AIM: start

SUN, 06 JAN 2002 23:58:31 GMT

The Second Round of Serbian-Montenegrin Negotiations

Experts Helpless Too

In all likelihood, the politicians, who are the ones that have come up with the complicated and one-of-a-kind Serbian-Montenegrin sate community, will have to take the untying of a noose called the Yugoslav Federation into their own hands.

AIM Podgorica, December 29, 2001

Experts are also unable to untie the noose called the Yugoslav Federation that has been tightening around Montenegro's and Serbia's necks for a decade. Most information that reached the public after two recent attempts of Montenegrin and Serbian experts at redefining the relations between Montenegro and Serbia were along that line. By the looks of it, the politicians will have to take the untying of this knot into their own hands, since they are the ones who had invented this complicated and unique Serbian-Montenegrin state community.

"Had we reached some kind of an agreement, we would have ended the meeting today. No agreement was reached. The divisions are so deep even among experts that we do not expect much from them either. It is obvious that political issues are in question, because until now we have managed to state some things. However, the entire decision-making process will have to be transferred to those who have caused this situation - i.e. politicians", summed up the talks held so far Veselin Vukotic Ph.D. (member of the Montenegrin expert team) after the second meeting held in Podgorica on December 27.

Expert teams have been issued political instructions to find optimal solutions to several issues: constitutional-legal, economic -social, monetary, foreign-political and security. Behind tightly closed doors they have been discussing at separate meetings, with the participation of observers from the European Union, which through diplomatic pressures made Podgorica and Belgrade resume dialogue when political elites of Montenegro, Serbia and FRY concluded after September negotiations that they could not reach an agreement.

Predrag Drecun, a member of the Serbian team and Vice-President of the National Party of Montenegro told us: "Just before their meeting in Podgorica, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy and Security, Javier Solana instructed expert teams that they would have to discuss the federal option, and only afterwards the option on the possible disappearance of the FRY".

Two more Montenegrin experts are defending the "Serbian-Yugoslav colours", i.e. the federation of Montenegro and Serbia, whereas the majority of the eight other members originate from the smaller federal unit. According to political analysts Vojislav Kostunica, the FRY President, wanted to show the international community in this way too, that there are Montenegrins in Montenegro who are cooperating with the Belgrade authorities in contrast to Montenegrin Prime Minister Djukanovic and his "separatists".

"Kostunica's expert team was selected with the intention of artificially transferring the problem of Serbian-Montenegrin relation to the Montenegrin court and trying to present this major problem to Europe and the world as merely internal Montenegrin problem. Kostunica is using the Montenegrin issue for instrumentalising his clerical-nationalistic policy. He is equally opposed to democratic Serbia and democratic Montenegro. That means that he is against democratic Europe. Some of his experts have proven experience with organising anti-Montenegrin, old and new para-political associations. Those people have inherited a tribal spirit and reduce Montenegro to a folklore proof of their deformed understanding of Serbdom and Orthodoxy", said Aleksandar Durisic, a delegate of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).

Experts from Montenegro are trying to define joint functions of Montenegro and Serbia as sovereign states. However, at recent "difficult talks" in Podgorica, as one of the participants assessed them, all options of the Federation have been reviewed, as well as consequences of its disintegration.

In that context, a special emphasis has been placed on monetary issues. As we learned from sources close to the Montenegrin delegation, representatives of Montenegro stood firm on their view that Montenegro should keep its monetary sovereignty and Euro as the official currency and basis of reforms, as well as that in this sphere no concessions could be made to Serbian and Yugoslav authorities, which demanded transfer of monetary sovereignty to Belgrade and reintroduction of the dinar in Montenegrin payment operations. That is why this part of negotiations was nearly suspended soon after economic experts of the two sides exchanged arguments. The Montenegrin side suggested that Serbia should also introduce the Euro, but this idea did not meet with the understanding of Belgrade delegation so that experts parted firmly maintaining their views.

According to Predrag Drecun, representatives of the European Union were not favourably inclined towards the idea of the Montenegrin team either. "The European Union said in no uncertain terms that the Euro, as a joint currency of the Federation, would significantly slow down Yugoslavia's integration into the European Union," said Predrag Drecun in connection with the meeting in Podgorica, claiming that the European Union had no sympathies for the Montenegrin Government's platform on the federation of independent states. It was also impossible to find common language regarding the customs union, which both the Serbian and federal administration are advocating.

"This is totally unacceptable for Montenegro, because our customs duties are very low and our economy totally open in which the services account for 53 to 54 percent", explained Vukotic, Ph.D. This was how Montenegrin Finance Minister Predrag Ivanisevic, also a member of the Montenegrin expert team, explained the reasons why Montenegro could not accept the reintroduction of the dinar and formation of a customs union with Serbia:

"In view of the structure of Montenegrin economy and its openness and development priorities, we in Montenegro think that possible harmonisation of customs rates and regime should be aimed at establishing the lowest possible level, which is already the case in Montenegro. Serbia needs to protect its economy with high rates, which would be very unfavourable for Montenegrin economy and citizens, because it would make imports more expensive and raise the prices. To put it simply, this confirms that in view of differences in economic systems, solutions and scope of reforms, as well as different development priorities, the interest of Montenegro is to be a sovereign state or, a sovereign state in alliance with Serbia and that our proposals are closer to European practice and standards".

The Montenegrin delegation is not optimistic that the third round of negotiations scheduled for January 9, in Belgrade would change much, which is the opinion shared by other parties in favour of independent Montenegro. Belgrade's reactions are also being recalled here, when the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic (again) opposed the Montenegrin proposal on the formation of a federation of two independent states - Serbia and Montenegro, calling it hypocritical. Criticism that can be heard in Montenegro regarding the composition of expert teams also increases pessimistic prognoses.

"Talks conducted between Montenegro and Serbia serve no purpose and cannot produce any scientifically valid result simply because, except for the academician Mijat Sukovic, all experts of both sides for the field of legal-political system are totally illegitimate because none of them have scientific capacities for the mentioned field. Had the talks been truly conducted at the level of experts for legal-political system, their results would have had full scientific, and consequently, actual legitimacy - because among true experts only one force is valid and that is the force of argument. The official authorities should accept and respect the option that has stronger arguments", said Blagota Mitric, L.L.D, professor of the Podgorica Faculty of Law and until-recent President of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro.

It is interesting that even the pro-Yugoslav daily "The Day" (Dan) was critical of the selection of experts that are supposed to find a solution to long-ago disturbed relations within the Federation, i.e. between Serbia and Montenegro. "In contrast to Milo Djukanovic, who has sent to Belgrade 'negotiators' whose names enjoy professional respectability, at least among the separatist bloc, Coalition "Together for Yugoslavia", which has forced its way among negotiators through the federal level, has not shown equal seriousness and responsibility. The impression is that the leaders of this coalition, as well as the FRY President Kostunica, have given up on negotiations in advance and that everything has been organised in such a way so as to show the providers of "good services" (the international community, note of the author) that we are unable to agree. Then the referendum will be inevitable".

It seems that not even the largest opposition party in Montenegro the pro-Yugoslav Socialist National Party (SNP) has any hope that experts will manage to find a way to break the impasse, which the Serbian-Montenegrin federation has fell into. But, its President, Predrag Bulatovic announced:

"If in the next fifteen days or so it turns out that the negotiations on the reorganisation of the federation are just a waste of time and stalling, the SNP will initiate different forms of political activity for the resolution of the over-emphasised state issue and will clearly show who is the party stalling and obstructing the dialogue initiated by the European Union", said Bulatovic, assessing that "the next year will mark the resolution of state and political crisis in Montenegro".

How will this be achieved, Bulatovic did not say, but according to this party a public opinion poll has recently shown that the option of a joint state has prevailed with 53.5 percent. The SNP thinks that this is why the Montenegrin authorities will give up the referendum on the state status of Montenegro and will become reconciled with further joint life of Montenegro and Serbia. However, The Democratic Party of Socialists persistently claims that it is not giving up on the referendum.

"The next year will be the year of rebuilding Montenegrin statehood and of establishing harmonious relations both within Montenegro, as well as with Serbia and other neighbours" said the Montenegrin Prime Minister, Filip Vujanovic at the New Year's cocktail organised in the Government of Montenegro.

Will this remain just an appropriate New Year's wish or will it become a reality? If the experts have their say - more likely the former. But, Montenegrin politicians also do not arouse hope that they will soon put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the sovereign state of Montenegro.