SUN, 27 JAN 2002 06:21:39 GMT
Serbian & Montenegrin Experts on the Future of Yugoslavia
They Achieved Next to Nothing
Reports on what the three expert teams concluded during their talks will
be published on Monday, Jan. 14, and Javier Solana is expected to arrive
in Podgorica in a day or two for yet another round of talks with
republic and federal government representatives.
AIM Podgorica, January 13, 2002
After three rounds of negotiations, two in Belgrade and one in
Podgorica, Mongenegrin, Serbian and federal government expert teams at
the beginning of this week completed their part of the job. That is to
say, it is over for the time being, because there are indications that a
compromise on the future relationship between Montenegro and Serbia
could be sought by mixed, political and expert teams. How fruitful the
debate on the common state or an alliance of states was can be inferred
from a curt announcement released after a full day of talks in
Belgrade's Federation Palace. The teams, dealing with economic and
foreign policy and security issues, managed to produce a joint report
consisting of their firmly opposed stances. Experts analyzing the
constitutional aspects of splitting up could not achieve even that much!
"The key point of contention was the issue of whether we should have one
or two seats in the U.N.," Vuksan Simonovic, a Socialist People's Party
of Montenegro official who spoke in favor of the federal state and a
"redefined, minimal function federation," said briefly. Although after
the third round of negotiations the experts were obliged not to divulge
anything to the press, except for a short briefing by Montenegrin
Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac and Yugoslav presidential
advisor Slobodan Samardzic, details on the debate began leaking out.
Predrag Drecun, a member of the federal team, revealed there was no
political rapprochement, but that a high degree of agreement was reached
in regard to what the consequences of Yugoslavia's dissolution would be!
Drecun added that EU experts confessed to him of being "slightly
displeased" over how the negotiations were organized. According to him,
the foreigners were openly in favor of preserving the common state and
had, occasionally, "better arguments in that regard than we did."
Montenegrin experts were quick to respond to Drecun's statement. After
the talks in Podgorica, Veselin Vukotic denied claims that progress had
been made on the reintroduction of the Yugoslav dinar in Montenegro. A
member of the Montenegrin delegation who wanted to remain anonymous
angrily said after the meeting: "Drecun is telling lies, nothing but
lies!" In any case, except for these tidbits for reporters, nothing else
The results, however, were differently interpreted in Belgrade and
Podgorica on one side, and in Brussels, on the other. Political parties
were unanimous in calling the expert negotiations a failure, and it
seems that nobody expected anything else. "Nobody should be surprised or
disappointed by the results of the talks," said People's Party president
Dragan Soc, adding that the experts were given little maneuvering space
and that politicians would have a final say anyway. "The talks did not
produce a single argument that could convince Montenegro to abandon its
concept of an alliance of two internationally recognized states," said
Democratic Party of Socialist of Montenegro official Igor Luksic.
Solana's spokeswoman, Christine Gallac, said the EU believed "progress
was made in the talks concerning the future of Montenegro and Serbia,
but there is no final agreement and all difficulties have not been
It will be clear who is right on Monday, Jan. 14, after Yugoslav
President Vojislav Kostunica returns from a visit to China and after
what happened at the talks is disclosed. At the middle of next week
senior EU official Javier Solana, Vojislav Kostunica, Serbian Premier
Zoran Djindjic, and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus will
arrive in Podgorica. At a meeting with Montenegrin President Milo
Djukanovic and Premier Filip Vujanovic they will attempt to end the
deadlock. Judging by what Brussels says, which was confirmed by
Djindjic, after this meeting talks could continue at the highest level
or in the presence of experts for another 10 days "because not all
options have been exhausted."
Supporters of the federation do not hide they expect the EU to exert
strong pressure on Djukanovic to give up his idea of holding a
referendum, and to accept some form of union with Serbia. Dragan Soc
believes that European diplomats will find a compromise and offer it to
embattled factions inside Montenegro. "I believe this compromise will be
a federal solution. After that it will be clearer whether Djukanovic
will decide to lead Montenegro to a clash with Europe, or will realize
that his policy is not supported either by Montenegro or Europe, and
will yield," said Soc.
The director of the Podgorica Center for Democracy, Srdjan Darmanovic,
however, does not expect the EU to resort to a take-it-or-leave-it
approach and threaten to punish Podgorica if it refuses a federation.
"Europe does not have any reason for such an attitude, because
objectively Montenegro is not a threat to peace in the region, nor has
it violated any international standards. This is why the EU will not
have sanctions backed by all 15 members if Djukanovic persists on the
road to independence," said Darmanovic. Belgrade analyst Srbobran
Brankovic, director of the Medium agency, shares this view. "The EU will
say what it thinks, but I am not sure they will pressure those who
disagree," says Brankovic and adds that Brussels will not be too firm if
it turns out that the independence option receives strong support in
If sincere, the position announced by EU Council of Ministers officials
after the talks is certainly the most significant. The officials
stressed that although they are against a separation of Montenegro and
Serbia, "the Union will not impose a solution on the two sides."
Montenegro's media outlets widely publicized an analysis by Helmuth
Lipelt, a rapporteur of the Council of Europe's Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights, who said it was not the Council's job to
regulate relations between Serbia and Montenegro. He added that
Djukanovic's idea of a union of two internationally recognized states,
with common international borders, a common market and the euro as legal
tender, was not in opposition to a trend of future European integration.
Lipelt's statement came after a series of statements and analyses which
in the past several weeks created an impression that international
opposition to Montenegro's independence was gradually weakening. The
hopes of the pro-independent forces were greatly boosted by Washington's
silence and its recent US$15 million aid package to the smaller Yugoslav
republic. This is why negotiations between Belgrade and Podgorica are
increasingly being perceived as a mere formality, which Solana needs
more than Djukanovic and Kostunica.
The real story, inside Montenegro itself, has yet to begin to unravel.
At least officially.