Montenegro: In the Shadow of the Volcano
Montenegro: In the Shadow of the Volcano
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 89 / Europe & Central Asia

Montenegro: In the Shadow of the Volcano

Montenegro has been a crisis-in-waiting for two years now, with Belgrade opposing efforts by a reform-minded government under President Milo Djukanović to distance itself ever further from its federal partner Serbia.

Montenegro has been a crisis-in-waiting for two years now, with Belgrade opposing efforts by a reform-minded government under President Milo Djukanović to distance itself ever further from its federal partner Serbia.  Federal President Slobodan Milošević has steadily escalated the pressure against Djukanović, probing the extent of NATO support for Montenegro and pushing the Montenegrins toward a misstep that might undermine their international backing. Each of the three possible policy-paths facing the Montenegro government, however, is unappealing in its own way:

  • Going ahead with a referendum on independence for Montenegro would risk radicalising a population still peacefully divided over the issue, and would offer maximum provocation to Belgrade, which retains a powerful military presence in Montenegro.
     
  • Maintaining the status quo may offer a better chance of avoiding open confrontation with Belgrade, but it leaves Montenegro in a limbo. Its friends are not offering all the help they could, on the grounds that it is not a sovereign state; but prospects for self-generated income through inward investment or revival of the tourist industry are still hostage to international risk perceptions.
     
  • Achieving rapprochement with the Serbian government would be possible if Milošević went.  But Montenegro cannot afford to leave its future in the unsure hands of the present Serbian opposition. And as the atmosphere in Serbia steadily worsens, political and public opinion in Montenegro appears to grow ever less willing to compromise.

Djukanović is under some domestic pressure to move faster towards holding a referendum, but all his foreign contacts are advising him to go carefully and not provoke Belgrade into a response, and for the moment he is being patient. For its part, the Belgrade regime seems content for now to play a cat-and-mouse game with the Montenegrin government and population, keeping them nervous and not knowing what to expect.  Montenegro’s dual-currency system – with both Deutschmarks and dinars as legal tender – appears to have stabilised the economy at the cost of unwelcome if temporary inflation, but Serbia has intensified its trade and financial blockade.

Overall, the situation is fragile, and could deteriorate rapidly. The fifth war of the break-up of Yugoslavia may not be far away. Montenegro’s friends need to act quickly, decisively and visibly if this prospect is to be avoided.

The NATO allies can help Djukanović out of his policy trilemma

  • by giving Montenegro the economic support it deserves but is presently being denied (reducing the perceived advantages of independence);
     
  • by increasing the presence and visibility of the international community in Montenegro (giving political support, and raising the stakes for any would-be attacker); and
     
  • by making a stronger direct commitment to Montenegro’s security, backing that commitment with a formal authorisation to NATO to commence military planning and appropriate movement of forces.

Unless an effective deterrent strategy is rapidly developed and applied, the international community will again cede the initiative to Milošević, and could yet again in the Balkans find itself reacting, after the event, to killing and destruction that could have been prevented.

Podgorica/Washington/Brussels, 21 March 2000

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.

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

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