I. SERBIA AT A GLANCE

1. Geographic position

The Republic of Serbia is a country located in southeast Europe, with a total area of 88.361 km². Most of its territory is situated in the Balkan peninsula (around 80%), so the central and southern parts of the country are mostly characterized by limestone and mountainous areas. The Rhodope, Carpathian and Balkan, and Dinaric Alps mountain ranges all stretch through Serbia, and the terrain is rich with canyons, gorges and caves, as well as preserved forests covering 27% of the territory.

The northern part of the Republic of Serbia is in the Pannonia Plain (around 20% of the territory), which consists largely of flatlands. Flatlands are also found in Mačva, Posavina (Sava Valley), Pomoravlje (Morava Valley) and Stig, as well as in Negotinska Krajina in eastern Serbia. 55% of the territory of Serbia is arable land, mostly located in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, the country’s principal agricultural region. The north is dominated by the River Danube, while its tributary, the River Morava, flows through the more mountainous areas in the south. The Republic of Serbia is divided into five regions (the Belgrade region, Vojvodina, Šumadija and Western Serbia, Southern and Eastern Serbia, and Kosovo and Metohia), where the city of Belgrade is a separate territorial unit.

In Central Serbia, the terrain consists chiefly of hills, low and medium-high mountains, interspersed with numerous rivers and creeks. The main communication and development line stretches southeast of Belgrade along the valley of Velika and Južna Morava River, towards Serbia’s third most populous city, Niš. The most densely populated part of Serbia is located along that stretch, as is the main railroad and highway. In the more sparsely populated Eastern Serbia region, the terrain rises to form the limestone ranges of Stara Planina and Serbian Carpathians. The height of the mountains gently rises towards the west, reaching the most popular mountains in terms of tourism, Zlatibor and Kopaonik. 15 mountain peaks are over 2000 m high, the highest being Đeravica in the Prokletije mountains, at 2656 m above sea level.

The Republic of Serbia borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Albania. The border between Serbia and Albania is in the southern province of Kosovo and Metohia, which is currently under UN administration and has for years been the subject of a political and territorial dispute between the Serbian government and Kosovo’s largely ethnic-Albanian population. Serbia is a landlocked country with access to the Adriatic Sea through neighbouring Montenegro and to inland Europe and the Black Sea through the River Danube.

Serbian climate ranges from predominantly continental in the north, characterized by cold winters, and hot, humid summers, with well distributed precipitation patterns throughout the year, to Mediterranean in the south, with hot, dry summers and autumns and relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall. Differences in elevation, proximity to the Adriatic Sea and large river basins, as well as exposure to the winds account for the climate differences.

The road network is one of the greatest capital values in the Republic of Serbia, on whose territory there are 16,221.125 km of state roads class I and II, 782 km of which are motorways and 10,952 km class II state roads, and 23,780 km of municipal roads. Within the class I state road network 2,150 km of state roads are part of the European road network, so-called E-roads, namely E65, E70, E75, E80, while E662, E761, 763, E771 and E851 are class II European roads passing through the Republic of Serbia.

Pan-European corridors of the countries of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe also pass through the Republic of Serbia, namely Corridors X, Xb, Xc, and waterway route Corridor VII (the Danube). Corridor X, by its technical and economic characteristics and existing capacities, is the backbone of the road network of South-East Europe. Because of the geographic position of the Republic of Serbia in which the routes of Corridors X and VII intersect, Belgrade could become one of the key hubs for the most important European river, road and railway routes of international importance.

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The construction length of the Serbian railway network is 3,739 km, 3,444 km being single-track and 295 km being double-track railways. There is also a museum and tourist railway, “Šarganska Osmica“ (“Šargan Eight“), which is 21.7 km long. The Republic of Serbia is a member of the International Union of Railways.

International and interstate waterways in the Republic of Serbia are also of particular importance given that Serbia has 1,680 km of navigable rivers. International waterways in the Republic of Serbia comprise the rivers Danube, Sava Kolubara and Drina. The entire length of the River Danube through the Republic of Serbia, 588 km, is an international waterway. The River Sava, which gained the status of international waterway in 2012, connects Serbia with Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The River Tisa is the only interstate waterway in the Republic of Serbia, connecting Serbia with Hungary, with international navigation regime along its entire length through the Republic of Serbia, meaning that navigation along the River Tisa is free and open to ships from all countries regardless of the ship’s flag.

Serbia can be reached by air through two international airports: Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade and Konstantin Veliki International Airport in Niš, while adaptation of military airports in Batajnica and Užice for use in civil aviation is also planned. Almost every destination in the world can be reached from Serbian airports, either directly or with a layover.

One of the most important and most interesting features of the Republic of Serbia is the fact that its territory includes 3,861,477 hectares of fertile and arable land, 1,628,000 hectares of which is in the territory of Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.

2. Population and language

According to the latest census from 2011, the Republic of Serbia has a population of 7’186’862, 59.44% of whom live in urban settlements. Around 20% of the population lives in the capital, Belgrade. Women comprise 51.31% of the total population. Serbs account for 83.32% of the population, while the most numerous national minorities are Hungarians (3.53%), Roma (2.05%), Bosnians, (2.02%), Croatians (0.81%) and Slovaks (0.73%).

The official language in the Republic of Serbia is Serbian, and the official script is Cyrillic, although Latin script is equally in use. According to the current legislation, the language and script of a national minority is made an official language and script if that national minority accounts for 15% of the population of a municipality.

According to the latest data of the Office for Human and Minority Rights, in 42 local self-governments there are 11 minority languages and scripts in official use. The most represented language of the national minorities is Hungarian.

3. Istorija

In the 6th century Slavs began to permanently settle the Balkan Peninsula, up to the arrival of Serbs and Croats in the first half of the 7th century. From the arrival of Serbs to the second half of the 12th century the region was ruled by a number of local rulers, vassals of the more powerful countries in the Balkans at that time; the rule of Stefan Nemanja saw the beginning of the rise of the Serbian medieval country. His heirs built an important country in the Balkans, which became a kingdom in 1217, during the reign of Nemanja’s middle son Stefan Nemanjić, or Stefan the First-Crowned, and then an Empire in 1346, during
the reign of (Stefan) Dušan the Mighty.

Serbia flourished during the Nemanjić dynasty, during which it developed from the military, political, economical and territorial point of view, and developed its legal system. The law of Emperor Stefan Dušan Nemanjić (Dušan’s Code) was the highest legal act of medieval Serbia and the most modern law in medieval Europe at a time when hardly any European country had a unified document regulating the legal system.

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After the death of Emperor Uroš the Serbian Empire broke down into smaller countries, governed by local rulers, and from the middle of the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century the entire territory of Serbia was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

From the year 1804, when the First Serbian Uprising took place, which was both a battle for independence and a Serbian revolution, that is to say a major political, social and civilizational change, during the 19th century Serbia first gained autonomy, and then an increasing degree of independence from the Ottoman Empire, while formal independence, namely international recognition came in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.

During its history Serbia strived towards great European role models, a battle for freedom and the uniting of peoples so as to become large and wealthy enough to become equal with the other developed European countries. At the time of the largest European and global economic advance in the fifties and sixties of the 20th century socialist Yugoslavia managed to transfer most of its rural population into towns and become industrialized.

Serbia emerged from the two Balkan Wars as the most powerful country in the Balkans, and was on the victorious side in both World Wars.

From 1918 onward Serbia was a member of state unions, first when the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was declared, ruled by the Serbian Karađorđević dynasty, and then of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and finally Serbia and Montenegro, to once again become an independent state in 2006 after leaving the state union with Montenegro

4. International position

The Republic of Serbia is a member of, among others, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Partnership for Peace (PfP), Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). It is also a militarily neutral country, and has the status of observer state in the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The Republic of Serbia is an official candidate for membership in the European Union and in 2008 it signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union which entered into force on 1 September 2013.  In the course of negotiations between the Republic of Serbia and the EU 12 chapters have been opened so far, 2 of which were closed at the same time, namely those relating to education and culture, and to science and research. The primary goal of Serbia’s foreign policy is full membership in the European Union.

Apart from this, Serbia is developing its relations with neighbouring countries based on the principles of neighbourliness, mutual respecting of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, equality and resolving of open issues through political dialogue, based on the principles of international law.

5. Major governmental institutions

The government system of the Republic of Serbia is defined in the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia from 2006 and is based on the division of power into legislative, executive and judiciary. The relation between the three branches of power is based on balance and mutual control.

Legislative power is held by the National Assembly, a unicameral body of representatives composed of 250 representatives elected by use of the proportional electoral system, by voting for election lists, and by distribution of seats in proportion with the number of votes that the lists received. Click here to read more