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A landlocked country in the Balkans and part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia was heavily involved in the brutal wars of the 1990s. The first post-independence president, Slobodan Milosevic, was accused of orchestrating massacres and ethnic cleansing during this fighting and was overthrown by popular protests in 2000. Since then, Serbia has become more accepted as a member of the international community and of Europe, but the political situation remains tense and human rights violations persist - particularly discrimination against Roma people and the ill-treatment of children with disabilities.
Serbia is a landlocked county in the Balkans – a region of South Eastern Europe. It borders Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Romania. The country also claims to share a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East. The capital city is Belgrade.
Population and language
The population of Serbia stands at approx. 7.5 million (not including Kosovo). According to a 2002 census, this includes the following ethnic groupings: Serb 82.9 per cent, Hungarian 3.9 per cent, Romany (Gypsy) 1.4 per cent, Yugoslavs 1.1 per cent, Bosniaks 1.8 per cent, Montenegrin 0.9 per cent, and other 8 per cent.
The official language is Serbian.
Politics and economy
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.
War in the autonomous province of Kosovo flared in 1998. The Kosovo Liberation Army, supported by the majority ethnic Albanians, came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule. During the battle that ensued, Serbian president Slobodan Milošević was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008 after the failure of UN-brokered talks on the status of the province. Serbia said the declaration was illegal, and other countries are divided as to whether to recognise it. Kosovo has been governed since 1999 by UNMIK, a UN mission.
Serbian President Boris Tadic, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (DS), first took up office in 2004. He was re-elected in 2008. In December 2009 Serbia formally submitted its application to join the EU.
Serbia is an upper-middle income country with, according to the World Bank, “great potential for rapid economic development, as the country is endowed with natural resources and fertile and arable agricultural land.” Its main exports are manufactured goods, food and live animals, machinery and transport equipment. It is the only country outside the former USSR to have free trade agreements with Russia and Belarus, apart from its agreement with the EU as an associate member. Legal systemThe legal system in Serbia is based on a civil law system. The country is attempting to reform its justice sector in line with EU standards.
Media and civil society
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2010, "death threats, physical or verbal assaults, harassment and corruption are unfortunately still the daily lot of the press." Journalists have been the victims of reprisals for investigating the criminal underworld, RSF said. Internet access is unrestricted, according to Freedom House. The NGO also says that the constitution protects freedom of the press, which is generally respected in practice. However, there were reports of some government interference during 2009.
Human rights and children's rights
Accountability for war crimes has constituted a particular concern for human rights activists. In March 2011, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, in which more than 8,000 men and boys were killed during conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but steps have yet to be taken to bring all perpetrators to justice. Human Rights Watch is also concerned about acts of intimidation of independent journalists and discrimination against the Roma minority.
Serbia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 12 March 2001, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 31 January 2003, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography on 10 October 2002.
- Reporters Without Border World Press Freedom Index 2010
- BBC Serbia Country Profile
- Index Mundi.com: Serbia
- UNICEF, Demographic Indicators 2011
- Human Rights Watch: World Report 2011
- World Bank: Serbia Country Profile