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Montenegro: Resolving the Independence Deadlock
Montenegro: Resolving the Independence Deadlock
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Report 114 / Europe & Central Asia

Montenegro: Resolving the Independence Deadlock

Ten months after the fall of Slobodan Miloševiæ, considerable progress has been made in establishing democratic governance in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and reintegrating the country into the international community.

Executive Summary

Ten months after the fall of Slobodan Miloöević, considerable progress has been made in establishing democratic governance in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and reintegrating the country into the international community. Yet the future of the federation itself remains in doubt. The FRY is a hollow edifice whose institutions hardly function except as an address for the international community. Montenegroís authorities no longer recognise the legitimacy of the federal government. All sides agree that the status quo is unsustainable and that Montenegro and Serbia must find a new basis for their relationship.

Montenegroís authorities remain committed to independence. However, the hopes of the republicís ruling parties that the election on 22 April 2001 would bring a comfortable victory, to be followed swiftly by a referendum and independence, were not realised. The narrow victory for the pro-independence parties only confirmed the depth of division over the republicís status. Plans for an independence referendum were postponed until early 2002. With some difficulty, the pro-independence ruling parties formed a minority government backed by the radically proindependence Liberal Alliance, which demands rapid progress towards a referendum. However, the lack of a broad consensus on the status issue or on the rules and conditions for a referendum makes it difficult to press ahead with independence plans under current circumstances.

While there is little risk of serious conflict in Montenegro, prolonged political uncertainty could further polarise and radicalise the different sides. There is also a danger that the continued domination of the political agenda by the status issue could result in a loss of momentum in government reform efforts.

These risks can, and should, be avoided. Various initiatives are underway to break the deadlock. Serbian government officials have stated that Montenegrins should decide on their future as soon as possible, so that Serbiaís own development will not be held hostage to the indecision of its federal partner. Belgradeís impatience has been heightened by difficulties with its Montenegrin coalition partner at the federal level, the proYugoslav Socialist Peopleís Party (SNP), particularly over cooperation with the international criminal tribunal in The Hague, which the SNP opposes. The view is increasingly gaining ground in Serbia that a federation which is boycotted by the ruling Montenegrin parties and whose survival hinges on an alliance with Miloöevićís recent allies, the SNP, is not worth preserving.

The new FRY government is drafting a constitution for a revitalised, thinner federation. Because they still do not recognise federal institutions, the Montenegrin authorities reject this initiative. Instead, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović hopes that Belgradeís impatience will accelerate direct negotiations with the Serbian government on a new, loose union of independent states.

In case Djukanovićís hope for an agreed separation cannot be achieved, other exits from the deadlock need to be explored. The Montenegrin government stresses the need for dialogue within Montenegro and with Belgrade. This should be encouraged. However, the Montenegrin authorities should be discouraged from proceeding with plans for an independence referendum without having first achieved a consensus on its rules and procedures.

Although the Montenegrin authorities currently refuse to postpone independence plans or to participate at the federal level, a compromise should not be ruled out. To succeed, it would have to avoid the appearance of producing winners and losers. For now, the ruling Montenegrin parties should be encouraged to cooperate at the federal level for the mutual benefit of both Serbia and Montenegro. However, the pro-independence parties cannot realistically be expected to abandon their goal, which did win majority support, though narrowly, on 22 April. Both Belgrade and the international community should acknowledge the right of Montenegrins to choose independence, but they should encourage Montenegrins to postpone any decision to a period when conditions are more favourable than they are now.

Meanwhile, the international community is contributing constructively to long-term stability in Montenegro through extensive technical support for reforms. Continued support should be strictly conditional on progress, especially in making government cleaner and more transparent. Reform of the criminal justice system and serious action against organised crime are litmus tests of the governmentís real willingness to change. At the same time the international community should drop its fruitless and unnecessary opposition to Montenegroís independence, which only hinders its ability to influence developments positively. Rather it should help Montenegro to find a way out of the deadlock over independence by encouraging and assisting in the search for a compromise solution.

Podgorica/Brussels, 1 August 2001

 

Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.

I. Overview

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.[fn]With the adoption of a new Constitutional Charter in February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro redefined their relationship as a loose State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, replacing the former, defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo remains legally a part of this state, as successor to the FRY, although under UN supervision.Hide Footnote As part of this assistance effort, it included the three entities in the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp) that it established to build security in the Western Balkans and open perspectives for eventual membership.[fn]The Western Balkan countries covered by the SAp are, in addition to Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania.Hide Footnote

As far as Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo are concerned, however, Thessaloniki is likely to produce only limited results and not advance long-term stability unless it is harnessed to a clear political agenda to resolve outstanding post-conflict issues and set all three entities firmly on the path of EU integration. For this to happen, the EU must address the status of Kosovo without too much delay. It already plays the key role in promoting the province’s economic development, through both the resources it devotes and its leadership of the economic pillar of the UN administration. Amid widespread calls for it to take on an even greater role, it cannot afford to endanger its substantial political and financial investment because of unreadiness to tackle the underlying causes of instability. The EU should also be ready to help Serbia and Montenegro resolve their relationship in a mutually acceptable way, so that both republics can finally move past the endless debates over statehood that have dominated political life since Milosevic's fall.

In this briefing paper, our basic conclusions with regard to the EU and the SAp are:

  • The EU should maintain its assistance at levels commensurate with the seriousness of the challenges facing Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo provided that they achieve clear, realistic benchmarks along a roadmap whose destination is EU membership.
     
  • The SAp should be adjusted so as to address the specific circumstances in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo more flexibly, in particular through creative use of the new European Partnerships which will be drawn up with each country.

With regard to Kosovo,

  • The EU should prepare to address the issue of Kosovo’s final status, first of all by reaching a common understanding among its member states on their goals.
     
  • Using the European Agency for Reconstruction and in direct liaison with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, the EU should develop an integrated approach to delivering targeted assistance, establishing benchmarks and assessing progress on carrying out reforms in line with EU standards.

Belgrade/Podgorica/Pristina/Brussels, 20 June 2003