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Serbia - Foreign Relations

On October 5, 2000, Slobodan Milosevic was forced to concede defeat after mass protests across Serbia. Following the events of October 2000, the authorities of the federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) made great efforts to rebuild links with the international community that were destroyed under Slobodan Milosevic. Soon after the removal of Milosevic, FRY rejoined the United Nations. She also joined various other international organisations, including the IMF, OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Many in Serbia feel victimized by the Milosevic regime. They fail to fully appreciate, however, the tremendous damage and suffering inflicted on the neighboring peoples of the former Yugoslavia during the Milosevic era through the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and a deep distrust resulting from Serbias inability to acknowledge that reality. Serbia will not fulfill its democratic promise until it fully comes to terms with this recent history.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) 'Legality of use of force' case was brought by Serbia and Montenegro against 8 NATO member states (including the UK) for their role in the 1999 Kosovo conflict. In December 2004 the ICJ judged that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case as Serbia and Montenegro was not a UN member at the time and did not have access to the Court via any other legal avenue. The case was therefore dismissed.

Serbias relations with her neighbors are complicated by the legacy of the 1990s. In recent years, regional relations have continued to steadily improve. Serbia's bilateral relationships with many countries were strained following Kosovo's independence in February 2008. In the days following Kosovo's independence, rioters in Belgrade attacked the embassies of several countries, including the United States, causing significant property damage. Serbia recalled its ambassadors for consultations from all countries that formally recognized Kosovo. Serbia returned its ambassadors to EU countries in July 2008 and to the remaining countries in October 2008.

During a visit to the Bosnia and Herzegovina capital, Sarajevo, in November 2003, SaM President Svetozar Marovic publicly apologised for any evil or disaster that any one from Serbia and Montenegro caused to anyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He had previously made a similar apology during his September visit to Zagreb for all the evils any citizen of Serbia and Montenegro has committed against any citizen of Croatia. On 11 July 2005, President Boris Tadic of Serbia was one of the regional and international dignitaries who attended the emotional commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

On 10 September 2003, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic made a historic visit to Belgrade. It was the first visit by a Croatian head of state since the end of the wars in 1995. On 15 November 2004, the Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader made an official visit to Belgrade, followed by a reciprocal visit to Zagreb by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in November 2005. The two men met again on 21 July 2006, when Ivo Sanader paid his second visit to Serbia. Both Prime Ministers stressed their countries joint future as members of the EU and looked forward to a steady improvement in bilateral ties.

On 24 June 2007, Tadic apologised to Croatian citizens for crimes committed in the 1990s war in that country. He said, 'that actions of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic represented one of the darkest pages in the Serbian history. ' Some issues still remain however, including the resettlement of Serb refugees in Croatia, the rights of the Croat minority in Serbia and the demarcation of the border between the two countries.

The October 2006 election campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a very public strengthening of ties between Serbia and Republika Srpska, culminating in the signing of a revised Special Parallel Relations Agreement in Banja Luka on 26 September. However, both sides were careful to stress that the agreement in no way undermined the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In September 2007, Serbia ratified the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in Brussels. Discussions have been intense, particularly over the amount of tariff charges and excise duty Serbia would be allowed to charge on imported Croatian cigarettes. Serbia was concerned that the agreement would open its cigarette market while keeping Croatia closed to its producers. CEFTA is thus a free trade area between ten central and southeast European states, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Albania and Kosovo.

On 26 February 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, announced its judgment on the case filed by BiH against Serbia and Montenegro in March 1993, claiming violations of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The ICJ found that Serbia had not committed genocide through its organs or persons and had not conspired to commit genocide, nor incited the commission of genocide.

However the court ruled that Serbia did not use its influence to prevent the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995, and that Serbias ongoing failure to punish those who had carried out the massacre continues to represent a breach of their obligations under the Genocide Convention. The ICJ reiterated that Serbia had an international legal obligation to immediately transfer Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic (who was arrested in 2008) to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and to fully co-operate with the Tribunal. Members of the international community called upon both countries to respect the judgment and respond constructively.





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Page last modified: 16-01-2016 19:25:41 ZULU