AIM: start

TUE, 26 MAR 2002 23:41:23 GMT

Disappearance of Last Yugoslavia

Controlled Split

In the past 18 months democratic leaders of Serbia and Montenegro have manifested incapability for negotiations and a constructive compromise, so in the next 36 months regular European arbitration in controversies is more likely than a serious progress in implementation of what the agreement reached in Barcelona could mean

AIM Belgrade, March 20, 2002

On the day when European-Serbian-Montenegrin agreement that marked the end of the state of Yugoslavia was signed, in Belgrade the usual one hundred certificates on – Yugoslav citizenship – were issued. It is true that for quite some time already it actually implies the citizenship of one of the two last remaining members of the “big Yugoslavia” the bloody dissolution of which began in 1991. “Big” Yugoslavia had lasted for 73 years, and the “small” one – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) hardly ten. Among numerous anachronisms characteristic of all Yugoslavias the fact that until January 1 of this year the passport of former “big” Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was valid does not seem to be too absurd in comparison with the uncertainty of the answer to the question which passport will be valid in three years time. According to the agreement on the establishment of the “state” that will be called Serbia and Montenegro the question of its existence will not be raised before 2005.

That the solutions prescribed by the Agreement on the Principles of Relations between Serbia and Montenegro within the state community adopted in Belgrade on March 14 and solemnly signed at the ministers’ summit of the European Union in Barcelona on March 15, is just temporary is more than obvious. The highest state authorities of Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) will be (1) a single-chamber assembly, in which it will be impossible to make decisions by outvoting and which elects (2) the president of SCG, whose job is, among other, to head the (3) council of ministers and the (4) state court. In the jurisdiction of the council of ministers are foreign relations, defence, international economic relations, internal economic relations, and human and minority rights. When the state court is concerned, its only job is to make court practice in SCG uniform.

The existing nonsense of commanding the army by consensus of the Supreme Defence Council formed of the president of SCG and presidents of Serbia and Montenegro was maintained in the agreement. The other elements of the traditional state, single market and army, were not specified. In the routine listing of a joint market, free movement of persons, commodities, services and capital, the agreement does not mention the currency of SCG at all. This means that the agreement recognizes the status quo, the fact that Serbia has its own money – the dinar, while Montenegro has recently shifted from the German mark to the euro. The existing “duality” was also left in the sphere of the customs duties and customs administration, and numerous other issues – with the best intentions, probably – were left open.

The publication of the content of the agreement that the public had speculated on for days affected economic and financial experts the most. “The only thing that is clear is that nothing is clear”, Governor of the National Bank of Yugoslavia, Mladjan Dinkic, declares. Assessing that the agreement between Serbia and Montenegro is a “confederacy not just in the political, but also in the economic sense” because it does not prescribe joint customs, currency and foreign trade, minister of finance in the government of Serbia, Bozidar Djelic, adds that in these sectors Serbia will have the same relations with Montenegro as with all the other states. Federal Vice Premier Miroljub Labus, who greatly deserves the merit for the return of FRY into international financial institutions and successful negotiations on written off and rescheduled Yugoslav debts, declares that he does not see a post for himself in the future council of ministers. He stresses the inequality of the responsibility of the signatories: failure to implement the agreement will cost Serbia and Montenegro their reception in European integration, while failure to keep its promises will cost the European Union nothing but its reputation. Quite bluntly, Labus adds that Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security, will be responsible for the success (failure) of the agreement.

These three quoted experts, who at their political posts by far have the highest rating in Serbia’s public, met with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in the week that preceded the agreement. The topic of these meetings was defining of the minimum requirements below which Serbia would not go in negotiations with Montenegro – the joint currency, banking system and customs. The fact that the signed agreement disregarded these issues naturally caused slightly bitter reactions of the three experts. Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, publicly welcomed the agreement to an equal extent as its other signatories: with no enthusiasm and with just conventional and expected expressions of content.

Political parties in Serbia and Montenegro were unanimous in loud discontent with their assessment of the agreement, although causes of bitterness and disappointment were different in Serbia from those in Montenegro. To be very brief: Serbia has lost a state and Montenegro has gained its. In other words, political parties in Serbia – regardless of whether they are the members of the ruling coalition or of the opposition – believe that the union of Serbia and Montenegro as defined by the agreement signed in Barcelona can be anything but a state. In this sense it was often stressed that the agreed degree of togetherness of Serbia and Montenegro was considerably lower than the one the members of the European Union are obliged to. On the other hand, Montenegrin political parties – primarily the Liberal League and the Social Democratic Party whose support provides the survival of the minority Montenegrin government, consider Djukanovic’s consent to the agreement betrayal of the joint platform on the independence of Montenegro. The discontent within Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists is subdued by party discipline. In Montenegro the only ones that expressed content with the agreement are the members of the For Yugoslavia coalition which – as only one of the many paradoxes – on the federal level do not support even the efforts of the President of FRY Vojislav Kostunica to squeeze cooperation with the Hague Tribunal into any – either Yugoslav or joint – legal framework.

Intuition – serious public opinion polls have not been carried out yet – point out to the assumption that the agreement on the “state” of Serbia and Montenegro will turn what has so far been a minority disposition for the split with Montenegro into a majority one. On the other hand, the former division concerning the question of independence in Montenegro will further deepen. In this sense, some Belgrade analysts believe, Milo Djukanovic will be faced with serious temptations. Without the support of Montenegrin Social Democrats and Liberals – the support which was conditioned by his acceptance and implementation of the program of state independence – Djukanovic’s position becomes considerably weaker and his political future more insecure. The awareness of negative effects of the consent to the agreement on SCG is evident in the first declarations of Djukanovic’s associates: according to them, the decision on independence of Montenegro has practically just been postponed for three years. This – and it seems to be a paradox only at first sight – could be a more probable outcome than the chances that union of Serbia and Montenegro will last after the year 2005.

It is necessary to recall that overthrowing of Milosevic’s regime 18 months ago has not contributed to bringing Montenegro any closer to democratic Serbia, but on the contrary, that it has led to Djukanovic’s more intimate connections with the “separatist” Montenegrin option. Now it is not at all important any more whether Djukanovic could have corrected the wrong decision to boycott federal elections, because he has not done it in the meanwhile. On the contrary, with the firm stand on the “union of two independent, internationally recognized states” (which resembles best the proposal “let’s get divorced so we can get married better”), he provoked the interference of the European Union in the form of Javier Solana’s mediation that has brought about the agreement that nobody is satisfied with.

As far as the future is concerned it is difficult to believe that after signing of the agreement on SCG either Serbia or Montenegro will do anything serious to implement it. It is easy to predict the behavior of both parties: it will be political exploitation of numerous elements that make SCG a truly virtual, or more than a formal union of the two states. At this moment it is hard to imagine that the assemblies of Serbia and Montenegro will ratify the agreement, and nothing to say about passing of the constitutional principles – planned to take place by the end of the year. The agreement definitely pushes to the margins the post of the president of Yugoslavia occupied by Vojislav Kostunica, which will certainly have intensification of the already existing political conflicts in Serbia itself as its consequence. Independently from gloomy forecasts, from the aspect of ordinary citizens of Serbia and Montenegro the forced solution of the “joint state” of Serbia and Montenegro is essentially yet another postponement of great, regardless of how actually founded they are, expectations for the future. In the past 18 months democratic leaders of Serbia and Montenegro have manifested incapability for negotiations and a constructive compromise, so in the next 36 months regular European arbitration should be expected rather than a serious progress in the implementation of what the Barcelona agreement could mean.

Nobody knows what was the stick Javier Solana had used as the threat in the negotiations, but a large carrot was offered to Serbia and Montenegro in the form of specific assistance and faster becoming part of Europe. The bad custom of good memory is to remind: for example, of how a similar attempt with the former “big” Yugoslavia – failed in 1990/91. The fact that this new creation does not bear the name Yugoslavia is, however, no guarantee that it will not fall apart.

Aleksandar Ciric