Serbia barred from Balkan summit

THE LEADERS of nearly 40 countries gather in Sarajevo today for a meeting to promote stability in the Balkans, a test of the EU's ability to build order and prosperity in its own backyard after the Kosovo war.

The "stability pact" summit will be attended by President Bill Clinton, the Russian Prime Minister and the heads of all Balkan governments except Yugoslavia's and of a host of international agencies. But the most searching spotlight will be on the EU, which launched the pact in June and is co- chair of this week's meetings.

Yesterday, opening the first session, the Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, who played a key role in forcing peace terms on Slobodan Milosevic, declared that the Balkan countries must bury ancient hostilities and make a serious effort to become eligible for EU membership. In return the West was ready to offer money and political support, he said.

But specific funding proposals are one thing that will not be on the table today, once Mr Clinton, Tony Blair and the rest have arrived - amid blanket security precautions - for just one three-hour plenary meeting, likely to be dominated by symbolic gestures and lofty rhetoric, rather than by any notable deeds.

Its centrepiece - surely destined to enter history as the "Sarajevo Declaration" - is a six-page statement setting out a plan to build prosperity, peace and democracy in a region that for the past 10 years has seen little but war and deprivation.

But the document and the setting and make-up of the meeting are mainly symbolic. The pact itself, barely seven weeks after the end of the war, is meant as proof that the West is not reconsigning the Balkans to oblivion. Hence the decision to hold the meeting in the capital of Bosnia, where international peacekeepers still oversee rebuilding of a country shattered by the 1992-95 war.

The most pointed symbol will be the "empty chair" for Serbia, which is not invited to the meeting while it remains under its present management. Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro, the pro-Western junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, will attend. Sowill internal Serb opposition leaders. But Mr Milosevic will not.

If the British and others have their way, the declaration will contain a condemnation of the Yugoslav President, who is wanted for war crimes, as well as an explicit warning that Serbia will receive only humanitarian help, not reconstruction aid, as long as Mr Milosevic and his ilk remain in power.

The summit is fraught with potential pitfalls. Russia's attitude is unclear. Preparations have stretched Sarajevo's rudimentary infrastructure to the limit. To avoid disappointment, Western governments have downplayed expectations, insisting that, even though bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF are attending, the summit will not launch a Balkan "Marshall plan", despite estimates of the region's investment needs ranging as high as $30bn (pounds 19bn).

Analysts acknowledge that the exclusion of Serbia, the geographical hub and most populous component of the former Yugoslavia, will only hamper efforts to develop the region.

The point is not lost on Belgrade: "There can be no united south-eastern Europe without Yugoslavia," Mr Milosevic's ruling Socialist Party said last night, denouncing the summit as an anti-Serb plot.

It is not clear what the EU is prepared to offer, beyond a vague assurance of future membership. Croatia and Slovenia have warned they do not want to be lumped together with states such as the grindingly poor Albania, which the Slovenes fear would jeopardise their current negotiations to join the EU.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Sales Consultants - OTE £65,000 - £100,000

£65000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national direct sales com...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Can you sell? Want to earn over...

Recruitment Genius: Partitioners / Carpenter / Multi Skilled Tradesmen / Decorator

£28000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Various opportunities are avail...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Marketing Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum