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Montenegro: Settling for Independence?
Montenegro: Settling for Independence?
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 107 / Europe & Central Asia

Montenegro: Settling for Independence?

International relief at the fall of the regime of Slobodan Miloševiæ has been marred by dismay at the prospect of a breakaway from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) by Montenegro.

Executive Summary

International relief at the fall of the regime of Slobodan Miloöević has been marred by dismay at the prospect of a breakaway from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) by Montenegro. As long as Miloöević was in power, the international community supported Montenegroís moves to distance itself from Belgrade. With Miloöević gone, it was widely expected that Belgrade and Podgorica could patched up their relationship, and find a satisfactory accommodation within the framework of the FRY. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovićís decision to opt instead for independence has caused international consternation.

The FRY has long since ceased to function in any meaningful sense. Over the past three years, Montenegro and Serbia have, for all intents and purposes, come to operate as separate states. This was in large part due to actions by Belgrade that ended meaningful Montenegrin participation in joint, federal institutions. In response, Montenegro took over the functions which notionally belonged in the federal domain. The governing parties in Montenegro have not participated in the federal parliament since 1998, and they boycotted the September 2000 federal elections that brought defeat to Miloöević. The principal pro-Yugoslav party, the Socialist Peopleís Party (SNP), does participate at the federal level, and is a member of the coalition that governs FRY. Montenegroís governing parties do not recognise the legitimacy of the federal authorities for Montenegro, insisting that they represent only Serbia.

The Montenegrin government and FRY President Vojislav Koötunica have presented different proposals to change the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia. In August 1999, the Montenegrin government adopted a ìPlatformî that envisaged a very loose union, in a single state, with limited joint functions in areas such as monetary policy, defence and foreign policy. In December 2000, a revised platform was presented by Djukanovićís Democratic Party of Socialists and its coalition partner, the smaller Social Democratic Party (SDP). This differed from its predecessor in the key respect that it envisaged a union of two independent states, with separate international subjectivity and two UN seats. In response, in January 2001 Koötunica issued a counter-proposal for a functioning federation, with considerable powers devolved to the two republics. Koötunicaís proposal was endorsed by Serbiaís ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS).

Initial attempts at negotiation between Belgrade and Podgorica proved fruitless, sticking on the question of a single-state or a two-state solution. However, many of the issues to be addressed in defining a future relationship remain the same, whatever shape that relationship will take. These include the practicalities of putting in place a single market and a currency union, co-ordination over taxation and competition policy, and education and healthcare provision. A more constructive approach would be to discuss how such matters would be dealt with in future. Belgrade and Podgorica should be encouraged to begin negotiations on such areas of common interest as soon as possible, and before any referendum on independence for Montenegro. They should start by defining points of crucial concern to each side. For example, it is important for Montenegro to ensure that all security forces in the republic should be under its control, so it will never again be subject to threats from Belgrade.

The international community has made clear its opposition to Montenegrin independence moves. This opposition has largely been ineffectual, and has not deflected the Montenegrin government. Whether or not Montenegro will become independent will depend on domestic factors, in particular the performance of the pro-independence parties in parliamentary elections scheduled for 22 April 2001.

International opposition has been based on fears that independence would destabilise both Montenegro and the region. Such fears are probably exaggerated. With Miloöević removed, the threat that Belgrade might use force to prevent Montenegroís departure has all but disappeared. Without support from Belgrade, any in Montenegro who might wish to resist Montenegrin independence other than through political means would have little prospect of success. SNP leaders have in general participated constructively on the Montenegrin scene, and deny any intention of opposing independence other than politically.

Fears of wider regional destabilisation also seem exaggerated. While Kosovo Albanian leaders would welcome Montenegrin independence and the ending of the FRY that that would imply, they say there would be no immediate consequences for Kosovo. Kosovo has to establish functioning institutions and prepare for self-government before its final status can be resolved. The question of that status needs to be resolved by the international community irrespective of what Montenegro does. Fears of a possible domino effect, with Montenegrin independence encouraging separatism among the ethnic-Albanian community in Macedonia and among Serbs and Croats in Bosnia are similarly misplaced. As a full republic of former Yugoslavia, Montenegroís position is rather analogous to that of Slovenia and Croatia, with the exception that Montenegroís departure should not be expected to bring serious instability, domestically or regionally.

The key international interest is not served by heading off Montenegrin moves towards independence, but rather by achieving a solution, whatever it may be, that does not undermine stability in the region, and may in the longer term be most likely to enhance it. The international community should adopt a neutral stance as to the final outcome. In the mean time, it should be ready to assist Montenegro and Serbia in working out the details of their future relationship. It should also be ready to appoint a high-level mediator or facilitator to help them reach agreement on their final status, perhaps under the auspices of the OSCE.

Podgorica/Brussels, 28 March 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