The capture of Goran Hadzic, the Croatian Serb war crimes suspect extradited to The Hague on Friday, closes a big chapter in the book of tensions between the two biggest former Yugoslav republics.

Serbia’s failure to find him until this week was a constant irritant for Croatia, among other lingering grievances since the 1990s break-up. Read more

“Try your Big Mac”, a giant billboard advises patrons in Sarajevo, as the hours tick down to one of the biggest events since the Dayton peace accords. Nearly sixteen years after the war ended, the Bosnian capital has attained the ultimate sign of modernity: a McDonald’s on the main central thoroughfare, Marshal Tito Street. Read more

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime ministerThe Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, cancelled his visit to Serbia on Friday on short notice to put his own country’s finances into order.

He had been meant to headline an Italian-Serbian business forum – an event eagerly anticipated in  Belgrade, partly for Berlusconi’s celebrity presence and partly for the attention he would draw to Fiat, the Turin-based car maker, which, after long delays, looks set to get production going in a big way in Serbia this year. Read more

Opportunity is in the eye of the beholder. The global investors who never spare a thought for the Balkans are going to miss out on some great money-making prospects, says Philip Khoury, am Istanbul-based “frontier” market specialist.

Khoury, managing director at boutique asset manager Impera Capital has – by his own admission – not set foot in either Serbia or Montenegro for 22 years, since a youthful bicycle tour just before the Yugoslav wars. Yet he flags up both countries, among other neglected Eurasian emerging markets in his latest newsletter. Read more

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon tennis champion 2011Novak Djokovic’s victory at Wimbledon on Sunday, besides underlining his rank as the world’s top tennis player, has confirmed him as the best public relations asset available to his home country, Serbia.

Over 100,000 people turned out in central Belgrade to welcome him back on Monday night, although he now spends most of his time abroad. Djokovic has made the troubled country feel better about itself and its prospects, and might also help others see Serbia in a more positive light. Read more

Serbia coal fired plantItalian energy company Edison has reached a deal with Serbia’s state-owned power company, Elektroprivreda Srbija (EPS) to build a new coal-fired plant, sources close to the deal confirmed to beyondbrics.

The project’s value could reach €1.5bn and would bring state-of-the-art technology to the ex-Yugoslav country, which for now makes do with power plants pre-dating the 1990s wars and just enough residual engineering talent to keep them running. Read more

Nestlé, the Swiss-based coffee and confection giant, says it has bought Serbia’s locally loved “C” brand for packaged soups and spices.

The takeover – blending multinational investment muscle with familiar Balkan seasonings – guarantees brisk competition as Croatia’s Podravka gears up for expansion in the European Union.  Read more

Podravka – the spice maker at the heart of Croatia’s biggest corruption trial to date – hopes to bounce back to rapid growth, boosted on the country’s imminent accession to the European Union.

With Croatia seemingly poised to become the EU’s 28th member state in July 2013, the resuscitated company plans to spend up to €100m on expanding and upgrading its factoriesRead more

Croatian tennis star Mirjana LucicCroatia has received its eagerly-awaited green light – the recommendation from European Union officials to wrap up membership talks in just two more weeks.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, proposed closing the negotiations and opening the door for Croatia to become the bloc’s 28th member state on 01 July 2013. That’s good news for Zagreb, for the rest of the former Yugoslavia, and for the region’s fragile economies. Read more

New listings have caused the Belgrade stock exchange to shoot up rapidly this year, bringing a ray of hope to a trading floor battered by the global crisis.

The Belex 15 – the index of the market’s largest companies – has gained 100 points, or roughly 15 per cent in value, since the start of the year thanks mainly to Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) and to a lesser extent the Belgrade airport companyRead more

An eco-fuelled catamaran meant to ply the Thames in time for the 2012 London Olympics will give the world a badly-needed reminder about Croatian shipbuilding prowess – badly-needed, that is, by the troubled shipyards on the Adriatic coast.

They must boost their presence in international markets because they can no longer count on state subsidies as Croatia jumps through the final hoops to join the European UnionRead more

The last chapter of the Telekom Srbija saga didn’t last very long. Serbian officials declined to bite after Telekom Austria’s sweetened its offer on Wednesday, putting a kibosh on the attempted privatisation sale. The €1.1bn revised offer traded future investment promises for a bigger purchase price, yet still could not meet Serbia’s politically driven price expectations.

The government refused to budge on its €1.4bn target price for 51 per cent of the state-run telecoms group. The failure casts doubt on all further Balkan telecom privatisations, as long as governments put short-term fund raising ahead of private sector growth. Read more

Candyfloss, toffee appleTelekom Austria has come back with a revised offer worth €1.1bn to keep the door open on taking over Serbia’s state-owned telephone company. The Vienna-based group originally offered a conditional €800m-950m for the 51 per cent stake in Telekom Srbija, far short of the €1.4bn minimum set by the Serbian government.

Sector analysts insisted the government was asking too much. Other would-be bidders, including Deutsche Telekom, were put off by the inflated price tag, which was tacked on by skittish politicians after the formal tender. Read more

When Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, met his counterparts from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday, his overt aim was to smooth over ethnic tensions and help build confidence between the Balkan neighbours.

But Turkish business interests run parallel with growing external political influence. Read more

foodfightCroatia’s Agrokor and Slovenia’s Mercator are playing a risky game of one-upmanship for retail supremacy in the fragmented markets of the former Yugoslavia.

As a bid deadline expired on Friday for a crucial 23.3 per cent stake in Mercator that is up for sale, Agrokor appeared to be the only would-be buyer. Yet the Slovenian side – reluctant to succumb to a similar-sized regional competitor – announced an extension and continued looking for other options. Read more

China’s power-generation behemoth, Dongfang Electric Corp, has plugged into the underbelly of the European energy grid with a deal to build a new thermal plant drawing on Bosnia’s rich coal veins.

Dongfang’s Balkan partner, the Serb-run, UK-headquartered Energy Financing Team (EFT), has turned to the China Development Bank about underwriting 85 per cent of the three-year project costing just over €500m. Read more

Telekom Austria needs to put more money on the table for the government to give up control of Serbia’s main phone company, officials in Belgrade said on Tuesday.

The Vienna-based telecom group, the sole bidder for 51 per cent of Telekom Srbija, proposed to pay between €800m and €950m, depending on conditions still to be negotiated, with €450 of investments to follow within three years. But the government’s bargaining position is looking weak; it needs Telekom Austria a lot more the company needs it.  Read more

Will Serbia get a piece of Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline or not? Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, rattled nerves across the region this week by saying “different versions” of the route were under consideration.

Officials have since moved to reassure Serbians by promising Gazprom will build the pipeline in one form or another and Serbia does not need to worry about being left out. Read more

When the deadline passed for bids on Telekom Srbija passed on Monday, the company’s failure to attract bids in the €1.4m range, as the government had ambitiously wished for, came as no surprise.

But the sole bid that did arrive – a conditional offer from Telekom Austria for something between 57 per cent and 67 per cent of the requested minimum – looks cheap even by more cautious industry standards. Read more

Miroslav Miskovic, owner and president of Serbia’s largest company by turnover, Delta Holding, has gone all the way and sold 100 per cent of his retail operations to Belgium’s Delhaize for €932.5m.

Delta announced the deal on Thursday as the start of another “long-term partnership” with a foreign strategic partner “in the interest of the further development of the retail chain and because of intense competition among international retail chains.” Read more