THU, 28 MAR 1996 21:58:19 GMT
Anniversary of Montenegrin Referendum for the Joint State with Serbia
AIM Podgorica, March 19, 1996
Even the ruling philosophers do not agree on reasons why the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was created. As soon as, on March 1, 1992, the Montenegrins completed their successful visit to polling stations, President Momir Bulatovic clarified the significance of the event. "With this referendum we wished to enable continuation of the centuries-old aspiration of Montenegro to be a bastion of Serbdom and Yugoslavdom". Intimately convinced that the new product would be long-lived, on the happy occasion, he also expressed envious statesman's delicacy: "It is not our duty and we cannot try to decipher why the referendum is not held in Serbia as well". So far the most precise information that the FRY was assigned a somewhat different role came from its first president. "The FRY is just a phase in resolving the Serb national issue", Dobrica Cosic informed his surroundings. This "hastily botched up creation" which was formed in order to throw dust in Badinter's Committee's eyes had no future because, according to the words of the classic - "Yugoslavdom is dead". In compliance with its patriarchal up-bringing, the official Montenegro missed hearing such abuses of the young state, since it had invested its entire moral heritage into its creation, according to the voluntary confession of its leadership. The issue was taken so seriously, as a deputy of the ruling party in the republican Assembly later revealed, that in the case of a different voting result, "the Democratic Party of Socialists would have immediately left the political scene". Since Montenegro and the larger community would not have been able to survive such a great damage - the favourable result followed.
The birth of the FRY, however, was not all that smooth. Those who are not acquainted with the technological procedure which manufactured it can hardly grasp how it operates nowadays. Therefore, let us start from the very beginning. Serious landmarks lead to the conclusion that destiny of Montenegro was determined between October 1991 and the end of January 1992. First, the conference in the Hague took place in this glorious period. There, President Momir Bulatovic, to general amazement of the citizens, informed "comrade Lord Carrington" (precisely in these words) that he accepted the plan on transformation of Yugoslavia which was on its death bed, into six sovereign states. Thanks to memoirs of Bora Jovic, direct testimony was obtained about how Momir Bulatovic was then forced to go back upon his word. When he was threatened with removal from office, he immediately gave up on further bargaining: all those who had ever advocated sovereign Montenegro here, were already proclaimed to be traitors by his propaganda. Bulatovic asked only for a small favour in return: if Milosevic would propose to comrade Lord a solution at the next session which would annul his acceptance of the Hague principles, he would support him. He was denied even that much - he had to carry out repentance on his own and all the way.
Hedging continued. Sometime in December 1991, Montenegrin President was explaining to republican deputies why Montenegro and Serbia, the ancient states, did not wish to go like others, "to some windows begging recognition" and hinted that "in the case of dissolution of the SFRY, our republic will remain a sovereign state". On the eve of new 1992, a "Convention on New Yugoslavia" was arranged in Belgrade. A representative of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) did not sign the decisions reached at the Convention, because, according to his view of the situation, "the Serb block prevailed". Hardly anyone could distinguish the "Serb" from the "Yugoslav" faction then - in any case, rumour spread that Bulatovic transformed into a fighter for sovereign Montenegro, but just did "it" secretly. The development was carefully watched from the competent place and immediately after the new year's holiday, Bora Jovic, at the post of the head of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), appeared in Podgorica. A meeting behind locked doors with the Montenegrin leaders ended successfully: "Montenegro and Serbia should go on living in the same state". Just as the guests started on their way back to Belgrade, Main Board of the DPS spontaneously reached the conclusion that a referendum should be called as soon as possible. Draft Law on the Referendum reached the Assembly on January 16. Momir Bulatovic acted as if he had grasped an old report of Milan Kucan. "The federal state will have a single-chamber parliament composed on the principle of parity, the government will be formed in the same manner, the community will be represented alternately for six months every year by presidents of the republics". He expressed reasonable ambitions concerning the military issue as well: "Arming and developing of armed forces, apart from the highly specialized branches, will be in the competence of the republic and will take into account its specific qualities". There was a lot more, and the most important thing was that the President of ancient Montenegro gave his word to the parliament: "This is the precisely determined minimum below which we will not agree to go". The Assembly supported its President. Soon after, most prominent officers of the army were Bulatovic's guests. Thirty odd members of military speial units around the building of the Presidency were a strong indicator that the situation is being discussed down to the smallest detail. Various theories were elaborated, only President Milosevic was too silent. He arrived in Podgorica on February 12 only with his escorts. They were all in a comradely good mood and everything was smoothed down in a day. The only thing left to do was for the extraordinary assembly session, on February 22, following the example of the President, to lower the limits of the "precisely determined minimum" to a decent level. Deputies of the ruling party acted in accordance with the solemnity of the occasion: without any difficulty, the stance on minimum claims was revised, and the time limit for calling the referendum, instead of at least 30, was shortened to mere seven days. The voters were offered to answer a wisely formulated question: "Are you in favour of Montenegro as a sovereign republic continuing to live in a joint state - Yugoslavia - completely equal with other republics which might wish to do so".
Many times, on different occasions, leaders of Montenegrin opposition spoke out their opinion concerning the road the ruling party had passed from the Hague to the March 1 parade. "I said then and I will say it now that this was just a more subtle repetition of 1918 Podgorica Assembly session. All one should do is look into what has happened to the President's minimum between January 18 and February 12, when Milosevic arrived to round up the story. Parity government was abolished, chamber of citizens added to the federal parliament, president is elected by the assembly of the FRY, provisions about competences of the republics in developing armed forces deleted. For the sake of preserving power and personal interests, Montenegro was sold already at the time", Zarko Rakcevic, vice-president of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), believes.
For four years already a debate has been going on in Montenegro whether even fundamental conditions existed at the time for democratic pronouncing oneself for or against the joint state. The opposition which is in favour of a sovereign Montenegrin state claimed that during a war, under supervision of the army, with a destructive propaganda in the media, such a serious business as the referendum could not be properly done, and called its sympathizers to abstain from voting. "Decision reached at a referendum in such non-democratic conditions cannot be recognized by anyone who observes democratic principles" is the official stance of Montenegrin Liberals. The Social Democrats have a similar view. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that even representatives of Serb-oriented National Party also assess that the question asked at the referendum was so ambiguous that the "referendum is legally improper". Nationalists believed that the FRY, if created by fraud, could not be a sound community and for that reason proposed that the referendum with a clearly formulated question, in a normal atmosphere, be repeated. The Liberals, of course, accepted the challenge.
In the meantime, the FRY became operational. At the very beginning, the observers warned that the ruling party, on the eve of the referendum, had just begun the process of lowering its minimum. As the FRY started operating, it became fashionable in the Montenegrin parliament to free Montenegro of one by one of its state functions. Thanks to the deputies of the DPS, the republic gentlemanly got off its hands the obligation to be asked whether state of emergency would be introduced in it, and continued in the same manner. "The Constitution of Montenegro is a 'tabula rasa' already, its 63 articles which regulate human rights will serve just as a decoration. The Montenegrin leadership knows that there is no chance to regain competences it once disclaimed", Savo Jablan, a Liberal deputy in the republican parliament, warned in vain when criminal legislature was raised to the level of the Federation. Leaders of the DPS explained with all particulars to their members the essence of the noble operation - it was done to strengthen the joint state. Occasionally, however, they lamented because Serbia hesitated to bring its Constitution in line with the Federal, but never seriously put the question. "The essence is that the portion of sovereignty that Montenegro transferred to the federation was actually transferred to the other federal unit, that is, to its president. Milosevic is the only true repository of power" - Srdja Darmanovic, vice-president of the Social Democratic Party explained in "Monitor".
Settling accounts on the fourth anniversary of the referendum, President of the assembly of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG), Dzemal Perovic says: "All the reasons we had given against creation of the alleged federation were confirmed. It turned out even worse than we had expected". The head of the club of deputies of the National Party, Dragan Soc, has claimed for long that the DPS brought Montenegro in a humiliating position. He states a different view. "Such policy of the ruling party", assesses Soc, "is objectively of assistance to the Liberal Alliance. It is creating psychological presumptions which can transform into a political fact, and the Liberals have already shown that they are capable of using it". Members of the National Party still, however, believe that "subordination of a regime is not the same as subordination of a state", and in this sense, file their candidacy in order to demonstrate the possibility of creating a harmonious FRY.
The status of President Bulatovic when occasionally he starts on a journey with Slobodan Milosevic to negotiate around the world is usually taken as the most appropriate illustration of the general state of affairs concerning equality of the two partners in the federation. Ranging from culture to sports. "The status of Montenegro in the new arrangement perhaps is not so disastrous in any sphere as in culture. Montenegrin culture is constantly abused and run belittled. At times, assimilation is performed in a refined manner, but usually it is brutal, ruthlessly. Montenegro is to blame for it. New Serb warriors' folklore stirred up the epic passion for war waging, and as a cultural service of genocide, it poisoned Montenegrin culture with belligerent worship of St. Sava and stale Serb national romantism", claims Marko Spadijer, secretary general of cultural society Matica Crnogorska. But, according to his opinion, it strengthens resistance to transformation of Montenegro into a folklore province. "Much effort was invested to send Montenegro away from the Mediterranean, but culture, like the skill of swimming, can never be forgotten".
Only in the ruling party, according to our knowledge, there are no serious complaints against the way in which destiny of Montenegro is regulated. Judging by optimism expressed by President Bulatovic at the last congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia, unity of ideas is nowadays stronger than ever. Now both the SPS and the DPS are united in favour of peace - they got along just fine while they linked themselves to war topics, too. This does not, of course, mean that in the course of four years the comrades have never quarelled. In regular intervals, rumours begin to circulate that the DPS and the SPS have seriously quarelled, and that "our boys" are heroically resisting. Entire Montenegro shuddered when the first lady of Serbia called the Montenegrin Prime Minister a disguised smuggler. For a time, a dangerous discussion flared whether it was separatism when Milo Djukanovic bragged that Montenegro made its own living and that it was not in the union with Serbia because it was afraid of starvation. It was whispered even in the official circles that there was an ominous controversy concerning the attitude to ownership - the DPS was in favour of privatization, and the SPS was in favour of the Yugoslav Associated Leftists (JUL). Fortunately, however, as connoisseurs claim, differences between Serb state socialism and Montenegrin state capitalism are not insurmountable. "A great part of the economy in our republic is put under state/party control. The ruling party with its quasi- privatization wishes to maintain political monopoly and control all processes in Montenegro", reminds Zarko Rakcevic, vice-president of the SDP.
Nobody knows nowadays what the FRY may turn out to be. Not a single party publicly assumed responsibility for its re-shaping into a community of regions conjectured for quite some time now. Whenever Montenegrin regime wriggles, media in Serbia interpret it as evidence of its veiled separatism. On the other hand, in Montenegro, a sort of a collective quiz goes on constantly: are Bulatovic and his followers agreeing to such treatment of their republic out of pleasure or fear. Opinions are divided. As concerning sinful "separatism", there is an abundance of evidence - they are innocent. It is another story that they too are sincerely interested in getting assurances that they would have certain competences in controlling specific Montenegrin affairs. War, peace, and things like that are not among them, of course. So far, contrary to the Serb national opposition, Milosevic has shown understanding for this human need and he probably will not box Bulatovic's ears for the fun of it in the future either. Leaders of political parties in Montenegro do not believe that the Constitution will suddenly be amended, but that official Belgrade will rather gradually, systematically continue to abolish Montenegrin statehood. There is no better partner for the job than the DPS; under no other rule would Montenegro become so light-heartedly, after every minimum, increasingly "equal". That is why nobody even cares to joke that the SPS could help the Serb Radicals and Nationalists in the next elections to win against Bulatovic. And if by a miracle, Montenegrin authorities get tired of being obedient, they will remember the Hague: they have used almost all possibilities to pull themselves out of dependence. This is a strange country: in that case, only independent Montenegrin institutions created and sustained contrary to their will could be of some help to them.
Esad KOCAN (AIM Podgorica)