AIM: start

MON, 11 MAR 2002 01:46:39 GMT

Ten Years After Montenegrin Referendum

The Years That Have Ruined People

Montenegro has paid dearly for its illusion by the creation of the joint state with Serbia, and nowadays it is faced with a new absurdity: the international community will not allow it to liberate itself by democratic vote from the state that has proven to be an absolute failure

AIM Podgorica, March 2, 2002

Ten years ago with an exceptionally high percentage of votes (95.7) grown up citizens of Montenegro and its administration renounced their own state. At the expressly organized referendum on March 1, 1992, they offered it to Slobodan Milosevic as a sacrifice. Ever since Montenegro is trying in vain to make amends for that big illusion. Ironically, while the trial to Milosevic, the creator of FRY, is going on in the Hague, the decision should be reached – Montenegro will either have a new referendum in order to become an independent and internationally recognized state or it will continue with its destiny tied to Serbia in a somewhat modified state community.

But, let us go back a decade. Pressured by Slobodan Milosevic, at the time the already proven promoter of war policy aimed at creation of Greater Serbia, Montenegrin regime agreed to create with Serbia a new, third Yugoslavia, on the ruins of SFRY. The warnings of pro-Montenegrin opposition parties (Liberal League and Social Democratic Party), independent associations and intellectuals that the project of the cancelling Montenegro were all in vain: assisted with an unprecedented media campaign and other aspects of manipulation of the public, it plunged into preparing the referendum.

It was a series of obvious foul dealings, like the referendum itself. First, the citizens were deceived by the confusing and leading referendum question which was made public just seven days before the referendum. In such a short period of time they had to make up their minds whether they were in favour of Montenegro’s continuing to live as a sovereign republic in Yugoslavia together with Serbia and other republics that also wished to do it?

The regime, or rather the Democratic Party of Socialists, at the last moment even changed the Law on Referendum – it shortened the minimum of thirty days from the end of the public debate until the referendum to only seven days! In fact, instead of a public debate, Montenegrin police prevented the United Opposition from holding discussions, groups for pressure intimidated and blackmailed voters with their jobs, state media literally demanded the lynch of the opposition leaders...

According to everything it was an ambience in which it was impossible to organize a democratic referendum. The war was raging in the immediate neighbourhood, numerous Montenegrin citizens participated in it, Montenegro was occupied by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), institutions of Montenegrin administration practically did not have any power, it was the time when an avalanche of refugees arrived in Montenegro, when runaway inflation united with social misery and general hopelessness were the main characteristics of Montenegrin reality...

The referendum itself was irregular. Almost anybody could vote, even persons who were not the citizens of Montenegro. Even persons whose names were not in voters’ register voted at the referendum, as well as refugees, army officers and their families who had arrived in Montenegro just a month or two before. It was a party, or more precisely, single-party referendum because only the Democratic Party of Socialists could control its course and outcome. Many curiosities were registered at the time, the following among other: according to the officially stated results, statistics shows that at a polling station in Podgorica each voter completed voting in just one minute!

Protests of the opposition and complaints about numerous unlawful dealings during voting had no effect. The protest of the International Human Rights Federation from Paris had no practical influence either. The Federation evaluated the referendum as irregular because it was a violation of provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. The decision reached by the referendum, though, could not be changed by anybody. It confirmed what both the Montenegrin and the Serbian authorities wished: new Yugoslavia of nine million inhabitants was patched up together by an irregular decision of one quarter of the citizens of Montenegro!

The result of everything Montenegro has experienced and endured to this day because of the state community with Serbia is, to put it simply, catastrophic: international economic and political isolation, economic sanctions introduced by Serbia, political, military and other forms of pressure from official Belgrade, thousands of refugees from Kosovo where Milosevic had started a new war, underestimating of Montenegrin nation, culture, Church...

By lingering on in FRY Montenegro has in every sense irreparably lost ten years and for who knows how many years fallen behind the modern world. Now it is trying to free itself from the strong federal embrace and approach Europe at least a little bit. Another referendum. But ironically – that very Europe will not allow it to organize a referendum. High Representative of the European Union, Javier Solana, insists on preservation of the Serbian and Montenegrin state, allegedly for the sake of stability in the region. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic has several times already announced that the referendum would take place in May this year at the latest. But the European Union would much rather have a moratorium on it for three years. That is how, quite possibly, another paradox will happen: while Milosevic and his policy are on trial in the Hague, the European Union is trying to preserve his creation. And to make the whole affair even more interesting: this approach of the Europeans is supported in Montenegro by political forces that were until recently vehement supporters of “humane moving” and ethnically cleansed states. On the other hand, political forces that during the past decade supported and fought for the introduction of European standards into Montenegro are now surprised by the new stand of the European Union.

But, regardless of the paradox, like many times before the international community has ways to achieve what it intends to do and pressure Montenegro to remain in the union with Serbia. History would in this way be repeated as a farce and as a tragedy.