.

Misdemeanours best remembered but then forgiven
Croatia has described the event as an attempt to relax relations between the two countries. But a number of Croatian right-wing parties and war veteran groups have objected to the visit. Several mothers of people killed in Vukovar attended the wreath-laying ceremony and turned their backs on Boris Tadic as he spoke.

The Hina news agency reported that protests took place in several cities and dozens of members of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights lit candles in the centre of Zagreb to remember the victims of Vukovar.

More than 1,000 civilians died during the battle for the town. After it fell, 22,000 non-Serbs were expelled. More than 400 people from the town are still listed as missing.

First election in Kosovo
Serbia is by and by becoming a Western country. The big problem is of course Kosovo, that wants out.

Citizens of Kosovo went to the polls on December 12th to choose their representatives in the 120-seat parliament. It was the first general election since since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. About 1.6 million people were eligible to vote. The snap vote was called after former President Fatmir Sejdiu stepped down in September, triggering the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Twenty-nine political parties, coalitions and citizens' initiatives, including eight representing Kosovo Serbs, competed in the race. According to the Kosovo Electoral Law, Serbs are guaranteed ten of the 120 seats in parliament, regardless of turnout. More than 30,000 observers monitored the election process.

Incumbent wins
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's party won the most votes in Kosovo's first election since it declared independence, preliminary results showed on December 13, although the vote was marred by allegations of ballot stuffing.

But Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, or PDK, will need coalition partners to govern. And finding them may be difficult because the prime minister's party has been tainted by allegations of high level corruption and reports of electoral fraud. It was not immediately clear whether Thaci's rivals would accept the election results.

The most likely to collaborate with Thaci are two small parties that finished third and fourth in the voting, former rebel leader Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and businessman Behgjet Pacolli's Alliance for New Kosovo.

Kosovo's new government will have its plate full, between trying to boost the ailing economy and launching new talks with Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo's independence.

Thaci's opponents, however, view the vote as an endorsement of a corrupt government that is heading for a collision with Kosovo's Western backers. One of Thaci's closest aides, Transport Minister Fatmir Limaj, is being investigated by European Union police for allegedly embezzling millions of euros from road tenders.

Reflecting international pressure for Thaci to rid his party of corruption, Kosovo's international overseer, Pieter Feith, urged him to create "a government that is clean, competent and credible."

Thaci's PDK finished first in the election, with 33.5 percent of the vote. In second place was the Democratic League of Kosovo, Thaci's former coalition partner, which drew 23.6 percent. Thaci is unlikely to court that party, though, as it was a falling out between those two parties that led to the early election.

Newcomer Albin Kurti's Self-Determination party, which won 12.2 percent of the votes, is also an unlikely partner despite sharing a common nationalist background. Kurti criticized Thaci harshly during the campaign and vowed not to enter a coalition with him.

Kurti's presence in parliament could prove difficult for Thaci, who is to enter sensitive talks with Serbia. Kurti advocates unification with Albania and opposes any talks with Serbia.

Trailing were the prime minister's two most likely coalition partners, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, which won 10.8 percent, and the Alliance for New Kosovo, which won 7 percent.

By and large, Serbs in the north of Kosovo, where they are in the majority, heeded calls from Serbia _ which still claims sovereignty over Kosovo _ and boycotted the election. In general, those Serbs living in enclaves surrounded by Albanians took part.

Just over 45 percent of 1.6 million registered voters cast their ballots, officials said.

Doris Pack, a member of the European Parliament, and an election observer, said observers were alerted to possible "serious fraud" in the central region of Drenica, the traditional stronghold of the prime minister's party. She said the high turnout was suspicious and the voting pattern was reminiscent of that in authoritarian countries.
"Can you believe that more than 95 percent went out to vote for the same party?" Pack said. "I don't think that would be possible ... not in a country like Kosovo where we are trying to install a democratic structure."

She urged Thaci to use his authority to stop fraud. It was not immediately clear if a rerun would be needed in poling stations in Drenica.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Dell said "ballots in the box exceeded the number of signatures in the voters' book," in Drenica.

Reaction from the EU
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele congratulated Kosovo's voters for the "calm and orderly manner in which the majority of the voting took place."

A joint statement said it was now up to "the competent authorities to certify the results and deal with complaints and appeals in line with the relevant laws and regulations."
Ashton and Fuele said they looked forward to working with the new Kosovo leadership and to facilitating dialogue between Pristina and Serbia.

"We have much work ahead of us in the coming year so that Kosovo can further advance toward the EU," the statement said.

Outside of joining the EU, the two countries are also to start talks aimed at settling disputes, while discussing the future of Kosovo's Serb-run north. Kosovo's leaders say they will not back away from independence, while Belgrade maintains Kosovo is part of Serbia.

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