Serbia sidelined as plans unfold to rebuild rest of Balkans
July 30, 1999
From Correspondent Matthew Chance
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- After 11 weeks of NATO bombing and years of international trade sanctions, Serbia -- like the rest of the Balkans -- has a ravaged economy. But unlike the rest of the Balkans, Serbia was excluded from talks to help rebuild the region.
Leaders from nearly 40 countries endorsed a blueprint Friday for bringing peace and prosperity to the Balkans at the summit in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The United States offered an economic aid package worth nearly $700 million for post-war reconstruction in the region. But no economic assistance was offered to Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia, whose leadership has been indicted by an international tribunal for alleged war crimes.
Milosevic is sticking point
U.S. and European Union officials say that they will not provide aid to rebuild Serbia until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic leaves power.
"This is just a continuation of political pressure on our country after the sanctions and the bombing campaign," said Goran Matic, a Yugoslav government minister. "And this won't give them their desired results. We have the potential and the resources to reconstruct everything that was destroyed and to continue our economic development.
It is the ordinary people of Serbia who are feeling the consequences of the increasing isolation from the international community.
Lines for fuel in Belgrade are growing steadily longer as Milosevic shows no signs of stepping down. Even groups within Serbia opposed to Milosevic's government are criticizing the attempt to force him from power by withholding economic aid.
"It's completely wrong," said economist Milko Stimac. "You can't expect people on the street to react if they have to think how they are going to feed their children, how they are going to buy gasoline or basic food. They have to think about basic needs of their families. They cannot think about the regime."
Some economists say there is little hope that prosperity in the Balkans can be achieved without the reconstruction of Serbia. Repairing the bomb damage to Serbia's infrastructure is not just vital to Serbia but to the economies of its neighbors as well.
Without international aid, they point out, the reconstruction of Serbia could take years and undermine the goal of regional progress and security.
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