Europe

Serbia country profile

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Serbia

Serbia became a stand-alone sovereign republic in the summer of 2006 after Montenegro voted in a referendum for independence from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

The end of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro marked the closing chapter in the history of the separation of the six republics of the old Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia which was proclaimed in 1945 and comprised Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.

Under Yugoslavia's authoritarian communist leader, Josip Broz Tito, the lid was kept on ethnic tensions. The federation lasted for over 10 years after his death in 1980, but under Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic it fell apart through the 1990s.

The secession of Slovenia and Macedonia came relatively peacefully, but there were devastating wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia and Montenegro together formed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1992 and 2003.

FACTS

Republic of Serbia

Capital: Belgrade

  • Population 9.8 million (UN, 2012, includes Kosovo; UN mission estimates Kosovo population as circa 2 million)

  • Area 88,361 sq km (34,116 sq miles) (includes Kosovo)

  • Major language Serbian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 72 years (men), 77 years (women)

  • Currency Dinar

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Tomislav Nikolic

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Pro-EU nationalist Tomislav Nikolic beat the liberal Democratic Party incumbent Boris Tadic in the second round of the presidential election of 2012, confounding expectations.

Mr Nikolic founded the Progressive Party in 2008 as a break-away from the hard-line nationalist and anti-Nato Radical Party, in order to move closer to the centre ground, adopt a pro-EU course and distance nationalists from associations with the Milosevic era of war crimes and xenophobia.

The new party campaigned against unemployment, inflation and corruption to become the largest party at parliamentary elections in May 2012, building on this to achieve Mr Nikolic's win in the presidential vote a few weeks later.

Prime minister: Aleksandar Vucic

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Aleksandar Vucic became prime minister after his pro-EU nationalist Progressive Party won a landslide victory in early parliamentary elections in March 2014.

On coming to power, Mr Vucic pledged a radical overhaul of Serbia's ailing economy and an accelerated drive towards EU membership.

The reforms would include squeezing the public sector, reforming the budget, privatising state-owned companies and expanding the private sector.

The new prime minister won popularity by promising to combat endemic corruption and widespread hardship.

He called early elections in April 2016, seeking a renewed mandate to push through the reforms required to join the EU, and again won a comfortable majority.

MEDIA

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Television is, by far, the main source of news and information. The flagship public network, RTS1, is among a handful of outlets that dominate the market.

There are more than 90 TV channels and the average viewer spends more than five hours a day watching television, the highest figure in Europe.

Six TV stations are licensed to broadcast nationally; 30 have regional licences. The national TV broadcasters attract around 70 per cent of the audience.

RTS1 is the most popular channel in Serbia, attracting up to a quarter of the audience and providing strong competition for commercial stations, including leading commercial network TV Pink.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Serbia's history:

1389 - Serb nobility decimated in battle of Kosovo Polje as Ottoman Empire expands.

15th - 18th centuries - Serbia absorbed by Ottoman Empire.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Soldiers hold the national flag as part of Serbia's Statehood Day celebrations

1817 - Serbia becomes autonomous principality.

1878 - Serbian independence recognised by international treaties.

1918 - Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes formed after World War I.

1929 - Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

1945 - Together with Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro, Serbia becomes one of republics in new Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito.

1980 - Tito dies.

1989 - Slobodan Milosevic becomes President of Serbia.

1991 - Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia break away from Yugoslavia.

1992 - Montenegro and Serbia form Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Rising nationalist and independence aspirations bring bloody conflict with Croats and Bosnian Muslims. UN imposes sanctions.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Refugees fleeing Kosovo during the crisis of 1999

1995 - Dayton accords bring end to Bosnian war. Sanctions lifted.

1997 - Milosevic becomes Yugoslav president.

1998-99 - Kosovo crisis. Serb crackdown on separatists in Kosovo prompts thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee and Nato to intervene militarily. President Milosevic agrees to withdraw forces from Kosovo, which becomes UN protectorate but remains de jure part of Serbia.

2002 - Trial of Slobodan Milosevic on charges of genocide and war crimes begins in The Hague.

2006 - Milosevic found dead in his cell in The Hague.

2006 - Montenegro votes in a referendum to separate from Serbia and declares independence.

2013 - Serbia and Kosovo sign landmark agreement on normalising relations.

2014 - EU membership talks begin

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