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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

    SAT, 20 DEC 1997 23:28:49 GMT

    AGREEMENT BETWEEN SERBIA AND RS ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP

    Unfounded Agreement

    AIM Belgrade, 16 December, 1997

    As one by one elections in Serbia draw near to their finish, Milan Milutinovic, minister of foreign affairs of FR Yugoslavia, speaks of dual citizenship. On the eve of the first round of presidential elections of 21 September - when Zoran Lilic was the candidate of the "Left" - after a meeting with Croatian foreign minister, Dr Mate Granic, Milutinovic promised that "FR Yugoslavia will enable all the Serbs and Montenegrins in Croatia, as well as in other former republics, to acquire Yugoslav citizenship in the foreseeable future".

    Seven days before the second round of repeated presidential elections (21 December) in which Milutinovic himself is the candidate of the "Left", in the capacity of foreign minister, "by pure coincidence", signed an agreement on dual citizenship with the member of B&H Presidency from Republica Srpska, Momcilo Krajisnik. To be quite specific: "FR Yugoslavia and B&H have agreed that citizens of B&H can, along with the citizenship of B&H, acquire the citizenship of FR Yugoslavia". The candidate for president and minister felt an urge to give a "professional explanation" what this actually meant: "This agreement will enable the Serbs and the Montenegrins in B&H to acquire Yugoslav citizenship, and to reinforce relations with the parent state". Reciprocity was not even hinted at by either Milutinovic or Krajisnik.

    State media in FRY are exploiting the said agreement ad infinitum. The election headquarters of the "Left" are probably making calculations how many more votes this will bring them...

    Milutinovic's countercandidate, leader of the Serb Radical Party (SRS) Dr Vojislav Seselj, welcomed the agreement, but assessed that a real danger existed for it "to remain just a dead letter". His words are not completely unfounded. Simon Hazelock, spokesman of the High Representative of the international community for B&H Carlos Westendorp, declared that "there is no evidence that Krajisnik is authorised to sign it ", that is that he can sign such documents independently of other members of the Presidency. Advisor of president Alija Izetbegovic, Mirza Hajric, explained that the Presidency of B&H had made a principled statement that it approved of dual citizenship, but not that it had reached the relevant decision. He also says that such a question must be settled by an interstate agreement between FR Yugoslavia and B&H, and in order to achieve something of the kind it is necessary to establish normal diplomatic relations first...

    It is not at all surprising that in Serbia almost all independent or opposition reactions to the agreement signed by Milutinovic and Krajisnik are sceptic and reserved. Indeed, when in FR Yugoslavia a few years ago the Law on Citizenship was passed, dual citizenship was not prescribed by it for the Serbs and Montenegrins who live outside the borders of the country. High state official claimed at the time that it was not needed - that they had the citizenship of Republica Srpska and the Republic of Serb Krajina. In the meantime, Krajina has gone to wreck and ruin and become former, and only thanks to the Dayton accords this has not happened to Republica Srpska. Many other things have also gone to wreck and ruin - hundreds thousand refugees and displaced persons have remained. A large majority of these people, except for refugee identity cards have no other relevant documents, least of all a citizenship. And dual citizenship is exceptionally important for them for at least two reasons.

    The first - as citizens of the country they have abandoned (Croatia or B&H) and where they do not wish to return, they can at least under normal circumstances regulate issues concerning their real estate, and also start something over here. And the other - if they intend to return (which should be the most normal choice) as citizens of FR Yugoslavia they would have a certain type of security: if nothing else, they would have where to return if for some reason they assess that life in their places of origin is not worthwhile. What this is like is clear on the example of eastern Slavonia. It is believed that there has been no massive emigration of the Serbs from there mostly because they were promised dual citizenship.

    The question here is why FR Yugoslavia has not given citizenship to the Serbs from eastern Slavonia, but also from other parts of Croatia? Why has this possibility been given to the Serbs in B&H who can solve many question of their status in Republica Srpska? The answer seems to be banal. Milutinovic has signed the agreement on dual citizenship, but that piece of paper does not oblige either of them - among other because no agreement has ever been reached among the "constituent nations" about unique citizenship of B&H. There was no conditioning and negotiating - Milutinovic has made points in the election race, and Krajisnik has made points in the conflict with the president of RS Biljana Plavsic. At this moment this is not at all insignificant because the Bosnian Serbs are just about to constitute the newly elected assembly and a new coalition government.

    It is a completely different matter with Croatia. There is nobody similar to Krajisnik over there with whom this job could be done. With Croatia, it means long bargaining and haggling, because dual citizenship is a question of a "tie-in sale" - for succession of the property of former Yugoslavia, the status of Prevlaka peninsula, air traffic corridors, policy towards B&H and who knows what else.

    This whole nightmare about dual citizenship is affecting ordinary people, of course. But, perhaps one should not be a pessimist. As it was said, dual citizenship is one of the favourite topics of Milan Milutinovic. And as matters stand now, Serbia will have elections every three months. On the eve of each and every one of them, similar agreements will be announced or signed.

    Philip Schwarm

    (AIM)