Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Mixed news from Serbia

by jandsm Mon Oct 30th, 2006 at 06:59:17 AM EST

In a referendum on suday, a majority of 51.5 % of Serbia's electorate voted in favor of a new constitution. With an overall participation of around 53 %of the electorate, it means that nearly everyone who went to the  ballot boxes supported it. And since a majority of the voters participated, it means the constution has been officially adopted.

So why should we care? The BBC has a short summary:

Among the constitution's 200 articles are guarantees for minority and human rights and the granting of a form of self-rule for the province of Vojvodina.

It also calls for the end of the death penalty - and a ban on human cloning.

Things are apparently moving in the right direction...but:

From the diaries - whataboutbob


Serbs living in Kosovo turned out in large numbers to support the new constitution.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic
We have accomplished one task but we shouldn't celebrate too much
Serbian President Boris Tadic

Some celebrated in the streets when the preliminary results were announced, waving Serbian flags and chanting: "Kosovo, we won't give you up." But the future is uncertain. Kosovo is officially a part of Serbia but has been run by the UN since the war ended in 1999.

The vast majority of the population are Kosovo Albanians who are demanding independence from Serbia. Serbs want the province to remain a part of Serbia. In perhaps the new constitution's most controversial part, the text proclaims the province to be an "integral part of the territory of Serbia".

For me this another Janus-face development on the Balkan. On the one hand, Serbia moves closer to become a true democracy, on the other hand the Kososvo issue still looms in the background without any satisfying solution in sight, ready to poison the politics of the region again.

But at least economically, Serbia is making some advancements:

According to Politika, net salaries in Serbia in September were 271 euros on the average, which is more than the May 1991 figure, when the average salaries stood at 268 euros. The salaries now are closer to the second half of 1990 values, the last year before the international sanctions.

Economic Institute associate Miroslav Zdravković says the factors for the growth are the strong dinar, and the steady rise in the average salaries which has continued throughout the year.

However, salaries are this year just under 40 index points above the GDP level, while the imports level stands at 50 index points above that of the exports. Beside the salaries, there is a strong flow of capital from abroad, mostly through investments.

The rise in the average salary does not stimulate a decrease in the unemployment rate. With this average, objectively insufficient for a normal lifestyle even compared to the regional countries, few people will take on jobs that pay less that the average wage. This leads to the phenomenon of a high unemployment rate, and a large number of vacancies that are never filled.

Wages coming back to pre-war level. This just underlines what a waste these last 15 years were. It is a shame. And I just hope that a reasonable solution for the status of the Kosovo, combined with a European perspective will finally close this chapter of death, destruction and despairt forever. Then again, I do not have any suggestions.

I think, based on what vbo has spoken of in earlier posts, that this is a cautionary tale. Let's hope for the best (more peace, better wages, democracy continuing, etc.)...but what happens with Kosovo is anyone's guess right now...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Oct 30th, 2006 at 07:01:54 AM EST
Well, here as a guest in my house is at the moment sister of my husband and she lives in Belgrade. I am trying to find out more about what life is right now in Serbia for ordinary people. Looks like it's not easy for them. Belgrade is much better story then other parts. Most of the people have salaries between 100-200 Euros MONTHLY which basically is not enough to survive at all. Like always people there have their own ways to earn and "earn" just enough money to cope. They really are not used to all capitalist stuff that has been introduced to them lately. They do not know much about mortgages , credit cards and loans generally...not to mention bankruptcy (never happened before to anyone they know personally).They are naive in a way and will learn hard way. Privatization of anything that has any value is taking place for some time now and while 80 % of workers lose their jobs in process this is really hard for older workers that are not ready for pension and there is no social welfare policy to support them. Young people are struggling to find their place in a society because they really are not willing to work "for peanuts". They can't make families and are postponing this indefinitely...
Generally people do not care about politic too much lately...they are disappointed in domestic politicians as well as in EU and international society as such.
In a way they really do not care about Kosovo or even Vojvodina lately...their country in this point of time just is coming to the point that can hardly be smaller then it is. They have been through a lot of shit. I suppose every nation has to go through some low points and that's where they are for quite some time. If there is a joy in fact that salaries are back to pre-war levels Serbs are not aware of that joy. Most of them suffer now much more then they did pre-war. They are not really sure if EU is a way to go , all though politicians are talking about joining EU as if it is some kind of salvation for them. They see (frustrated) Hungarians and other new EU members ...with some exceptions it's not a pretty picture...
In a way it does not matter what's going to happen with Kosovo right now (I still do not see anybody in Serbia to sign for independence) cause borders on the Balkan will have to be redrawn at some point in the future, that's for sure...At the moment pressure that West and specially Americans are putting on them to sign-off Kosovo is just making opposite reaction ...they will not give up on it for no price. Not that anything really worth mentioning is offered in return anyway. And as they used to love Americans after WWII up to these wars they hate them to the core now.
To make a long story short this constitution is not a big deal. What ever is written there (like private property etc.)Already is taking place for some time...It may give more guaranties for foreign investors. They are already buying everything for peanuts and Serbs are not able to see how is this going to benefit them at all.
That's in short...  

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Oct 30th, 2006 at 09:10:45 AM EST
As always, war makes things HARDER, not EASIER to resolve. Albright and NATO considered that Kosovo would be better off this way. Now with all the hard feelings onvolved, it will be very difficult not to give the Albanians what they demand. Before the war it was quite possible to cut a deal at Rambouillet that would have allowed the Serbs and Albanians to come to a compromise that could have worked.

Same thing with Bosnia.

These were failures of international diplomacy.

It's simply too easy for us to point to aggressive acts and their necessary reversals when we come up with a historical explanation for events in the region. Rarely do we look back on the meetings and negotiations to analyze and remember the road not taken.

Peace is always an option.

by Upstate NY on Mon Oct 30th, 2006 at 09:20:08 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]