AIM: start

FRI, 15 MAR 2002 01:14:54 GMT

Union of Serbia and Montenegro

Solana's Yugoslavia

>From the negotiations that are shrouded in mystery and doubts it is clear that the existing federal state has now become a thing of the past, even if there had been no aspiration for independence in Podgorica. The authorities in Serbia are following their interests rather than emotional or certain imperialist reasons like the ones from the past decade. These are the facts that the European Union will have to take into account much more than before

AIM Belgrade, March 9, 2002

After the Yugoslavia founded by King Aleksandar, then that of Marshall Tito and then the pocket-size one of Slobodan Milosevic, turn has come for the fourth Yugoslavia of the former NATO Secretary General and current High Representative of the European Union Javier Solana.

After the meeting of February 21 in the Federation Palace in Belgrade nobody was in the mood to talk - neither the mediator nor the presidents of the federal state and of Montenegro - Vojislav Kostunica and Milo Djukanovic. Only after he had landed in Brussels, Solana declared that middle of March was the deadline for the reorganization of relations between Serbia and Montenegro and that a "considerable political progress" had been made in Belgrade.

And then - "unofficially", "from well informed forces", "from the circles close to..." - it started to leak all over the place that Solana's plan was as follows: Instead of FR Yugoslavia the new state would be called Union of Serbia and Montenegro; the union would have neither the president nor the prime minister; its ministerial council would have four joint ministries - of defence, foreign affairs (its head would change every year), economic integration and internal trade; only one seat would remain in the United Nations, but a parity would be established in international organizations, financial institutions and embassies; Serbia and Montenegro would have separate customs administrations, tax systems and foreign policies, but they would continue to pay back international debts together, or more precisely, if one of the republics fails to meet its obligations, the other one would do it instead; Montenegro would keep the euro, the parallel introduction of the dinar was left open, as well as the question of the army - special armed forces and unitary ones are under consideration, but on condition military service is done in the home republic; and finally, all this would be checked in a referendum in three years time.

Belgrade sighed a big sigh of relief. If the mentioned list is the maximum compromise that could be reached in the marathon negotiating process, the wonder of the public why have negotiations at all was justified. It seems that the essence was sacrificed for the sake of some kind of a form of the state, assuming that Serbia has a pathological need to remain with Montenegro at any cost, especially because, also informally, it was claimed that Djukanovic had had Solana's plan seven days before February 21 and that the leadership of the federal state received it only on the day of the meeting.

Minister of finance in the government of Serbia, Bozidar Djelic, and governor of the National Bank of Yugoslavia, Mladjan Dinkic, are among those who could not refrain from giving the first comments of this unofficial information. "The joint state of Serbia and Montenegro, formed according to Javier Solana's proposal, would resemble an economic Frankenstein, because it is impossible to guarantee a free market and free flow of goods and services without uniform customs duties. It would practically be a training ground for smuggling" said Djelic. "At any cost, in the alleged state with two currencies, two separate foreign trade systems, systems of taxes and customs duties, there is no sense in it either for Serbia or for such a state", declared Djelic.

These two economists agree that the stated proposals are unacceptable: “either a solution will be found for a functional federation – a single customs system, a single currency, joint access to the European Union and gradual change of regulations – or there will be two separate countries where traveling would be possible without visas, but where every truck will be stopped at the border and cleared through customs” (Djelic), or “Either Solana should change his approach or the European Union should change its negotiator” (Dinkic).

It is not necessary to be a connoisseur of the local political landscape to interpret these statements as the stand of the Government of Serbia. Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic himself informed the public that his political priorities were united internal market and customs, and that Serbia was entitled to elaborate and submit as a proposal its own view of the future relations with Montenegro. But this brings us to the other end of the ruling coalition – Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS).

In his speech at the Main Board of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) the President of this party and of FR Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica said that half of the articles that refer to negotiations with Solana were “pure untruths, and one third of the available texts are exaggerations and not exactly benevolent interpretations”. And then he let critics from the ranks of DOS have it: that they were obstructing the negotiations, that among Serbian opposition at the time only DSS gave a negative assessment of Montenegrin 1999 platform on redefining relations, “that certain people who sought in Montenegro refuge from NATO bombs and Milosevic’s autocratic measures”, helped in the creation of a specific economic policy of Montenegro, and “attended services in an unrecognized Church”, are nowadays suddenly raising the questions whether this community was needed at all... President of FR Yugoslavia stressed that the decision on re-arrangement of relations should be reached by spring and then formulated in the new federal constitution that would enable be followed by new federal elections. Besides and before that, if progress were made in the negotiations, all three parliaments - federal, Serbian, and Montenegrin – would declare themselves concerning the reached solutions.

Kostunica’s words started an avalanche of accusations and counter-accusations. They were then elaborated and repeated by lower party echelons. And then – as it has become quite customary – everything was swept under the carpet. Word arrived from Brussels that the European Union had not made a specific plan, but that Solana just presented certain ideas to be considered and that what newspapers were writing was pure speculation.

At the same time, negotiators in Belgrade and Podgorica agreed not to comment for the time being on the course of negotiations and the offered solutions. Zoran Lutovac, participants in the talks of Serbian and Montenegrin experts and advisor of the Prime Minister of Serbia, says that nothing that the media are speculating about has anything to do with either Solana’s text published in Vijesti daily from Podgorica, nor with the principles of the European Union on efficiency and functionality.

Negotiations – therefore – continue. Under a veil of mystery and doubt, with no details the persons in charge could lay before the public, they still lead to certain conclusions. The first thing that is certain is that the present, third Yugoslavia is the matter of the past. It is unacceptable even for Serbia because due to constitutional solutions it is not sustainable, even if there had been no aspirations for independence of Montenegro; the discord between the coalition parties from the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) which is in favour of Yugoslavia, and DOS on the federal level, is the best example. The second thing which is quite certain is that in these negotiations Serbia is led by interests much more than by emotional or some imperialistic reasons such as those from the past decade. And finally, these are the facts that the European Union shall have to take into account in the future much more than it did in the past.

Philip Schwarm