Serbia: the betting pool

By pure coincidence, next month brings not one but two major turning points for Serbia.

First, there’s the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo. As we all know, the plan would give Kosovo de facto independence. On one hand, that’s just recognizing reality on the ground; 90% of Kosovo’s population wants nothing to do with Serbia, and they’ve been running their own house for almost a decade now. On the other hand, it would involve UN approval of the involuntary dismemberment of an unwilling member state. That’s never happened before, and it would be a big step into the unknown.

The plan goes before the UN Security Council next week, and it’s really not clear what will happen. Either Russia or China might veto it — Russia because of its traditional support of Serbia, China because of concerns about Taiwan. On the other hand, neither one may want to be responsible for vetoing a plan that has broad support in both the Security Council and the General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Serbia’s quarrelsome parties are still trying to form a government. They’ve been at it since the elections on January 21, so as of today they’ve gone 67 days without success. That would be amusing, except that if a government isn’t formed within 90 days, Serbia’s Constitution requires new elections. That would throw Serbia into a major political crisis.

Here’s the thing: I could see either of these going either way. The UNSC might approve the Ahtisaari plan, or reject it; Serbia’s parties might reach agreement, or not.

So how about a betting pool?

There are four possible outcomes here: plan passes and government forms, plan but no government, government but no plan, neither government nor plan. Furthermore, since it’s unclear when the UNSC will sit and decide, we could get the plan decision before the government decision, or vice versa. So that makes eight possibilities. Pick one!

I’ll start: I think the Serbs will form a government. I think it will happen at the very last moment, but it’s just hard to imagine they’d be so foolish and so stubborn as to trigger new elections. (Because new elections would favor the Radicals and man, nobody wants that.)

I think the plan will fail. If Russia doesn’t veto it, China will.

And I think the plan decision will come first… the UNSC might foot-drag past April 21, but I’m guessing they’ll cut the knot before then.

Those are my guesses. What do you think?

52 thoughts on “Serbia: the betting pool

  1. I’ll agree that an eleventh-hour Serbian government is likely, but I think the plan will succeed, or at the very least not fail, but will do so at a late date: it’s not hard to count votes when all you need is the fingers of one hand, and those who want the plan to succeed have need not bring it to a vote until Russia and China have been mollified, but that might take a while.

    In particular, since both of them have veto power, they need not fear precedents, especially precedents that involve the UN Security Council. Just to pick an example, the Taiwan issue could never be resolved through the UN Security Council without China’s agreement, and no one is in the position to tell China that just because they went along with Kosovar independence, they are, just for consistency’s sake, now obligated to go along with Taiwanese independence.

  2. I’d been led to believe the 90 days deadline for formation of a government was not from the date of election, but rather from the first convening of parliament after the election (which took place on 14 Feb). Can anyone confirm or refute this?

  3. I pick a ninth option:

    1. Serbia will not form a government (so those in government do not take responsibility for Kosovo/a gaining its independence – aka political suicide…and maybe even a real suicide).

    2. UNSC will pass a watered down resolution that does not mention the word “independence” (so Russia and China are kept from their pointless barking) – followed by a declaration of independence by the Kosovo/a Parliament, followed by a recognition of the independent Kosovo/a by the powers that count – US, EU, etc.

  4. KRS, the problem there is that voters are likely to punish the parties by not turning up for new elections. This would probably favor the Radicals, whose voters are believed to be more devoted.

    Also, no less than three parties — the Socialists, G17, and Cedo’s Liberals — just barely squeaked in over the 5% boundary for getting seats. All these guys will be strongly motivated to cut a deal, since they might not survive another round.

    “Watered down”? Well, the current plan /doesn’t/ mention independence. And it’s been made clear to the Kosovars that if the plan passes, they don’t get to unilaterally go beyond it — at least for a while.

    Venichka, that’s interesting; can you confirm?

    Doug M.

  5. First I predict that if there is a resolution at all it wont include bits on Kosovo independence. One thing that is pretty clear – there will be no veto because the great powers will ensure this doesnt happen in advance. A veto would get everybody quite panicky and make it even more difficult for Russia to back down. It might even persuade the waverers to back Russia’s opinion that further negotiations continue.

    The plan will come first. If the plan fails completely it will be a pretty big defeat for Artisarri and US/ UK policy.

    A potential seperate / connected vote on Kosovo indepdence at this stage will fail.

    The real question is what happens after. If the US lends support to the idea of a Kosovo Albanian vote on independence will the Russians use this chance to lay off and back down? If the Kosovo Albanians hold a vote can we expect a similar vote by Kosovo Serbs who will vote to remain in Serbia?

    Particularly interesting is how the EU handles the Kosovo issue. If wavering EU states decide to support further talks where will that leave the common EU foreign policy? I think this is where the Kosovo ‘battle’ will eventually move to. The EU will make the final decision on whether Kosovo is independent or not. Sure US influence is paramount but its not final.
    Cost and security will be increasingly important factors in the EU decision.

    A government will be formed in Serbia before the deadline for new elections. KRS you overestimate Kosovo as an issue in Serbian politics. The reason why a government isnt being formed is because of bickering as to who gets what. No government will be particularly blamed if Kosovo is lost, most people realise it wont be the incoming governments fault.

    Venichka, Doug yes I can confirm this, not because I’ve read it in the constitution though but this is what a number of ‘experts’ have said.

  6. “Particularly interesting is how the EU handles the Kosovo issue. If wavering EU states decide to support further talks where will that leave the common EU foreign policy?”

    I note that the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Ahtisaari plan earlier this week. IMS it was something like 490 to 90, with about 80 abstaining or absent.

    Of course, the EU Parliament does not make foreign policy, for the EU or anyone else. Thank goodness.

    Still, interesting.

    Doug M.

  7. A question. How sure are you about support for the plan in the general assembly? The number of third world states with a minority problem is not small.

  8. “The number of third world states with a minority problem is not small.”

    The number of EU states with a minority problem is not small, but it passed the EU Parliament like grass through a goose.

    Perhaps more relevant: The Kosovars have been pitching themselves as victims of old-fashioned imperialism. Which a lot of third world states are sympathetic to.

    Doug M.

  9. It may have passed the European Parliament, but the members states did not unite behind the plan.

    As far as the UN is concerned, there is another option that has not been considered. A UN Security Council actually needs nine positive votes to pass. At the moment, the confirmed ‘yes’ votes would be from France, UK, USA, Belgium, Italy and, most probably, Panama. That still leaves three votes short.

    Of the other nine, Russia and China would be likely to abstain, at best. Indonesia has already said it opposes the break-up of Serbia and will vote against. Slovakia was one of the hold outs in the EU meeting and so will also most probably abstain. South Africa has also expressed its reservations about independence, and has stated that it believes that Ghana and Congo, the other two African states, share their position. Even if the final two – Qatar and Peru – can be persuaded to vote in favour, that still leaves one vote short.

  10. James, good point. The pro-settlement nations will have to do some horse trading (and maybe some arm twisting) just to get that nine. Another reason to be dubious of the plan’s prospects.

    Googling, I see that Congo, Qatar, Slovakia, Ghana and Peru will give up their seats at the end of this year. (The temporary members are elected for two-year terms.) So, Panama, Belgium, Indonesia, South Africa and Italy will carry on into next year. So, waiting until next year won’t strongly shift the vote one way or another.

    Another thought occurs: the Bush administration has not made Kosovo a high priority. Or the Balkans at all, generally… although Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has engaged in some pretty competent diplomacy. Still, it’s possible the United States may not push this too hard.

    Interesting that it comes down to the three African states. Congo and Ghana will decide the future of the Balkans!

    Doug M.

  11. Well, they better get that resolution. Cos Kosovars are not gonna let Congo decide their future. If there is no resolution Kosovars will declare independence, whoever wants to recognize them will do so. The sun will rise again. (Remember you don’t need to be recognized by all countries to be a country, and you don’t even need to be a member of the UN).

  12. Who would recognize that (except for Albania)?

    For many countries in the EU acting without UN authorisation may be possible. But outright defiance of a security council vote isn’t.

  13. Well,
    they wouldn’t be acting in defiance of a vote, cos there wouldn’t be any vote to defy. So if the plan goes through, fine. If it doesn’t, Kosovo will still be independent, only with more difficulties.

  14. ‘I note that the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Ahtisaari plan earlier this week. IMS it was something like 490 to 90, with about 80 abstaining or absent.

    Of course, the EU Parliament does not make foreign policy, for the EU or anyone else. Thank goodness.’

    Doug, yes, but did this vote include the part petaining to independence. For example the Socialist group of MEP’s last week stated that they backed a compromise solution with both sides agreement as opposed to a forced solution.

    I agree it may not bind but you are right to point to it. The EU parliament is an indicator of likely future policy.

    ‘Perhaps more relevant: The Kosovars have been pitching themselves as victims of old-fashioned imperialism. Which a lot of third world states are sympathetic to.’

    Doug when you ‘tot’ (is that a word or did I just make this up?) up the countries of the UN assembly there is much more support for the Serbian position despite the imperialistic appeal. I guess contries like Zimbabwe will like that kind of talk though.

    Doug, James its just too tricky thats why we have to expect that it wont come to that type of vote. Either they will water down the proposal or not vote at all. A public defeat for Western policy would make it even more difficult for unilateral recognition of Kosovo. Western states cant afford to be de-railed by something as unimportant as the Security Council (or international law for that matter) :)))

    Away from the SC table and back to Europe I wonder if there are any European elections due to be held this year which could change the Kosovo policy of either pro Serbian or pro Kosova camps (simplified description but you get the idea).

    None of this is much good of course although it would appear that Holbrookes scenario of outbreaks of Albanian violence (and blaming Russia or other countries for it) is premature and says more about his position on Kosovo than it does about the situation on the ground. I hope Holbrooke remains disapointed and the situation will remain stable.

  15. Bganon, “tot” is indeed a word.

    They can water down the proposal a little, but really, either it’s independence or it’s not. Ahtisaari has tried to fuzz this already, but it can only be fuzzed so far.

    “A public defeat for Western policy would make it even more difficult for unilateral recognition of Kosovo.”

    I think that depends on the nature of the defeat. A veto by Russia or China would be one thing; a failure to get 9 votes in the SC would be something else.

    European elections: the only one that comes to mind is Romania. The current Romanian government has been pretty supportive of Serbia, but it’s looking very shaky right now — one of the ruling coalition’s partners just defected, forcing them to turn to the opposition. I’d say they have a 50% chance of early elections this year.

    Otherwise, nothing comes to mind. The other two strong supporters of Serbia are Slovakia and Greece. Slovakia’s government looks pretty stable and they have three years left in their term. Greece’s support for Serbia is based in Greek nationalism and is independent of party.

    (It’s interesting to note that, with the exception of Romania, all of Serbia’s immediate neighbors are quietly supportive of the Albanians. Macedonia and Montenegro, in particular, will both recognize Kosovo immediately if the UNSC gives the green light.)

    Doug M.

  16. The only problem really is Russia. China has stayed quited the whole way. Other countries are insignificant to matter. In the worst case, they can be bought off by USAID.

    But Russia will definitely put up a fight before it gives in. Being coy is its way.

    What these countries don’t realize is that by making noise they are making it seem as if Kosova is a precedent, even when it is not. If they were smart, I would suggest they redefine the question and then let it happen. We’ll make sure we keep the party hushed in Prishtina.

  17. Russia objects to only NATO being allowed to do such things. You probably could convince them to deal on the backs of Georgians and others in the “near abroad”.

  18. ‘What these countries don’t realize is that by making noise they are making it seem as if Kosova is a precedent, even when it is not.’

    Warchild there is some truth in this although I dont agree with the ‘even with it is not’ bit. It is a precedent that could have passed by with much less noise. The fact that it has become such a big issue for the global powers to dispute so publicly, which will ensure that independence movements will point to it in any struggle to achieve independence. This is quite a natural thing and saying it doesnt mean you have to support Kosovo independence or be against it. Having said that the more dishonest supporters (Holbrooke again) like to claim that Kosovo independence will have no bearing on other movements seeking independence because Kosovo is a unique case.

    Great reasoning, show me a case that isnt unique!

    Doug are there any elections in Spain? Would the potential election of Sarkozy (boo, speaking from a political perspective) have an impact on the issue or would it have no effect on French foreign policy? (Or have elections been held already I havent read anything on France for a while?)

    ‘It’s interesting to note that, with the exception of Romania, all of Serbia’s immediate neighbors are quietly supportive of the Albanians. ‘

    I bet that wouldnt have been the case in Croatia had Z4 been accepted by the Croatian Serbs!

  19. 1. “Macedonia and Montenegro, in particular, will both recognize Kosovo immediately if the UNSC gives the green light”.
    Macedonia and Crna Gora? Or just the Albanian minority living there?
    2. Romania will allways support Serbia in this case, because they know that it is really a precedent, and a really dangerous one. Nationalisms will get strength from these arrangement, not only in the region (Crna Gora, Macedonia), or in Hungary, Romania, etc., but in Trentino, in Spain, etc.

  20. re the 90 days thing

    See the Serbian Constitution here
    http://www.parlament.sr.gov.yu/content/eng/akta/ustav/ustav_5.asp

    Article 101 reads

    The first session of the National Assembly shall be convened by the Chairman of the National Assembly from the previous session, so that the session is held not later than 30 days from the day of declaring the final election results.

    Article 109 reads

    The National Assembly shall be dissolved if it fails to elect the Government within 90 days from the day of its constitution.

    So (I think) that appears to back up my earlier statement – ie that the 90 days deadline is 90 days after 14 February, not after the elections themselves.

  21. Doug,

    A few short points.

    (a) SFR Yugoslavia was a member of the UN and it broke-up despite the fact that on paper it was a federation and none of the republics or autonomous regions could declare their independence. It happened. Hence, I say, not really a step into the unknown.

    (b) The Ahtisaari plan does explicitly mention the term “independence”, albeit with strings attached, i.e. supervised/monitored/conditional. The “draft” plan that he put in front of the parties dealt with “technical issues” only, however his final plan presented to the UN states in clear terms that Kosovo should become an independent state. China, as expected, will stay neutral all along — I see no indication to think otherwise.

    (c) Re: Serbian elections. Technically, it could take 50-60 days or longer to count & verify the votes, and settle any legal challenges. In some neighboring countries it takes are long as 3 months. Thus, the 90 days limit is valid from the day the new parliament sits for the first time and legal issues with regards to the elections are completed. Therefore, the official and legal period for forming the government began in mid-February. I also think that if the elections were to be held again the votes would “punish” the major parties, not the smaller ones such as SPS, LDP since they were not asked to form the government. I believe the matching duo Tadic-Kostunica would suffer more in the re-elections.

    (d) Finally, I think Russia has to be careful here because if the plan does not go through the UNSC then the Kosovar Albanian side will not be obliged to give “broad autonomy” (Kostunica’s beloved term) to the Kosovar Serbs and in the end the Kosovar Serbs might end up the big losers, again. “bganon” mentioned the Z4 plan, and what a good reminder that is to many Serbs — many Croatian Serbs today as “what if…”

    The US has opened a military base in the north of Kosovo, Germans have sent extra troops recently and the chances of dividing Kosovo are close to nil, so if, and there is a big if, the plan does not go through UNSC the loosing side is not automatically the US/UK/FR/DE and Kosovar Albanian side.

  22. Doug,

    A few short points.

    (a) SFR Yugoslavia was a member of the UN and it broke-up despite the fact that on paper it was a federation and none of the republics or autonomous regions could declare their independence. It happened. Hence, I say, not really a step into the unknown.

    (b) The Ahtisaari plan does explicitly mention the term “independence”, albeit with strings attached, i.e. supervised/monitored/conditional. The “draft” plan that he put in front of the parties dealt with “technical issues” only, however his final plan presented to the UN states in clear terms that Kosovo should become an independent state. China, as expected, will stay neutral all along — I see no indication to think otherwise.

    (c) Re: Serbian elections. Technically, it could take 50-60 days or longer to count & verify the votes, and settle any legal challenges. In some neighboring countries it takes as long as 3 months. Thus, the 90 days limit is valid from the day the new parliament seats for the first time and legal issues with regards to the elections are completed. Therefore, the official and legal period for forming the government began in mid-February. I also think that if the elections were to be held again the voters would “punish” the major parties, not the smaller ones such as SPS, LDP, G17 Plus since they were not asked to form the government. I believe the duo Tadic-Kostunica would be the big losers in case of re-elections.

    (d) Finally, I think Russia has to be careful here because if the plan does not go through the UNSC then the Kosovar Albanian side will not be obliged to give “broad autonomy” (Kostunica’s beloved term) to the Kosovar Serbs and in the end the Kosovar Serbs might end up the big losers, again. “bganon” mentioned the Z4 plan, and what a good reminder that is to many Serbs — many Croatian Serbs still ask “what if…”

    The US has opened a military base in the north of Kosovo, Germans have sent extra troops recently and the chances of dividing Kosovo are close to nil; so if, and there is a big if, the plan does not go through UNSC the loosing side is not automatically the US/UK/FR/DE and Kosovar Albanian side.

    The answer to your question:
    YES::YES — the plan will go through UNSC :: the government will be formed on time.

  23. Venichka, I believe you are right. Thanks for the correction!

    Dr. Minorka, no. Macedonia and Montenegro. The last two Macedonian governments have been very friendly with Kosovo. Two reasons. One, both governments have Albanian parties as coalition partners. Two (and this may be more important in the long run), Macedonia has become a major trading partner for Kosovo.

    Also, even Slav Macedonians have little sympathy for Serbia. Serbian diplomacy in this area has been horrible. The stupid dispute over the Macedonian autocephalous church has done a lot to alienate Macedonia, as has Serbia´s lack of support in the name dispute with Greece. Skopje should be Belgrade´s natural ally in the region, instead, they are coolly neutral.

    Montenegro, much the same — Albanian minority, economic interests, annoyed with Belgrade. Also, I think Djukanovic sees support for Kosovo as a way to buff his (rather tarnished) credentials as a “pro-western liberal”.

    Bganon, the Z-4 plan is one of the great “what-if” questions of recent Balkan history. If the RSK leadership hadn´t been — I am going to use some technical terms here — if they hadn´t been such a useless, incompetent, venal bunch of crooks, fucktards, and general toe-sucking morons — if they had been as bright as, say, an unusually bright group of chimpanzees — if they had been gifted with as much foresight and self discipline as an average high school delinquent marijuana dealer — then they would have accepted the Z-4 plan.

    Rejecting it required a truly breathtaking combination of blind arrogance and blind stupidity. Interviews with the leaders afterwards show that they (1) didn´t think the Croats were strong enough to attack them, and (2) thought that Slobo would help them. (1) required them to be incredibly freaking stupid — the Croats had spent four years preparing for a rematch, while the RSK had allowed its armed forces to disintegrate. (And they KNEW that their army couldn´t fight — they were, after all, the ones who had allowed corruption and incompetence to gut it.) (2) required them to trust Slobo, which they knew was a Really Bad Idea.

    Really, what happened is that they got arrogant and lazy. Nobody had dared to mess with them for four years, and they´d become fat and rich — first from looting the Croats, then from robbing their own people. So they thought the gravy train would roll on forever.

    Ahem. Sorry, but severe stupidity affects me that way sometimes… Anyway, yes: if the RSK leadership had accepted Z4, things would be very different today.

    (You know, last month it was a year since Babic the dentist died. Nobody seemed to notice.)

    Doug M.

  24. Doug

    I agree with you on Macedonia and Montenegro. I would just add one more thing. There is a historical precedent for this too.

    Historically the rulers of montenegro have cooperated with Albanians. Balsa was an Montenegrin which became an Albanian. And Cernojevic was an ally in the League of Lezha – the league of Albanian princes led by Scanderbeg to fight the Turks.

    Also, Macedonians and Albanians have had connections since the medieval times. Scanderbeg himself comes from a mixed family of Albanian and Macedonian royalty.

    Only with the advent of nationalism did Montenegrins side with the Serbs. As far as Macedonians, Albanians are their best allies in the region. Albania is the first country that recognized Macedonia by name. Kosova is indespensable for trade. Plus they have a similar history of being divided at the same point in history. Also, they share the same state.

    Now there is something which seems to explain both the historical precedents and the current situation: geography. Belgrade is simply too distant for both Montenegro and Skopje. The roads of Albanians, Montenegrins and Macedonians cross much more than those of Serbs and A-M-M.

    It seems the Ahtisaari plan is going to be the Z4 of the Kosovo Serbs. Remember there is talk already of “controlled” vs. “uncontrolled” independence. If the Economist says it, it must be true.

  25. re Crna Gora @ Macedonia:
    Let me cite the CIA World Factbook about Macedonia: “Some ethnic Albanians, angered by perceived political and economic inequities, launched an insurgency in 2001 that eventually won the support of the majority of Macedonia’s Albanian population and led to the internationally-brokered Framework Agreement, which ended the fighting by establishing a set of new laws enhancing the rights of minorities.”
    So it is unlikely that the ethnic Macedonian portion of Macedonia would be very supportive concerning the independence of Kosovo. Serbia, being rather powerless and chaotic in the present situation, is a highly unlikely candidate for a real threat.
    No question that Kosovo will be independent. The question is the long-term prospect.

  26. “So it is unlikely that the ethnic Macedonian portion of Macedonia would be very supportive concerning the independence of Kosovo.”

    Then you need to explain why polls show the majority of ethnic Macedonians supporting Kosovar independence.

    For extra points, you may want to explain why the ethnic Macedonian foreign minister keeps travelling to Kosovo and expressing support for the Kosovar government.

    Doug M.

  27. “Then you need to explain why polls show the majority of ethnic Macedonians supporting Kosovar independence.”
    Last time I checked the facts the ethnic Macedonians ware not supported the independence of Kosovo, but it was two years ago, and the fights were to close. Anyway even a cursory reading of the Macedonian situation reveal, that what they want is stability, a secure border, and peace within Macedonia. If the independence of Kosovo helps to attain this, they will support it. But there is a big if…
    See:
    http://kosovo.birn.eu.com/en/1/70/2190/
    http://kosovo.birn.eu.com/en/1/70/2394/

    “For extra points, you may want to explain why the ethnic Macedonian foreign minister keeps travelling to Kosovo and expressing support for the Kosovar government.”
    This is a non-sequitur! He is a realist.

  28. Doug on Z4 bear in mind that actually some senior Croatian Serbs did want to look at Z4. The current Croatian Serb leader Pupovac was one of those advocating some kind of compromise.

    But there were other dissenting voices too (not including Babic, who rather like Mesic has a selective memory casting himself as a hero of history). The ‘problem’ was that the Croatian Serbs recevied a cast iron guarantee from Jovica Stanisic that they would have backing from Serbia and they believed him. By the time they realised they had been cut adrift they felt it was too late to change tack. Probably egos and the sense that anybody who dealt with Franjo Tudjman would be finished politically didnt help either. But yes in the end very stupid to leave yourself completely exposed like that. I dont care about those leaders though. I do care very much about the more than 200,000 Serbs who were forced to leave their homes. The stupidity of the Croatian Serb leadership does not excuse the burning of their homes, the war crimes against those who stayed behind and the ethnic cleansing operation. Having said that I accept to a degree that one mans ethnic cleansing operation is another mans liberation of territory. IMO its quite possible that both positions are true.

    I’m not sure that much belief should be given to those leaders in interviews they gave though. Self serving fools.

    I’m too puzzled a little by Serbian policy re-Macedonia. Not so much the religious aspect – after all its typical local crap as far as I’m concerned. One church or ethnic group claiming its different from another. More glorious, divisive nation building and flag waving. And then the usual cold, hard realisation that nothing really changed much after all.

    But the fact is that there remains a lot of fondness between Macedonians and Serbs. Perhaps there is also a degree of snobbery of the type Slovenia shows to Croatia and Croatia does to Serbia. They love to look north or west and they deliberately ignore their south or east. On a more logical level I suppose more money will always be made looking another direction – Macedonia is a small market with average wages lower than Serbia or Bosnia.

  29. bganon:

    “One church or ethnic group claiming its different from another. More glorious, divisive nation building and flag waving. And then the usual cold, hard realisation that nothing really changed much after all.”

    That isn’t very liberal-minded. It doesn’t respond to the issue at hand, i.e. that Macedonians identify themselves as a nation distinct from Serbia, have established a nation-state for themselves on a corresponding national chruch based on Bulgarian precedents, and are annoyed that Serbia is reluctant to recognize Macedonia’s state and is hostile towards the Macedonian church.

    If one person wants to be left alone to do his thing while the other insists that he do something else because the first person is obviously wrong, they aren’t fighting. Rather, the second person is bullying the first one.

    “But the fact is that there remains a lot of fondness between Macedonians and Serbs. Perhaps there is also a degree of snobbery of the type Slovenia shows to Croatia and Croatia does to Serbia. They love to look north or west and they deliberately ignore their south or east. On a more logical level I suppose more money will always be made looking another direction – Macedonia is a small market with average wages lower than Serbia or Bosnia.”

    Lower than Serbia or Bosnia? This seems odd, considering that GDP per capita in Macedonia is a substantial fraction higher than that of either Serbia or Bosnia. Cite?

  30. More to the point, the European Stability Initiative’s outline of the problems facing the Serbian textile industry

    http://www.esiweb.org/index.php?lang=en&id=156&document_ID=83

    suggest strongly that domestic market size is largely irrelevant. This makes sense, if in fact European companies are investing in the Balkans in order to take advantage of lower costs for export to the European Union and other rich-country markets. Perceived political stability, instead, is key. Here Macedonia has an advantage over both Serbia and Bosnia (and Kosova) that it is capitalizing on rather nicely.

  31. Oliver:

    “Russia objects to only NATO being allowed to do such things. You probably could convince them to deal on the backs of Georgians and others in the “near abroad”.”

    It remains unclear to me why, exactly, Transnistria and Abkhazia should reunify with their parent states. Couldn’t one make the case that these states are just as much successor states of the old Moldavian and Georgian SSRs as modern-day Moldova and Georgia?

  32. Pingback: Nosemonkey / Europhobia » Blog Archive » Euroblog roundup 2

  33. A nightmare in “progress”:
    Andreas Zobel, the German ambassador in Belgrad: Serbia’s stubbornness would destabilize Serbia, and Hungary would claim back Voivodina/Vajdaság – as reported by MTI (the Hungarian news agency).
    Is he mad, or just completely irresponsible/incompetent?

  34. Dear Minorka,

    Ambassador Zobel is neither stupid nor irresponsible/incompetent. He is telling it as it is. Does it hurt so much?

    Serbia and its leaders are going “head first”, yet again, with regards to the Kosovo issue and somehow believe that there is “nothing to loose” by not cooperating. However, if they do not cooperate and accept the realities on the ground, then there is nothing to guarantee that they can control any territory whatsoever where Serbs are not a majority, while on the other hand they do not accept that in those few places where Serbs are a majority in Kosovo the Serbs must rule themselves. Why can’t the Hungarians in Vojvodina be granted the same rights that Serbs in Kosovo demand? Why can’t the Bosniak people in Sandjak be granted the “autonomy” that Serbs in Kosovo demand? Furthermore, why can’t the Hungarians and the Bosniaks separate from Serbia when the Kosovar Serbs demand the same.

    Martti Ahtisaari has spoken. Kosovo will be independent. There is no alternative. Time will show who was right and who was wrong.

  35. Unfortunately, the same logic applies to your case, as well!
    Just for the record: I’m a Hungarian. We had several blood baths, mad nationalists in our region, so my final answer to the question “Why can’t …” is “Do not inspect a petrol tank by striking a match.”

  36. The EU and US fucktards and the general toe-sucking morons that will blindly follow them anywhere, support them on anything, and betray their own people for them are not going to get the Ahtisaari scheme though the UNSC. I will fail because of concern regarding the long-term impacts of such a decision. It very well could be the precedent the begins the decline of an already declining framework for resolving disputes between countries.

    Serbia will form a government.

  37. Yellow card, Mr. Thompson. Keep it clean.

    BTW, Serbia is now on day 81 with no government. They’ve totally destroyed their previous record of 70 days in 2004. Go team! They have until May 14, so this could drag on another month, no problem.

    The Kosovo debate at the UNSC also looks good to stretch into May, if not June.

    So, no bets paying off any time soon.

    Doug M.

  38. @bganon: “Doug on Z4 bear in mind that actually some senior Croatian Serbs did want to look at Z4. The current Croatian Serb leader Pupovac was one of those advocating some kind of compromise.”

    Some, not many. Pupovac was not in a position of much power back in 1995.

    “The ‘problem’ was that the Croatian Serbs recevied a cast iron guarantee from Jovica Stanisic that they would have backing from Serbia and they believed him.”

    Well, right there… believing Slobo’s chief spook? How stupid would you have to be?

    “Probably egos and the sense that anybody who dealt with Franjo Tudjman would be finished politically didnt help either.”

    I suspect another issue was that most of the leadership had become wealthy — very wealthy, by local standards — under the status quo. Z-4 implied some return to accountability, and for a lot of these guys that would have been like sunlight to a vampire.

    “I do care very much about the more than 200,000 Serbs who were forced to leave their homes. The stupidity of the Croatian Serb leadership does not excuse the burning of their homes, the war crimes against those who stayed behind and the ethnic cleansing operation. Having said that I accept to a degree that one mans ethnic cleansing operation is another mans liberation of territory.”

    I agree with you, and I note further that the Croats have (1) consistently lied about doing ethnic cleansing in the first place, and (2) foot-dragged on letting refugees come back.

    On the other hand — there’s usually another hand in the former Yugoslavia, right? — almost the first thing the RSK did was to terrorize and expel 20 or 30 thousand Croats from its territory. So.

    “But the fact is that there remains a lot of fondness between Macedonians and Serbs. Perhaps there is also a degree of snobbery of the type Slovenia shows to Croatia and Croatia does to Serbia.”

    Yes and yes. Serbs like Macedonians! But they can’t stop thinking of them as dumb country cousins.

    Case in point:

    “Macedonia is a small market with average wages lower than Serbia or Bosnia.”

    No, that’s wrong. Average wages in Macedonia are about 30% higher than in Serbia. Remember, Macedonia avoided the wars.

    I note that Serbs consistently have a hard time believing this.

    Doug M.

  39. Doug,

    That’s more than fair. It was Yellow-card language. I will adhere. I actually thought I was blocked.

    I think the chance of Serbia forming a governmentit may be in favor with odds at about 49 against to 51 for.

    Mr. Fisteku,

    With NATO’s attack, occupation, and the current attempt to sever borders, Mr. Zobel’s comments, although very poor, ring quite true. The EU, US and their armed forces (NATO) have no qualm in violating international laws where it is “in their interest.” Hitler (a predecessor in Germany) did the same with an alliance (Axis). It’s a free for all mentality – victor takes all. That has implications for Kosovo too.

    That’s one reason why Ahtisaari’s thinking fails. It also fails on the economic side. No roads North for an Independent Kosovo or for those that bombed, occupied and severed – could be a problem until the Albanian Highway is upgraded.

    Strange that the EU would establish a new country that could very well be hostile to three out of the four countries adjacent to it. It appears that they’ve scrapped the thought for fostering economic corridors.

  40. Todd Thompson:

    “Strange that the EU would establish a new country that could very well be hostile to three out of the four countries adjacent to it. It appears that they’ve scrapped the thought for fostering economic corridors.”

    Hostile towards Montenegro and Macedonia, right? I thought Doug M. had established up-thread that such hostility isn’t present nowadays in Kosovo’s bilateral relations with those two countries. Why would it change?

  41. Right. I think that Macedonia and Montenegro will recognize Kosovo immediately if the UNSC gives the green light.

    They will also be the second and third countries to have problems with their Albanian minority. That is if Macedonia isn’t first, making Serbia the second. So, as I stated before, there are countries that blindly follow the EU and USA anywhere, support them on anything, and betray their own people. Since Montenegro and Macedonia support the Ahtisaari scheme, it makes them part of this “club.”

    It’s strange that you see support for an Independent Kosovo as the same thing as a economically stable and responsible Kosovo. The only thing that the UN did wrong was that it did very little and almost nothing. Somehow, once controlled at even lesser levels with even less money coming in, the EU expects things to get better. I think it won’t happen.

    When the EU leaves, exasperated and probably bloody, so will the money, the new rich Kosovo Albanian elite and what stability ever existed. Poverty makes for a hostile neighbor. That’s why I made my statement.

  42. Doug

    ‘Well, right there… believing Slobo’s chief spook? How stupid would you have to be?’

    What stupid to believe the man who had as much authority as Milosevic himself? Stupid to believe the man who had a reputation of delivering – remember his role in delivering to the West in Bosnia? The miscalculation wasnt in believing or disbelieving Stanisic, it was not understanding the politics and logistics of the situation. Babic makes this point and he is right on this one.

    There were dissenting opinions in the Croatian Serb leadership, not just the civilian leadership the military leadership too. I know this due to research I conducted on the subject. The problem was that Stanisic had it all sown up. He even helped rigg elections – I interviewed somebody that ‘supervised’ the rigging process. He also supported negotiation.

    ‘On the other hand — there’s usually another hand in the former Yugoslavia, right? — almost the first thing the RSK did was to terrorize and expel 20 or 30 thousand Croats from its territory’

    Ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing. I dont particularly like who did what first because that means we could rewind to WW2 or earlier. Its all to be condemned and one action cant justify another.

    On average wages vis a vis Macedonia and Serbia.
    Obviously your feeling that Serbs like to exaggerate outweighed the desire to find the statistics. I’d say you should take check if you dont know.

    Just for you the average net wage in Macedonia accoring to statistics from their statistics office is 226 Euros. The average Serbian wage is just above 308 Euros – the latter statistic is from memory but feel free to check it. I dont know where you get the 30 percent stat from – maybe you mixed the two totals up???

  43. bganon:

    “Just for you the average net wage in Macedonia accoring to statistics from their statistics office is 226 Euros. The average Serbian wage is just above 308 Euros – the latter statistic is from memory but feel free to check it. I dont know where you get the 30 percent stat from – maybe you mixed the two totals up???”

    Cite?

    http://www.siepa.sr.gov.yu/attach/SIEPA_Newsletter_September_2006.pdf

    gives a net monthly wage of ~265 euros for Serbia in September 2006.

    http://skopje.usembassy.gov/uploads/images/BzjTFdr5d703muX7Cn_2gg/MacedonianEconomyAtaGlance.pdf

    gives a net monthly wage of ~219 euros, 13430 denars in June 2006. I have no idea if the second figure is compatible with the first.

  44. Here you go Randy stats from the national statistic office:

    http://www.srbija.sr.gov.yu/vesti/vest.php?id=32546

    Serbia just over 308 dinars
    Macedonia over 226 Euros – from the Macedonian statistic office.

    Not that any of this matters so much. But Randy, Doug surely it isnt that difficult to find this info? After all you guys disputed my figures without even knowing what the stats were! Tut tut.

  45. Pingback: Serbia: Day 109, and over | afoe | A Fistful of Euros | European Opinion

  46. It seems odd that no-one seems to be aware of the oil pipelines from the Caspian sea region which pass through Bulgaria and on to Kosovo where America has built a large military base. A feasability study was carried out by the US regime prior to the demonization and bombing of Serbia. Prior to this, the UCK/KLA were listed as a terrorist group until they became useful in destabilising Yugoslavia. Macedonia (as one commentator suggested) did not ‘escape the war’ they are currently fighting a low level insurgency mounted by UCK (Albanians) there. Montenegro is has a 30% Albanian population whose influence was instrumental in their separation of that province from Serbia. I suggest all commentators read ‘Fools Crusade’ by Diana Johstone if they require an historic context and the political machinations which led to the dismemberment of former Yugoslavia. It makes very interesting reading indeed.

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