Its major environmental issues include:
- air pollution around Belgrade and other industrial cities; and,
- water pollution from industrial wastes dumped into the Sava which flows into the Danube
Serbia is susceptible to destructive earthquakes.
The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.
Various paramilitary bands resisted Nazi Germany's occupation and division of Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1945, but fought each other and ethnic opponents as much as the invaders. The military and political movement headed by Josip "Tito" Broz (Partisans) took full control of Yugoslavia when German and Croatian separatist forces were defeated in 1945. Although Communist, Tito's new government and his successors (he died in 1980) managed to steer their own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades.
In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic became president of the Republic of Serbia and his ultranationalist calls for Serbian domination led to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines.
In 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared independence, followed by Bosnia in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992 and under Milosevic's leadership, Serbia led various military campaigns to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a "Greater Serbia." These actions were ultimately unsuccessful and led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.
Milosevic retained control over Serbia and eventually became president of the FRY in 1997. In 1998, an ethnic Albanian insurgency in the formerly autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo provoked a Serbian counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo. The Milosevic government's rejection of a proposed international settlement led to NATO's bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999, to the withdrawal of Serbian military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999, and to the stationing of a NATO-led force in Kosovo to provide a safe and secure environment for the region's ethnic communities.
FRY elections in late 2000 led to the ouster of Milosevic and the installation of democratic government.
In 2003, the FRY became Serbia and Montenegro, a loose federation of the two republics. Widespread violence predominantly targeting ethnic Serbs in Kosovo in March 2004 caused the international community to open negotiations on the future status of Kosovo in January 2006.
In June 2006, Montenegro seceded from the federation and declared itself an independent nation. Serbia subsequently gave notice that it was the successor state to the union of Serbia and Montenegro.
In February 2008, after nearly two years of inconclusive negotiations, the UN-administered province of Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia - an action Serbia refuses to recognize. At Serbia's request, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2008 sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on whether Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. In a ruling considered unfavorable to Serbia, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion in July 2010 stating that international law did not prohibit declarations of independence. In late 2010, Serbia agreed to an EU-drafted UNGA Resolution acknowledging the ICJ's decision and calling for a new round of talks between Serbia and Kosovo.
Location: Southeastern Europe, between Macedonia and Hungary
Geographic Coordinates: 44 00 N, 21 00 E
Area: 77,474 sq km
Ethnic Serbian municipalities along Kosovo's northern border challenge final status of Kosovo-Serbia boundary.
Serbia delimited about half of the boundary with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but sections along the Drina River remain in dispute.
Natural Hazards: destructive earthquakes
Terrain: extremely varied; to the north, rich fertile plains; to the east, limestone ranges and basins; to the southeast, ancient mountains and hills. The highest point is Midzor (2,169 m) and the lowest points thwe Danube and Timok Rivers (35 m)
Climate: in the north, continental climate (cold winters and hot, humid summers with well distributed rainfall); in other parts, continental and Mediterranean climate (relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns)
Topography of Serbia. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Ecology and Biodiversity
Map Source: World Wildlife Fund
People and Society
Population: 7,276,604 (July 2012 est.)
Ethnic Groups: Serb 82.9%, Hungarian 3.9%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.4%, Yugoslavs 1.1%, Bosniaks 1.8%, Montenegrin 0.9%, other 8% (2002 census)
0-14 years: 15.1% (male 567,757/female 532,604)
Population Growth Rate: -0.464% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 9.17 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 13.81 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 74.56 years
male: 71.71 years
female: 77.58 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 1.4 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: Serbian (official) 88.3%, Hungarian 3.8%, Bosniak 1.8%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.1%, other 4.1%, unknown 0.9% (2002 census). Note: Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Croatian all official in Vojvodina.
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): 94.1% (2003 census) Note: includes Montenegro
Urbanization: 56% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 0.6% (2010-15 est.)
The first Serbian kingdom was created in 1170 A.D. by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, whose son was canonized as St. Sava and became the patron saint of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church founded in 1219. Serbia's territories expanded under the rule of King Milutin, who seized territory in nearby Macedonia from the Byzantines, and reached their peak under Milutin's son, Stefan Dusan (1331-55). However, Serbian power waned after Stefan's death in 1355, and at the Battle of Kosovo (June 28, 1389) the Serbs were defeated by the Turks. Following the Battle of Smederevo in 1459, the Ottoman Empire exerted complete control over all Serb lands.
Serbs lived under the rule of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 370 years, though the Serbian Orthodox Church, with several disruptions, transmitted Serbian heritage and helped preserve Serbian identity during this period. Movements for Serbian independence began with uprisings led by Karadjordje Petrovic (1804-13) and Milos Obrenovic (1815-17), founders of two rival dynasties that would rule Serbia until World War I. Serbia became an internationally recognized principality under Turkish suzerainty and Russian protection after the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. After waging war against Turkey in support of Bosnian rebels in 1876, Serbia formally gained independence in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin, largely thanks to Russian support. Following Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia, Serbia led a successful coalition of Montenegrin, Bulgarian, and Greek troops (the Balkan League) that in 1913 seized remaining Ottoman-controlled territory in Europe and established Serbia as a regional military leader.
The assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, set off a series of diplomatic and military actions among the great powers that culminated in World War I. Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces occupied Serbia soon after World War I began. After the collapse of Austria-Hungary at the war's end in 1918, Vojvodina and Montenegro united with Serbia, and former south Slav subjects of the Habsburgs sought the protection of the Serbian crown within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Serbia was the dominant partner in this state, which in 1929 adopted the name Yugoslavia.
The kingdom soon encountered resistance when Croats began to resent control from Belgrade. This pressure prompted King Alexander I to split the traditional regions into nine administrative provinces. During World War II, the Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia. Royal army soldiers, calling themselves Chetniks, formed a Serbian resistance movement, but the communist Partisans, with Soviet and Anglo-American help, succeeded in defeating the Chetniks and forcing German forces from Yugoslavia by 1944. In an effort to avoid Serbian domination during the postwar years, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro were given separate and equal republican status within the new socialist federation of Yugoslavia; Kosovo and Vojvodina were made autonomous provinces within Yugoslavia.
Despite the appearance of a federal system of government in Yugoslavia, Serbian communists ruled Yugoslavia's political life for the next 4 decades under Josip Broz Tito, a former Bolshevik and committed communist. In 1948 after Tito made several significant foreign policy decisions without consulting Moscow, Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc, signifying a split with Moscow that left Tito independent to accept aid from the Marshall Plan and become a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement. Communist rule transformed Serbia from an agrarian into an industrial society; however, by the 1980s, Yugoslavia's economy started to fail. With the death of Tito in 1980, separatist and nationalist tensions emerged in Yugoslavia.
In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting Serbian nationalism, especially over Kosovo. In 1989, he arranged the elimination of Kosovo's autonomy in favor of direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then taken by Serbs. The Albanian language was banned at the University of Pristina, cutting off higher education for ethnic Albanians in the province. As a result of this oppression, Kosovo Albanian leaders led a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s and established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora.
Between 1991 and 1992, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia all seceded from Yugoslavia. On April 27, 1992, in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro joined in passing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.).
Kosovo's peaceful resistance movement failed to yield results, and in 1997 the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed resistance. The KLA's main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.
In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the separatist KLA, which included atrocities against civilian noncombatants. For the duration of Milosevic's campaign, tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians were either displaced from their homes in Kosovo or killed by Serbian troops or police. These acts, and Serbia's refusal to sign the Rambouillet Accords, prompted 79 days of bombing by NATO forces from March to June 1999 and led the UN Security Council (UNSC) to authorize, through UNSC Resolution 1244 (June 10, 1999), an international civil and military presence in Kosovo under UN auspices. The resolution called for UN interim administration of Kosovo and authorized the international civil presence to facilitate a process to determine Kosovo's status. Following Milosevic's capitulation, international forces--including the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led security force KFOR--moved into Kosovo.
Routine federal elections in September 2000 resulted in a narrow official victory for Slobodan Milosevic and his coalition against Vojislav Kostunica, the consensus presidential candidate of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), an umbrella group of 18 anti-Milosevic political parties. After Milosevic's victory was documented to be fraudulent, citizens across Serbia turned out in street protests in support of Kostunica. On October 5, 2000, Milosevic was forced to concede defeat after mass protests across Serbia. The new F.R.Y. President Vojislav Kostunica was soon joined at the top of the domestic Serbian political scene by the Democratic Party's (DS) Zoran Djindjic, who was elected Prime Minister at the head of the DOS ticket in parliamentary elections that December. Although initial reform efforts were highly successful, especially in the economic and fiscal sectors, by the middle of 2002, the nationalist Kostunica and the pragmatic Djindjic were openly in conflict with each other.
Despite the initial euphoria of replacing Milosevic's autocratic regime, the Serbian population by mid-2002 slid into apathy and disillusionment with its leading politicians in reaction to this political maneuvering. Two rounds of voting for the republic presidency in late 2002 failed because of insufficient voter turnout (Serbian law required participation by more than 50% of registered voters).
On March 12, 2003, Prime Minister Djindjic was assassinated by organized crime elements threatened by his pursuit of anti-crime measures. Zoran Zivkovic, a vice-president of Djindjic's DS party, was elected Prime Minister in March 2003, but a series of scandals plagued the new government, which ultimately led to early elections.
Republic of Serbia presidential elections were held on November 16, 2003, but the results were declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout. Following the December 2003 parliamentary elections, a new minority government was formed with the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), G17+, and the Serbian Renewal Movement/New Serbia (SPO/NS) coalition and the tacit support of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Former F.R.Y. president Vojislav Kostunica was named Prime Minister.
In March 2002, the heads of the federal and republican governments signed the Belgrade Agreement, setting forth the parameters for a redefinition of Montenegro's relationship with Serbia within a joint state. On February 4, 2003, the F.R.Y. parliament ratified the Constitutional Charter, establishing a new state union and changing the name of the country from Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro.
Also in 2002, the F.R.Y. Government established a commission to coordinate cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and began serving warrants for the arrest of persons indicted for war crimes who sought refuge in the country. The crackdown on organized crime following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic also resulted in the apprehension and transfer to The Hague of several persons indicted for war crimes. In 2004 and 2005, a significant number of ICTY indictees surrendered to the tribunal. In 2007, Serbia assisted in the arrest of two of the remaining six persons indicted for war crimes, Zdravko Tolimir and Vlastimir Djordjevic, and in 2008 the government arrested and extradited Stojan Zupljanin and Radovan Karadzic. The last two persons indicted for war crimes, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and Croatian Serb political leader Goran Hadzic, were arrested in 2011, on the eve of the issuing of an EC opinion on Serbia’s progress toward EU membership.
On May 21, 2006, the Republic of Montenegro held a successful referendum on independence and declared independence on June 3. Thereafter, the parliament of Serbia stated that the Republic of Serbia was the continuity of the state union, changing the name of the country from Serbia and Montenegro to the Republic of Serbia, with Serbia retaining Serbia and Montenegro's membership in all international organizations and bodies.
In mid-2007, the UNSC deadlocked on a way forward on Kosovo status and how to act on UN Special Envoy Maarti Ahtisaari’s Kosovo status proposal. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence following a 120-day last-ditch effort by the European Union (EU)-Russia-U.S. Troika to facilitate an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo on the latter's status. The United States officially recognized Kosovo's independence the following day. Eighty-four nations had recognized Kosovo as of October 2011. Serbia has rejected its former province’s independence, and the Serbian Government challenged the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which issued an advisory opinion in July 2010 stating that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was in accordance with international law and did not violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Following the ICJ advisory opinion, Serbia agreed to engage in an EU-facilitated dialogue with Kosovo on practical issues, which began in Brussels in March 2011.
Serbia and Kosovo met several times in 2011 under the auspices of the EU-facilitated dialogue, reaching tentative agreements on several outstanding technical issues. This progress was mitigated by Serbia’s rejection of a customs stamp agreement in July, which resulted in the imposition by Kosovo of a reciprocal embargo on trade with Serbia. After a spike in tensions over the summer, during which Kosovo deployed its police to the two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo, agreement on a customs stamp was reached at a session of the dialogue in early September. This agreement also stipulated that both countries would lift their mutual trade embargoes. It did not impact the presence of Kosovo officials at the two northern crossings, who remained in place.
Government Type: Republic
Capital: Belgrade - 1.115 million (2009)
Administrative divisions: 167 municipalities (opcstine, singular - opcstina)
Independence Date: 5 June 2006 (from Serbia and Montenegro)
Legal System: civil law system. Serbia has not submitted an International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction; but, accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction
This image of Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, was captured in 1992, the year that the Bosnian Serbs proclaimed “The Republic of Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Today, Belgrade is the capital and most populous city of Serbia. Lying at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers, Belgrade is thought to be one of the oldest European cities. Source: NASA. Credit: NASA GSFC Landsat/LDCM EPO Team
International Environmental Agreements
Serbia is party to international agreements on: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 208.5 cu km (note - includes Kosovo) (2003)
Agricultural products: wheat, maize, sugar beets, sunflower, raspberries; beef, pork, milk
Irrigated Land: 890 sq km (2008)
Natural Resources: oil, gas, coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, antimony, chromite, gold, silver, magnesium, pyrite, limestone, marble, salt, arable land
Since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s economic progress has been substantial, but economic reform and restructuring are continuing challenges for the Serbian Government. Unemployment, a lack of liquidity in the economy, corruption, and labor unrest remain ongoing political and economic problems. The dinar (RSD) has fallen by more than a third against the Euro since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, highlighting Serbia’s fragile and structurally weak economy. However, the dinar has stabilized in 2011, settling at around 100 RSD to the Euro.
On August 31, 2011 Serbian authorities and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials reached an agreement, subject to approval by IMF management and the Executive Board, on a 1 billion Euro (approx. $1.4 billion) “Precautionary” Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for a period of 18 months. The agreement, which will oblige the Serbian Government to undertake structural reforms in the labor market, property regime, and public enterprises, is conditioned on Serbia adopting both a rebalanced 2011 budget and a law on property restitution. Serbian Government officials have indicated that they do not intend to draw on the financial resources made available under the arrangement unless an external financial shock requires it. Serbia’s last SBA, a $4 billion credit line, expired in April 2011.
Serbia experienced a relatively healthy GDP growth rate in 2008 (5.5%), but the global economic crisis caused Serbia’s GDP to tumble, and growth turned negative (-3%) in 2009. A slow economic recovery commenced in 2010 (with 1% GDP growth), and the IMF projects growth of 2% for 2011. In late 2010, Serbia adopted a new model of economic growth based on increased savings, investment, production in tradable goods, and exports. The model has achieved some success. Exports, for example, rose by 26% in 2010, due in significant measure to the depreciation of the dinar and the incipient recovery of the global economy. Export-led growth continued through 2011, with exports increasing by 30.4% during the January-July 2011 period compared to the same period in 2010.
Rising inflation became a concern in the first half of 2011, peaking at 14.7% year-on-year in April. Inflation declined to 10.5% by August but remains significantly above the National Bank of Serbia’s (NBS) 3%-6% target range for this year. Inflation is expected to return to single digits by the end of 2011, but will not likely return to the NBS target band before next year. To combat inflation, the NBS raised its benchmark interest rate several times since the summer of 2010. By March 2011, the NBS benchmark rate stood at 12.25%, the highest in Europe. High interest rates have helped curb rising inflation but also tended to inhibit domestic investment and growth. In mid-2011, the NBS began to ease monetary policy and, as of September 8, 2011, the rate stood at 11.25%.
Growing inflation and official price increases for controlled products and services, such as public transportation, electricity, and natural gas, have compounded the economic difficulties facing Serbian citizens, whose average net incomes (minus taxes, medical insurance, and retirement contributions) have remained stagnant at approximately $540 per month. Poverty levels have risen steadily since the onset of the global financial crisis, reaching approximately 8.8% of the population at the end of 2010. The official unemployment rate stood at 22.2% as of April 2011, and unemployment levels in many provincial cities and among women and minorities exceeds 30%. The IMF’s projected 2% GDP growth rate for 2011 is not sufficiently robust to significantly reduce unemployment this year.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) was relatively strong prior to the global financial crisis ($2.2 billion in 2007 and $2.3 billion in 2008), but fell off in 2009 ($1.9 billion) and has remained at disappointing levels ($1 billion in 2010 and $820 million in January-June 2011). Efforts to attract additional FDI were dealt a setback in March 2011, when a tender to sell a majority stake in the state telecommunications company, Telekom Srbija, failed to attract a minimally acceptable bid. On the other hand, a number of leading foreign investors have recently announced significant expansions of their operations in Serbia.
Total U.S. direct investment in Serbia exceeds $1.6 billion. Among the leading U.S. investors are Philip Morris, U.S. Steel, Ball Packaging, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Van Drunen Farms. Ohio’s Cooper Tire recently signed an agreement to invest in Serbian tire manufacturer Trayal. Similarly, Ball Packaging invested an additional €35 million (approx. $48 million) in its aluminum can factory in Zemun, effectively doubling its production capacity and adding 50 new jobs to the local economy. Many other leading U.S. firms, from a broad variety of industrial and service sectors, have a significant presence in Serbia. Other major international investors include Norway’s Telenor, with well over $1 billion invested, and Russia’s Gazprom Neft, which acquired a majority stake in the formerly state-owned oil company, Naftna Industrija Srbija, for 400 million Euros ($555 million at the prevailing exchange rate) in 2008. Belgium’s Delhaize Group recently purchased Serbia’s largest food retail chain, Delta Maxi, for $1.3 billion, although since Delta Maxi was owned by a Cyprus-based holding company Serbia will likely see minimal benefits from the transaction.
Economic reform has been moving forward in many areas, driven largely by Serbia’s decision to seek membership in the European Union (EU) and in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Serbia’s accomplishments in modernizing legislation to conform to EU and international standards in nearly all areas affecting the economy, from intellectual property rights to foreign trade, have been impressive. Implementation of these new laws, however, remains inconsistent. In addition, important sectors of the Serbian economy and society, such as education, health, and energy, have yet to undergo serious structural reforms. Political appointees preside over large, inefficient state enterprises that are run more as social welfare organizations than as modern businesses. Much of the economy and employment structure remains dominated by an inefficient public sector. More than 25% of all people employed in Serbia work for state-owned enterprises or the central and local governments. The World Bank estimates that two-thirds of all university graduates in Serbia work for the public sector, and only one-third in private enterprises.
Privatization is far from complete. In addition to the unsuccessful effort to privatize Telekom Srbija in 2011, approximately 100 “socially-owned” companies, whose privatization was to have been completed by the end of 2008, remain under state stewardship. Competition remains limited in key economic sectors, including certain agricultural subsectors (sugar, sunflower oil, soybean products, wheat seeds, mineral fertilizers, and some dairy products), food retailing, and energy, which are dominated by a handful of major market players.
Property rights remain unsettled to a significant degree. In September 2011, the Serbian Government approved and sent to Parliament for adoption a restitution law that addresses the state’s seizure of private assets since the onset of World War II. Though the restitution law will help clarify and settle titles to many properties, Serbia’s property rights regime remains in need of reform. Legal procedures for converting of “rights of use” of property to full property ownership rights are unclear, and conversion applications are processed very slowly, or often not at all, creating a great deal of uncertainty in local property markets. Serbia must legalize, register, and establish property titles to thousands of “illegal structures” that have been built throughout the country without licenses or proper registration in official property records. The central government is also contending with how to return thousands of public properties from the central government to local municipalities. These deficiencies in the property regime tend to inhibit real estate development and other investment projects.
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $78.86 billion (2011 est.)
GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $46.11 billion (2011 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $10,700 (2011 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 65.2% (2011 est.)
Industries: base metals, furniture, food processing, machinery, chemicals, sugar, tires, clothes, pharmaceuticals
Currency: Serbian dinars (RSD)