Serbia under sanctionsBy Gabriel Partos
Thursday, 10 February, 2000
Q: Why do they want to lift the flight ban?
Most EU countries have been pressing for an end to the ban on flights to and from Serbia. They believe the ban hurts ordinary Serbs, not the leadership.
If anything, the greater Serbia's isolation, the easier it is for President Slobodan Milosevic to consolidate his control over the country.
It is also believed that some major Western airlines have been pressing for the restoration of air links with Serbia. But the main Yugoslav airline, JAT, will still be banned from most foreign destinations.
Q: How are sanctions going to be tightened?
Britain, the Netherlands and the US have been calling for further measures that are aimed specifically at Serbia's political and financial establishment.
As a result, the list of Serb officials and business executives banned from visiting the US and the EU countries is to be increased from 600 to nearly 800.
Several firms known to be operating as front companies either for Serbian officials or for the Serbian state are also to be added to the list of those with their assets frozen in the West.
The intention is to target those who are held responsible for Belgrade's policies, as well as those who help to sustain them in office.
Q: What are the other sanctions in place?
Apart from the United Nations arms embargo, there are no universal sanctions imposed on Serbia. The US, the EU and most Western countries have banned investment and credits.
There is also an oil embargo in force - although other goods are not subject to sanctions. And Serbian government assets abroad are frozen.
Q: What's the impact of these sanctions?
It is very difficult to assess what difference these sanctions make. Take the oil embargo. Given the dire state of the Serbian economy, oil requirements are relatively limited.
Some oil supplies from countries that are not party to the embargo - for example, Russia - are getting through.
The EU is also breaking its own oil embargo by supplying heating fuel, free, to the towns of Nis and Pirot under the guise of humanitarian assistance.
Many economists believe that instead of trying to enforce a rather leaky oil embargo, the West should allow Belgrade, which has barely any hard currency, to buy supplies on the open market. That way Mr Milosevic could not put the blame on the West.
How is the Serbian government managing to get by?
Russian natural gas is continuing to flow to Serbia, though Belgrade has not been paying for it for a long time. China has also reportedly extended some credit to Belgrade - though some reports claim this may be money that had earlier been taken out of Serbia for safe-keeping.
Moscow and Beijing are keen to demonstrate their opposition to Washington's policies. Their assistance may keep the Serbian finances going a little bit longer, but many economists suspect that an inflation-boosting printing of money may not be far off.
Q: Will the Serbian opposition benefit from the flight ban suspension?
Unlikely. The Serbian media, mostly controlled by Mr Milosevic, will probably describe the changes as cosmetic, not worth the effort the opposition has expended in trying to persuade the West to ease sanctions.
Alternatively, Belgrade may well portray the latest moves as demonstrating that Western sanctions are not working which is why some are now being suspended.