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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 28 NOV 1997 18:59:29 GMT

    Belgrade Opens Border to Croatia, except on Prevlaka

    MONTENEGRO STILL UNDER QUARANTINE

    AIM Podgorica, 16 November, 1997

    After interruption which lasted for six long years, a few days ago, regular railroad traffic between Croatia and FR Yugoslavia was re-established. This new step towards normalization of relations between Belgrade and Zagreb is the result of a previously signed agreement of two foreign ministers, Milutinovic and Granic. Neither in that document nor in practice, opening of the border at Debeli brijeg which separates Montenegro and Croatia has been mentioned though. "It seems that this will continue to be like that, until Mate Granic opens this question", independent daily Vijesti writes in its editorial, ironically underlining in this way the passive attitude of Yugoslav foreign minister Milutinovic concerning this issue.

    It is obvious that it suits Milosevic's regime to keep Montenegro in the subordinate position and isolation for as long as possible. This is also confirmed by the words of Dr Hrvoje Kacic, head of the Croatian office for borders, who has revealed that "Yugoslavia has demanded that the question of Prevlaka be omitted from the negotiations". "This is a sign that Belgrade ignores interests of the population of Boka Kotorska and that Montenegro cannot step forward internationally without previously coordinating its stand with Belgrade", said Kacic.

    After the presidential elections in Montenegro and the victory of for Belgrade unacceptable Milo Djukanovic, this fixing of the Montenegrin-Croatian border may last for a long time to come. Although there were rumours in the election campaign that after a possible triumph, Djukanovic would immediately open the question of isolation of Montenegro by Belgrade, he is still very reserved about it. Probably faced with the vehemence of the attack and denial from Milosevic's media strongholds, the new president of Montenegro still does not seem to dare to go to Prevlaka and lift fortification barriers, as symbolically just a few months ago one of his associates announced he would do. In a recent interview to Sarajevo TV 99, to the question when the Kotor bishop would be able to sit in a car and in just an hour reach his colleague in Dubrovnik, Djukanovic answered in very general terms in the sense that he hoped that this question would be resolved very soon to satisfaction and benefit of both parties.

    However, this "just" demarcation, by which the regime propaganda is in fact justifying the fact that it is putting the problem of Prevlaka on ice, is not at all indispensable for opening of the border and normalization of traffic. This was illustrated by the case of the mentioned normalization of railroad traffic between Belgrade and Zagreb which occurred although the demarcation line between the two countries has not been drawn yet in the so-called Srem-Baranja region. Although for Croatia, the question of all borders was resolved the minute the international community accepted the so-called "AVNOJ borders" (established between republics of former Yugoslavia after the Second World War) as state borders, Serbia and Montenegro, that is, their authorities, are still bargaining with empty terminology such as "just demarcation", keeping the population in the illusion that it is possible, after all, to correct the borders. This is also the case with Prevlaka - there is absolutely nothing controversial about it for Croatia when territory is concerned, but when security is concerned there certainly is. Similar is the opinion, although they do not dare state it publicly yet, of the political parties which have supported the candidacy of Djukanovic in the past elections in Montenegro. They even refer to sessions of the Montenegrin parliament back in 1991, when the document was adopted which marked the border with Croatia as "the existing border", and not as ever since then Milosevic has been calling it - "the administrative border".

    "Due to the position it holds in the federation, Montenegro is not the one which decides about its borders even on the level of expert groups which could exchange opinions and findings", Dr Kacis assesses, adding that the Croatian delegation headed by Stijepo Obad has done a comprehensive job concerning Prevlaka, but that it had nobody to offer it to or who to talk about it.

    By the servile policy pursued during all these years in relation to Belgrade, even concerning establishing and opening borders, Montenegro has been brought into a check mate position. Not only legally, but also politically. For instance, in the existing atmosphere, even the smallest step forward taken independently by Djukanovic in the direction of "removing" obstacles in Debeli brijeg would immediately be interpreted as a step towards secession by Belgrade and its satellites in Podgorica. But, nowadays when Podgorica holds certain amount of power, it would be nonsensical to wait any further and endure a trully humiliating position. Djukanovic himself should be aware of this. His moves concerning borders, both this with Croatia and the one with Albania (where there is only one border crossing!) will show authenticity of the newly elected Montenegrin President's pledging for independent and dignified position of this republic in the joint state.

    The day before Djukanovic takes over the post of the president on 15 January, the mandate of UN observers will expire on Prevlaka. In case the Security Council fails to reach a decision about new prolongation of the mission, Djukanovic will immediately get his chance to show whether he is truly in favour of open borders or Bulatovic's "most beautifuul prison in the world".

    Beba Marusic

    AIM Podgorica