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Paris, November 2007

Serbia country profile

Serbia became a stand-alone sovereign republic in summer 2006 after Montenegro voted in a referendum for independence from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

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  • Full name: Republic of Serbia

  • Population: 7.5 million (2002 census, excludes Kosovo; UN mission estimates Kosovo population as circa 2 million)

  • Capital: Belgrade

  • Area: 88,361 sq km (34,116 sq miles) (includes Kosovo)

  • Major language: Serbian

  • Major religion: Christianity

  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)

  • Monetary unit: Dinar = 100 paras

  • Main exports: Manufactured goods, food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment

  • GNI per capita: US $3,280 (World Bank, 2006)

  • Internet domain: .rs and .yu

Serbia and Montenegro, the two republics still left in the old Yugoslav federation, had agreed in 2002 to scrap remnants of the ex-communist state and create the new, looser Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

The EU-brokered deal under which the union came into being in 2003 was intended to stabilise the region by settling Montenegrin demands for independence and preventing further changes to Balkan borders.

The same agreement also contained the seeds of the Union’s dissolution. It stipulated that after three years the two republics could hold referendums on whether to keep or scrap it. Montenegro duly voted for independence in a referendum in May 2006.

The two republics had been united in one form or another for nearly 90 years. With separation from Montenegro, Serbia is cut off from the Adriatic Sea and becomes landlocked

The end of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro marked the closing chapter in the history of the separation of the six republics of the old Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia which was proclaimed in 1945 and comprised Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia.

Under Yugoslavia’s authoritarian communist leader, Josip Broz Tito, the lid was kept on ethnic tensions. The federation lasted for over 10 years after his death in 1980 but under Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic it fell apart through the 1990s.

The secession of Slovenia and Macedonia came relatively peacefully but there were devastating wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia and Montenegro together formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1992 and 2003.


In 1998 violence flared in the autonomous province of Kosovo in Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army, supported by the majority ethnic Albanians, came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule. International pressure on Milosevic grew amid the escalating violence.

Nato launched air strikes in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999. An exodus of ethnic Albanians to neighbouring countries gathered pace. The UN took over administration of the region after Serbian forces had been driven out.

Kosovo is de facto an international protectorate but legally is part of Serbia. Its status remains the subject of a bitter dispute between the Albanian majority, who seek independence, and the minority Serbs. It is a dispute in which Belgrade retains a keen interest.

In February 2007 United Nations envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled a plan to set Kosovo on a path to independence, an outcome immediately welcomed by Kosovo Albanians and rejected by Serbia.

The US and European Union revised a draft UN resolution in early July to drop this promise of independence at Russian insistence, replacing it with pledge to review the situation if there was no breakthrough after four proposed months of talks with Serbia.

In late 2005, the EU began talks with Belgrade on the possibility of reaching a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. These were called off some months later because of the continuing failure of the Serbian authorities to capture war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.


  • President: Boris Tadic

Boris Tadic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS) was elected Serbian president in June 2004, defeating his nationalist rival Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party in a run-off.

Mr Tadic, who took over as DS leader after the assassination of former premier Zoran Djindjic in 2003, backs free market, pro-European reforms and Nato membership.

He has called on Serbs to turn their backs on the nationalism of the past and to understand that only the European route will bring lasting improvements to their lives. He has pledged full cooperation with The Hague tribunal.

He was born in 1958 and trained as a psychologist.

There is a rift between the DS and the centre-right Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Mr Kostunica formed the DS in 1989 with Zoran Djindjic. However, the party split and Mr Kostunica set up the DSS. Feuding between the DS and DSS has bedevilled Serbian politics ever since.

  • Prime minister: Vojislav Kostunica

Serbia’s main pro-reform parties agreed to form a government, to be led by the incumbent premier Vojislav Kostunica, in May 2007 after nearly four months of talks. Parliament approved the coalition just ahead of a constitutional deadline

The wrangling followed parliamentary elections in January, the first since the break-up of the union with Montenegro. The hardline nationalist Radical Party won the largest share of the vote but failed to gain enough seats to form a government.

The new administration includes the president’s pro-European DS, Mr Kostunica’s DSS and the G17 Plus party.

The prime minister says the coalition will seek EU entry and cooperate with The Hague war crimes tribunal. He says his government will oppose independence for Kosovo.

Vojislav Kostunica first took office in spring 2004. His coalition combined the DSS with smaller centre-right parties but excluded the DS. It relied on support from the Socialist Party of the late Slobodan Milosevic.

His government faced criticism for failing to hand over key war crimes suspects to The Hague tribunal.

Mr Kostunica succeeded Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav president. He was born in 1944 and is a former law lecturer.


  • The end of the Milosevic era brought new freedoms for the Serbian media and former pro-Milosevic outlets rushed to denounce the past.

RTS, the national, government-funded TV and radio service, aims to become a public broadcaster and state-funded local and regional media outlets are set to be privatised.

Hundreds of private TV and radio stations throng the airwaves, competing for a share of a small advertising market.

However, Serbia’s media regulator aims to bring some order to the scene. In April 2006 it awarded national TV licences to the private operators B92, TV Pink, News Corp’s Fox TV, TV Avala and a licence share to Kosava-Happy TV.

It also granted five national radio licences - to B92, Radio Index, Radio S, Roadstar and Radio Focus.

In Kosovo a commission set up by the UN has set out a code of conduct for journalists which aims to prevent incitement to hatred in the media.

The public broadcaster, RTK, was set up as an editorially-independent service.

UN-supervised Blue Sky Radio aims to provide a multi-ethnic audience with impartial news.

The press

  • Politika - private daily

  • Blic - popular private daily, English-language pages

  • Danas - private daily

  • Glas javnosti - private daily

  • NIN - private weekly

  • Vreme - private weekly

  • Nedeljni telegraf - private weekly

  • Vecernje Novosti - daily


  • Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) - government-funded

  • B92 TV - private

  • TV Pink - private

  • Studio B TV - run by Belgrade city council


  • Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) - government-funded

  • B92 - private

  • Association of Independent Electronic Media - representing private local radio and TV stations

News agencies

  • Tanjug - state-run, English-language pages

  • Beta - private, English-language pages

  • FoNet - private