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Country Specific Information: Serbia

August 21, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Serbia
Source: U.S. Department of State

August 14, 2011

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Serbia is strengthening its democratic, economic, and social institutions, but it still faces many challenges. In February 2008, Kosovo, which used to be part of Serbia, declared itself an independent country and was recognized as such by the United States. You should be aware that Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence; the dispute will only affect foreign travelers who plan to visit Kosovo. For more information on Kosovo, please read our Country Specific Information for Kosovo.

Serbia has many tourist and travel facilities like hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, and gas stations, but the quality varies significantly from place to place. Some facilities are not up to Western standards. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Serbia for additional information.

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CRS — Serbia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

May 10, 2011 Comments off

Serbia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

Serbia faces an important crossroads in its development. It is seeking to integrate into the European Union (EU), but its progress has been hindered by a failure to arrest remaining indicted war criminals and by tensions with the United States and many EU countries over the independence of Serbia’s Kosovo province.

Parliamentary elections were held in Serbia on May 11, 2008. The new Serbian parliament approved a government coalition led by pro-Western forces, but which also includes the Socialist Party (once led by indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic). The global economic crisis poses serious challenges for Serbia. The downturn has required painful austerity measures. In January 2009, the International Monetary Fund approved a $530 million stand-by loan for Serbia and another $4.2 billion loan in April. Serbia has also received loans from the World Bank and EU.

Serbia’s key foreign policy objectives are to secure membership in the European Union and to hinder international recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The European Union signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia on April 29, 2008. It provides a framework for enhanced cooperation between the EU and Serbia in a variety of fields, with the perspective of EU membership. In December 2009, the EU agreed to allow the trade provisions of the SAA to be implemented. The rest of the SAA will enter into force after the agreement is ratified by all EU member states. In December 2009, Serbia submitted an application to join the EU, but EU member governments have yet to decide whether to accept Serbia as a membership candidate. Even if Serbia is accepted as a candidate, years of negotiations will be required before it can join.

Serbia has vowed to take “all legal and diplomatic measures” to preserve its former province of Kosovo as part of Serbia. So far, 75 countries, including the United States and 22 of 27 EU countries, have recognized Kosovo’s independence. Russia, Serbia’s ally on the issue, has used the threat of its Security Council veto to block U.N. membership for Kosovo. Serbia’s diplomatic strategy suffered a setback when the International Court of Justice ruled in July 2010 that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not contravene international law. After the ruling, in part due to substantial pressure by the EU, Serbia agreed to hold EU-brokered talks with Kosovo on technical issues. The talks are planned to begin in March 2011.

In December 2006, Serbia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PFP) program. PFP is aimed at helping countries come closer to NATO standards and at promoting their cooperation with NATO. Although it supports NATO membership for all of its neighbors, Serbia is not seeking NATO membership. This may be due to such factors as memories of NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999, U.S. support for Kosovo’s independence, and a desire to maintain close ties with Russia.

U.S.-Serbian relations have improved since the United States recognized Kosovo’s independence in February 2008, when Serbia sharply condemned the U.S. move and demonstrators sacked a portion of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. During a May 2009 visit to Belgrade, Vice President Joseph Biden stressed strong U.S. support for close ties with Serbia. He said the countries could “agree to disagree” on Kosovo’s independence. He called on Serbia to transfer the remaining war criminals to the ICTY, promote reform in neighboring Bosnia, and cooperate with international bodies in Kosovo.

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