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. 概述
Report 114 / Europe & Central Asia 3 minutes

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

 

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.