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SAT, 23 MAR 2002 20:22:45 GMT

Montenegrin Reactions to the Signing of the Agreement on the Union of Serbia and Montenegro

Nobody Satisfied

Instead of applause and planned state stability, after signing of the Draft Agreement on the joint state, President Djukanovic was faced with an avalanche of criticism primarily by his allies from the sovereignty bloc - the Social Democrats and the Liberals

AIM Podgorica, March 18, 2002

High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security, Javier Solana, achieved what practically nobody in Brussels, Belgrade or Podgorica had believed was possible - he induced the representatives of the regimes in Belgrade and Podgorica to initial the Agreement on the starting points of rearrangement of relations between Serbia and Montenegro. In the seat of the EU it was received in a festive mood that was in proportion with the pessimism with which Solana had been seen off to Belgrade and with the fact that the Spanish diplomat had won the biggest victory of the joint foreign policy of fifteen states. The document was signed on Thursday, March 14, and the very next day Solana, Kostunica and Djukanovic were the stars of the summit of foreign ministers of the countries of the EU in Barcelona. It was assessed in unison that a big step was taken towards stabilization of the region, but also towards integration of Serbia and Montenegro into Europe. Solana even admitted that he was ready to sign separately with Podgorica and Belgrade the Agreement on Association and Stabilization, adding that it was "much, much better" this way.

According to the agreement signed by President of FRY Vojislav Kostunica, federal Vice-Premier Miroljub Labus, Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, in the presence of EU High Representative Javier Solana, the new state community will be called Serbia and Montenegro. Its institutions will be the assembly, its president, council of ministers. The assembly will have a single chamber with an unequal number of deputies from the two member states but with a mechanism for the protection of outvoting. The assembly will elect the president. The council of ministers shall have five portfolios: foreign affairs, defence, international economic relations, internal economic relations and protection of human and minority rights. The constituting document of the new state community will be the constitutional charter which is expected to be passed by the republican assemblies by the month of June and sent to the federal assembly. Serbia and Montenegro will have a single but rotating seat in the UN and other major international organizations, while representation in the IMF and the World Bank still remains to be regulated. In three-years time the member states will have the right to verify the state status in a referendum. The Agreement let Montenegro keep the euro as the only currency on its territory, the existing customs duties and tax rates, that is defined by official Podgorica as "full economic sovereignty".

The enthusiasm of the administration in Brussels and the satisfaction of State Department were not shared by all the political subjects, experts and citizens of the re-arranged "state community of Serbia and Montenegro". The agreement is heartily welcomed by the parties of the officials who signed it: Djukanovic's and Vujanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS). In the first few days, in Montenegrin pro-Yugoslav Together for Yugoslavia (ZZJ) coalition they did not split hairs either, stressing that joint international subjectivity of the community was preserved and that the referendum on state status has been postponed for quite a long time.

On Saturday, DPS Main Board unanimously supported Djukanovic's and Vujanovic's signature assessing that Montenegro had got the most it could at this moment. What this "the most" means was tersely defined by President Djukanovic at a press conference organized after his return from Belgrade - the achieved level of economic independence was preserved, the responsibilities Podgorica has practically taken away from Belgrade were now ratified, and guarantees that the referendum will be organized in three years were ensured with no objection of the EU or the USA. The leadership of DPS estimated that all conditions were created for a successful completion of the project of independence and called its allies, the Liberal League and the Social Democratic Party, to remain together with them until that goal is reached. More precisely, the alliance should be strengthened by the Liberals who should enter Vujanovic's cabinet that was so far just supported by them as a minority government.

The leadership of the Liberal League of Montenegro, however, characterized Djukanovic's signing of the Agreement in Belgrade as "one of the biggest cases of treason in recent European history" and rejected the invitation to join Vujanovic's government as "ridiculous". Political leader of the Liberals, Miodrag Zivkovic refused Djukanovic's invitation to the talks after signing of the basic elements for rearrangements of relations between Serbia and Montenegro. The Liberal League has announced that it would state its final stand concerning the newly-created situation on Wednesday, March 20, but it is open secret that this party will demand relieving Vujanovic's government of duty and the establishment of a new one headed by a Liberal. Chairman of the assembly Vesna Perovic scheduled an extraordinary session of Montenegrin parliament in order to have it consider Belgrade agreement. The President of the Republic was also invited to the session.

SDP of Montenegro which together with DPS forms the minority Vujanovic’s government, also estimated that the document signed by Montenegrin President and Prime Minister was unacceptable. Leader of Social Democrats, Ranko Krivokapic, announced that his ministers would leave the Government at the moment the Agreement passed through the Assembly of Montenegro. SDP is convinced that the content of this document is contrary to the interests of Montenegro, that it violates the coalition agreement and pre-election promises that won majority support of the citizens in the past elections.

The parties that advocated preservation of FRY – Socialist People’s Party (SNP), Serb People’s Party (SNS) and People’s Party (NS) – greeted the “preservation of the joint state and the debacle of Djukanovic’s separatist policy” with euphoria. But as emotions died down, in that political bloc the awareness started to grow about the threat the Agreement conceals for Together for Yugoslavia coalition. President of SNP, Predrag Bulatovic, declared that his party would not support the Agreement in the Assembly if it does not guarantee elections for the Federal Assembly and early elections for Montenegrin parliament. Bulatovic had consistently advocated the stand that the solution on rearrangement of relations between Serbia and Montenegro should by no means maintain the actual state of affairs. However, that is exactly what the Belgrade document does, both analysts and many politicians believe. Just a day prior to the signing of the Agreement, leader of SNS, Bozidar Bojovic, said that a state without a joint currency and adjusted tax and customs rates – was not a state. Should the Agreement come into force, all federal officials from these parties will have to come back to Podgorica, and it will be more difficult to get financial injections from Belgrade.

What also induced the correction of the disposition of pro-Serb parties in Montenegro were sharp reactions from Belgrade, especially the stand of economic experts. Governor of National Bank of Yugoslavia, Mladjan Dinkic, declared that Miroljub Labus had signed the Agreement under strong pressure of the other negotiators. Dinkic’s assessment that an “improvised joint state” was created coincides with the cynical comment of Director of G17 Plus, Predrag Markovic, that “the only reason for satisfaction may lie in the fact that an original solution was found, with the stress on original, instead of on solution”. Markovic also concludes that the content of the document “clearly shows that the negotiations were conducted by the representatives of Montenegro and the representatives of little Serbia”. For the advocates of the joint state in Montenegro the estimate of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) is not insignificant that this was “the most shameless act in the history of the Serb people”, nor that of Seselj that this is a “monster state”. Finally, NSS and its honorary president Momir Bulatovic reprimanded the Together for Yugoslavia coalition for hypocritically celebrating the alleged preservation of the union although “with no economic sovereignty such an unheard-of and unseen state creation is condemned to ruin”.

According to the assessment of Montenegrin analysts, the future of the “suntan parlour” will depend mostly on whether the Montenegrin bloc will preserve unity. Milan Popovic says that the Agreement is a transitional frame towards a joint state with Serbia. He points out to a “serious lack of legitimacy and legality” of the new creation, estimating that Podgorica was not given but deprived of the right to referendum in the next three years. Nevertheless, Popovic says that it is still possible to carry out the project of independence, on condition that DPS, SDP and LS remain together. Nebojsa Medojevic, director of the Transition Centre, estimates that Solana’s infant will not have a long life and explains this with the following metaphor: “he gave us shoes number 38 but we wear number 45”. Medojevic, like majority of analysts, sharply criticizes Djukanovic for not having consulted SDP and LS before signing the Agreement and concludes “if he were a Montenegrin, he would submit his resignation”.

The coming days will bring big and far-reaching political solutions. The union of the Montenegrin bloc is hanging by a thread. Should that tiny thread break, early parliamentary elections will be imminent and in them, according to what is generally believed, pro-Serb bloc will be the favourite. Should, however, DPS, SDP and LS find a compromise, long haggling with Belgrade awaits them, but also with the EU during development of the constitutional charter. This job will greatly determine the final judgment on what Montenegro has gained and what it has lost with the Agreement Djukanovic and Vujanovic have signed in its name.

Darko SUKOVIC

(AIM)