AIM: start

TUE, 03 JUL 2001 00:21:57 GMT

Milosevic's Extradition to the Hague - Montenegro's Reactions

The Departure of a Beloved (Foe)Friend

According to first statements after Milosevic's extradition to the Hague, all relevant factors on the Montenegrin political scene are aware of the necessity of changing the state-legal relations between Serbia and Montenegro. True, it is still unclear whether until recent advocates of the federation will move closer towards the project of greater independence of Montenegro or, perhaps, Djukanovic will make a deal with Djindjic.

AIM Podgorica, June 29, 2001

On Friday night, 24 hours after Slobodan Milosevic "departed" for the Hague, some hundred people took part in protests organised in Podgorica by Momir Bulatovic's non-parliamentary party NSS against the decision of the Serbian Government. In view of the fact that some ten months before that Milosevic won 110 thousand votes in Montenegro at the federal elections, it is clear that his "charisma" burst like a soap bubble after he lost power.

Although expected, this event was not devoid of disbelief and tragicomic outbursts of (political) emotions. The Montenegrin political elite received in Parliament the news that the former President of Serbia and FRY was on his way to the Hague, at the moment when the Parliament was about to vote on the new Republican Cabinet of Prime Minister designate, Filip Vujanovic.

And while journalists were chasing after first party reactions, deputies of Bulatovic's SNP scattered around as fast as their legs could carry them, officials of the Democratic Party of Socialists and Popular Party (once both these parties closely collaborated with Milosevic) had "no comment", but no one had to beg the Liberals and Social-Democrats for statements which, in a simplified form boiled down to a conclusion that Slobodan Milosevic got what he deserved.

Only Mehmed Bardhi, delegate of the Democratic Alliance of Albanians, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, sat in the empty Assembly hall reading his speech commenting on Vujanovic's policy statement.

The SDP Vice-President, Dragisa Burzan, assessed with unhidden pleasure that finally "doors will be open for a peaceful procedure in which Montenegro will become sovereign, without the repression of criminals and those protecting them". Similar was the reasoning of Miodrag Zivkovic, political leader of the Liberal Alliance. He interpreted Milosevic's departure for the Hague as an "act which will exonerate the Serbian nation of the collective guilt for war crimes" and said that after the announcements that Serbia would be denied financial assistance of the international community his party knew "that money would be a decisive factor" in the resolution of problems with Milosevic's surrender.

Several minutes before that, the SNP leader, Predrag Bulatovic repeated from the Assembly rostrum that his party would break up the coalition with DOS if the Serbian Government adopted any decision on the extradition of Yugoslav citizens to the Tribunal before the Constitutional Court pronounced the final ruling on the Federal Government's Decree on Extradition.

That evening there was no one in the SNP's headquarters. Although it was logical to expect that a party, which until Milosevic's political crash swore by his patriotism, would hold at least an urgent session of its party leadership, that did not happen. Even the rare curious followers who inquired by phone about the events in Belgrade, were left without any explanation, let alone comfort, because there was no one in the SNP to give it to them. Moreover, on behalf of his party Dragan Koprivica informed that the existing federation has collapsed because of actions of Zoran Djindjic's Cabinet, which violated the Federal and Serbian Constitutions. He repeated Bulatovic's words that SNP would re-examine its coalition with the DOS.

It was clear already then that, pushed to the wall, this party was left without elbowroom. The formal decision was announced a day later Zoran Zizic, Federal Prime Minister submitted his resignation. This marked the break up of half-year long coalition between DOS and SNP. The hidden frustration of the officials of "pro-Yugoslav" bloc in Montenegro surfaced on the front page of the "Montenegrin Voice" (a SNP-controlled daily). A title on a totally black front page, not seen even at times of greatest natural disasters and war devastations in these parts, read "On St.Vitus' Day...The wretched Serbdom extinguished".

On the other hand, frontmen of the ruling DPS did not hide their pleasure. The hitherto Prime Minister and now Prime Minister designate, Filip Vujanovic expressed his expectations that after Milosevic's surrender Serbia and Montenegro would find it "much easier to reach" an agreement on the establishment of new relations. "Serbia has shown that it considered Milosevic's extradition its internal affair and that the federal state no longer exists".

Even more precise was Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who stated that he did not believe that "Milosevic's extradition would crucially change anything in Serbian-Montenegrin relations. They are at a low level and deserve radical redefinition".

According to first forecasts and public statements, all relevant factors on the Montenegrin political scene are aware of the need for changing state-legal relations between Serbia and Montenegro. True, it is still unclear whether until recent advocates of the federation will move closer towards the project of greater independence of Montenegro. Analysts point out that another alternative is also possible - if it manages to buy time for overcoming internal disagreements, relieved of Milosevic as a burden and assisted by the international community the united opposition of Serbia might increase pressure on that part of Montenegrin public which advocates its full independence.

Regarding one of many combinations which might be used in the coming period, Milo Djukanovic said: "New federal elections might be held, but we believe that pragmatic people from the DOS and SNP will try to find some other solution that would spare them the ordeals of new elections".

What solution did he have in mind Djukanovic did not want or could not reveal. However, it now seems that this life-saving formula is unknown even to those who should know it: the SNP leaders and, their for the time being only ally at the federal level, Vojislav Kostunica.