Πέμπτη, 22 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Medvedev goes to Serbia


Russia has to adjust to modern trends, the most important of which are its southern and northern trends, or rather streams.On the other hand, some Slavic trends can be damaging, as evidenced by deteriorating ties with Ukraine, while others can strengthen relations, and Serbia is a vivid example of the latter.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Belgrade on October 20 for an official visit at the invitation of President Boris Tadic, considered to be a pro-Western leader in Serbia. Medvedev went there for the 65th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation from Nazi troops. But the agenda of the visit also includes a business meeting on the South Stream gas pipeline and other electricity and nuclear power projects. The sides will also discuss the provision of a multimillion dollar stabilization loan for Serbia. Such economic matters are usually discussed by prime ministers, but Medvedev is the man to address the issue in Serbia. In February 2008, Medvedev, then the prime minister of Russia and chairman of Gazprom's board of directors, went to Belgrade to sign the agreement on Serbia's accession to the South Stream project. He has been responsible for Russian-Serbian oil and gas cooperation ever since. In December last year, Medvedev and Tadic met in Moscow to sign the agreement on Gazprom's acquisition of a 51% stake in the Serbian state oil company, Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS), on completing the construction of the Banatski Dvor underground gas depot, and on starting the construction of South Stream in Serbia. A new series of agreements to be signed in Belgrade during the October 2009 visit by Medvedev will bring these understandings to a point of no return. South Stream is to be built from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria, where it will split into two lines, including a 400-km (249-mile) line running across Serbia toward Austria. Its construction should begin in 2010 and end by 2015. Under the latest agreements with Italian energy giant Eni, Russia's main partner in South Stream, the pipeline will transport 63 billion cubic meters (previously 30 billion cu m) of Russian and possibly Turkmen and Azerbaijani gas. The project has been estimated to cost 10 billion euros. Contrary to widespread belief, not everyone in Serbia supports Russia and South Stream. Serbia is divided into advocates of joining the European Union and those who favor independence and friendship with Russia. The ranks of the latter have thinned since the NATO bombings of 1999, when Moscow made many statements but took few practical actions to stop NATO's barbarous attacks. After that, Serbs almost stopped saying that God is up there and Russia is down here. The pro-Western groups in Serbia believe that the country should join South Stream's rival project, Nabucco, which promises gas security. President Tadic also supports it. The Nabucco advocates in the Serbian government and the country's pro-Western business community may create problems for South Stream's construction, financing, and distribution of contracts and revenues. However, Medvedev's ongoing visit should reduce their number. At the same time, there are more advocates than opponents of South Stream in the Serbian government. The pipeline will satisfy Serbia's gas needs, rule out Ukrainian transit problems, and earn it 150-300 million euros annually depending on the pipeline's throughput. Its construction and maintenance will create over 100,000 jobs in Serbia, which is a lot in a country where unemployment is approaching 30%. Russia and Serbia will be almost equal owners of the pipeline through their oil and gas companies, and Russia will get a crucial infrastructure platform in southern Europe, and subsequently in the EU. Serbia planned to file for EU membership in November, although it is unclear when it could be admitted given Europe's problems with a common EU constitution. Medvedev has come to Serbia amidst a political situation complicated by the problems of Kosovo and the civil war in Yugoslavia. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will go on trial at The Hague on Monday October 26. He has been charged with crimes against humanity and the massacre of Muslims. The upcoming trial has revived Serbs' memories of their county's disintegration and NATO's punitive actions against it. Since it was the Tadic cabinet that surrendered Karadzic to the Hague court, the shadow of "betrayal" also falls on Moscow, with which Tadic is now cooperating.
As for Kosovo, Russia wholeheartedly supports Serbia, which claims that the recognition of Kosovo's independence was illegal. Serbia brought the case to the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague, insisting that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence by the provisional government of the province should be recognized as running contrary to the norms of international law. Few people know that Serbia's lawsuit has been supported not only by Russia and China, whose representatives will take part in the trial, but also by several EU members, notably Spain, Romania, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia. The situation is paradoxical and has put the UN International Court of Justice in a fix. No matter what decision the court takes, the consequences for all countries with strong separatist trends will be extremely serious. Neither will it strengthen the positions of the United States and the EU, which initiated and supported the declaration of Kosovo's independence. A positive decision - that Kosovo's declaration of independence does not contradict international law - will be automatically applied to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and encourage the advocates of mono-ethnic states in China, Spain, Britain, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Iran, Azerbaijan and many other countries. A negative decision - that Kosovo's declaration of independence contradicts international law - will create very serious problems for the United States and the EU, which claim the contrary. Russia and Serbia should be prepared for any decision, which, although it will not be binding, will influence many UN member states.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια: