Serbia to bid farewell to over $200 bln of real estate in Kosovo

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The FINANCIAL — BELGRADE, Serbia is set to lose real estate worth some $220 billion following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Sunday, the Tanjug news agency said on February 18.

 

The United States and most European countries have backed Kosovo's independence. Serbia and Russia remain deeply opposed to the move.

 

Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, which also have restive separatist regions, have pledged to refuse to recognize Kosovo.

 

The Belgrade-based Tanjug agency said the estimated value of private property belonging to the more than 30,000 Serbian families who fled Kosovo in 1999 was at least $4 billion.

 

Serbia is set to lose agricultural land, forests, administrative, industrial and residential buildings, as well as government-owned facilities along with Kosovo, the country's historic heartland. It will also lose military property, with the Slatina airport alone estimated at more than $100 million.

 

According to the World Bank, Kosovo's mineral resources are worth over $19 billion. Kosovo holds substantial reserves of brown coal, tin, zinc, nickel, cobalt, bauxites, silver, iron, gold, platinum and copper.

 

Serbia invested some $17 billion in Kosovo between 1960 and 1990.

 

The news of Kosovo's declaration was met with street riots in Belgrade. Gangs of youths protesting against the secession of Kosovo carried on running battles with riot police all night, with 47 people reported injured. Symbols of 'Americanism,' including two fast food restaurants, were also reported to have been attacked by protestors.

 

A hand grenade was thrown at a UN court building in the mainly Serb northern Kosovan town of Mitrovica on February 17 night as Albanians celebrated independence in the south of the town.

 

Independence for mostly Muslim Kosovo was proposed in a plan by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. The plan was never adopted by the UN Security Council. Serbia had offered Kosovo wide autonomy, but the province insisted on full independence.

 

The failure of Ahtisaari's plan led supporters of independence for Kosovo to speak of a deadlock in the UN Security Council format. They then urged the transfer of the issue to the jurisdiction of the EU and NATO.

 

Moscow insisted on a solution based on a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina, saying that independence would serve as a precedent and have a domino effect for separatist regions worldwide. The U.S. and many European states said that Kosovo was a "unique" case.

 

The Serbian government has called for a massive demonstration against what it calls the establishment of the "false state" of Kosovo. The Serbian Interior Ministry filed criminal charges against Kosovan Prime Minister Hasim Taci, President Fatmir Sejdiu and parliamentary speaker Jakup Krasnici, alleging a "grave criminal act" against the Constitution and security of Serbia.

 

Serbia's long-time ally Russia called on the UN and NATO to annul the declaration of independence.

 

Russia's position is that independence for the region, where the Serb minority accounts for less than 10% of the population, would be a violation of international law and Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 after NATO bombings ended a war between Kosovo Albanians and Serb forces. The resolution established Serbia's territorial integrity.

 

Both houses of Russia's parliament are to publish on February 18 a joint statement on Kosovo's declaration of independence. The speaker of the upper house said the document would attempt to draw attention to the possible negative consequences of the move.

 

The EU gave its final approval on February 16 for sending a police, justice and civilian mission to Kosovo to replace the current UN mission.

 

 

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