AIM: start

SUN, 16 DEC 2001 00:22:57 GMT

Montenegro Following the Visit of Javier Solana

Good Services Mission

The recommendations of the European Union its High Representative Javier Solana passed on to Montenegro officials on two separate occasions are being interpreted by the three leading Montenegrin parliamentary parties in three quite distinct ways: the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is insisting that the dialogue with Serbia will not hinder the holding of the referendum, the liberals are claiming that Montenegro is further and further from reinstating its statehood, while the hopes of the pro-Yugoslav political block that FRY will be preserved have risen

AIM Podgorica, December 6, 2001

The participants of the Serbian-Montenegrin summit held in Belgrade on October 26 - when the two sides agreed there was no agreement concerning the preservation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - had no way of knowing that, a mere month later, their consent not to consent was to be revoked by the EU High Representative Javier Solana. During his visit to Podgorica this week, Solana gave the Montenegrin authorities a warning in the form of a friendly advice: for the sake of stability and prosperity in the region, it would be best if Montenegro maintained its status within a loosely-knit federation with Serbia, while the dialogue between Podgorica and Belgrade concerning the setting up of such a union should start by the end of December at the latest ..The EU High Representative also offered his "good services" in the future talks. In other words, the negotiations are to continue and the EU will be there to watch over them.

Solana made his recommendations known in Podgorica first but then, rather surprisingly, voiced them once again in Lisbon during his talks with the Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic. Quite understandably, this has turned him into a political figure of prime interest in Montenegro these days, both within the ruling and the opposition circles whose interpretations of words spoken by him are diametrically opposed, as befits the hopelessly polarized Montenegrin political milieu. While, on one hand, some are trying to determine to what extent EU is bent on preventing the referendum, others are at the same time speculating on what this might precisely mean when the preservation of FRY is concerned.

In his first statement on returning from Lisbon, Prime Minister Vujanovic said that the new round of talks between Podgorica and Belgrade does not imply the cancellation of the referendum. It is to be held come spring, he claims. A few days later, at a press conference, Vujanovic repeated what he had said earlier: the dialogue between Montenegrin and Belgrade authorities will in no way jeopardize the referendum! A referendum will be held because an overwhelming majority of Montenegrin citizens wants to be represented in the international community by a state of their own and not one representing the interests of others.

While the Prime Minister was expounding on views stated by Solana in Lisbon, in an interview to Banja Luka Reporter, the president of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic once again declared that the long-awaited referendum would indeed take place come spring, optimistically predicting that by the end of next year Montenegro would be an independent state recognized by the international community. The Montenegrin government, concluded Djukanovic, opposes the view of the international community that the prosperity of Montenegro depends entirely on its present ties with Serbia.

Simultaneously, president Djukanovic denied all claims that the independence of Montenegro is sure to provoke "a new wave of fragmentation in the Balkans, possibly even a novel tide of unrest and wars" and predictions that the withdrawal of Montenegro from FRY "is likely to be compensated by new territorial concessions of the Republic of Srpska to Serbia proper".

At the very same moment, Svetozar Marovic, a prominent figure within the ruling nomenclature, happened to be thousands of miles away from Montenegro, in Moscow to be precise. What was Mr. Marovic doing there? Well, trying to convince his hosts - the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Foreign Policy Committee of the Duma - that all Montenegro ever wanted was to square its accounts with Serbia in a democratic way, taking in account the wishes and interests of its citizens and that this is to be achieved solely "through dialogue and comprise". In a statement given during his stay in Moscow, Mr. Marovic said that Russia too upholds the policy outlined by EU High Representative Solana during his most recent visits to Podgorica and Belgrade, one calling for a redefining of the present federal framework.

But, for the purposes of this story Mr. Marovic is far more interesting for other reasons. Slavko Perovic, the spokesman of the Liberal Alliance, has accused him of going to Moscow incognito, without having informed the Chairwomen of the parliament or the members of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee he presides over of his trip. To Perovic, this was a sufficient enough cause for yet another accusation: "This move of Mr. Marovic may be interpreted as a wish to present political stands concerning Montenegrin independence diametrically opposed to those publicly proclaimed by DPS, adopted at the party’s last congress".

As for Mr. Solana’s initiative for a new round of talks between Serbia and Montenegro, the Liberal Alliance considers it to be a blessing from above for President Djukanovic and his party: "Solana’s initiative will merely offer DPS another excuse for further delays and stalling in determining the status of the Montenegrin state." The Liberals also claim that the referendum is but an illusion since: "The strategic goal of DPS is not the holding of the referendum but, rather, remaining in power. Likewise, the strategic goal of the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) is not the preservation of Yugoslavia, but its access to levers of power".

To those and similar doubts and reservations, DPS officials respond by claims that the party has no intention of giving up the promised referendum. "The referendum is to be the unavoidable outcome of the process. DPS has not made a U-turn concerning this matter, neither is it trying to maneuver around it. We believe talks with Belgrade should be continued, this time taking in account the possible consequences of the post-referendum outcome", says Mladen Vukcevic, the president of DPS's executive council.

Nevertheless, a new stimulus to doubts concerning the probability of the referendum on Montenegrin independence being held in a couple of month's time came in the form of the recent governmental decision to consent to the recommendations given by the EU High Representative Javier Solana. In this respect, a statement issued by PM Vujanovic’s cabinet is particularly worth mentioning: " The government has decided to accept recommendations concerning the redefining of the federal framework of FRY, as well as taking under consideration those resulting from the possible union between the two future independent states and their relations. " After all said and done, the leader of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro, Miodrag Zivkovic ,claims Montenegro is further than ever from a referendum on independence.

The third ranked pro-independence parliamentary party, the Social Democratic Party ( SDP ), says it is not overly concerned with recommendations given by Javier Solana. Thus the head of SDP, Ranko Krivokapic, thinks Solana's well-meant advice" corresponds with what official Montenegro is pushing for, i.e. the bettering of relations between Serbia and Montenegro in the future. "

"Everyone knows the referendum on independence will be held, but Montenegro wants to make it clear to the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro what is in store for them when the two states go their separate ways. We would like to reach an agreement with Serbia beforehand regarding all outstanding issues such as those concerning education, medical care, property protection, the border-line regime, investments, employment, money flows, " says Krivokapic.

Parties belonging to the " Together for Yugoslavia "coalition - SNP, the People's Party and the Serb People's Party - are more than satisfied with Mr. Solana's mission. They are hoping that the dialogue between the authorities in Podgorica and Belgrade might result in giving up the referendum, i.e. that " DPS will be come to its senses since it was made clear to them that it would be best to go along with the restructuring of the federation. " Both the European Union and United States are " rather resolute " in their opposition to Montenegrin independence because they wish to preserve FRY, is the view of Predrag Bulatovic, head of SNP.

" The Montenegrin authorities have opened the door for the start of a true dialogue, meaning that a grain of hope is now in view for the crisis to be resolved in the least painful way, in line with the recommendations of the EU, ""says the president of the People's Party Dragan Soc.

As is obvious, Mr. Solana's visits have emboldened pro-Yugoslav forces in Montenegro which are now hoping that the pressure coming simultaneously from two sides - Belgrade and the international community - will force Djukanovic to retreat. But, at least for the moment, the Montenegrin president and his DPS are still speaking of sovereignty and the minimum in their talks with Belgrade: the union of two sovereign states. Whether they are to remain true to their conviction even after their meeting with the leaders of DOS and the mediating efforts of the EU High Representative is difficult for anyone to predict.