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New Series no.17/18 July - September 2000

Montenegro' descent into darkness

Faced with the choice between a `confederal' federation offered by Croatia and Slovenia and an `asymmetric' federation proposed by Bosnia and Macedonia, Montenegro obeyed Milosevic and opted for his `modern' federation. This project was first formulated in the soücalled Belgrade Initiative, which Montenegro's government then unreservedly adopted.

Months earlier Monitor had predicted Yugoslavia's breaküup. The editorial `Black Friday', published on 18 October 1991, stated: `It seems that Slovenia and Croatia, and most likely also BosniaüHerzegovina and Macedonia, will soon gain international recognition of their independence þ unless the SerbianüMontenegrin bloc renounces a military solution to the Yugoslav question and agrees to discuss a loose association of independent states. The problem, in fact, will not be recognition of the independence of these republics, but the difficulties that the Belgrade Initiative - i.e. the ``administrative'' territory of Serbia and Montenegro - will face in regard to international recognition, given that no one wishes to join them.'

The Montenegrin delegation to the Hague Peace Conference on Yugoslavia initially supported the agreement for a global solution of the Yugoslav crisis, which envisaged the creation of an association of independent states made up of the former Yugoslav republics. The Montenegrin parliament, at an extraordinary session on 24 and 25 October 1991, gave its support for this stance. In reaction to this `betrayal of Serbia', an avalanche of attacks on the Montenegrin leadership came from Belgrade. Monitor's analysis was as follows: `The general hullabaloo and the attack on Montenegro's latest move have finally uncovered the real proponents of what is now clearly a failed project. Sensing in the Hague document an obituary of their ambitions to establish the borders of their new ``Yugoslavia'' by recourse to murder and destruction, they have suddenly remembered that the old Yugoslavia, until recently so detested by them, should ``be preserved''. The Serbian leadership's campaign was joined by Branko Kostic [from Montenegro], then viceüpresident of the rump SFRJ presidency, with a few other ``local forces''. In October and at the start of November 1991, Monitor analysed in detail the reasons behind this negation of Montenegro's thousandüyearüold state sovereignty and the nature of the interests defended by Kostic and his followers. An article entitled `Two brothers, both delegates' described a group of Montenegrin deputies in the Federal assembly forming `part of the Great Serb lobby with a Communist ideological orientation': `Moved by their duty to mighty Serbdom, these polyvalent Montenegrin delegates in what can no longer be described as a SFRJ assembly have decided that they can best represent Montenegro's and their own interests by submitting to the official Serbia incarnated by SLOBA - which they treat, of course, as the equivalent of Yugoslavia.'

Under Milosevic's pressure, the Montenegrin leaders made a turn. Momir Bulatovic, president of Montenegro's presidency, withdrew his signature on the document adopted at The Hague, or rather on 30 October 1991 Serbia and Montenegro submitted an amendment whereby that signature was annulled. Monitor's comment (`One step forward, two steps back', 6 November 1991) was: `The greatest unknown in this whole story about Montenegro is the view of the ruling party. The latest debates in the parliament suggest the existence of significant differences among its deputies and in the party apparatus, not to speak of the population at large, regarding Montenegro's right to independence. It is difficult, however, to gain from the speeches of the party and state leaders any understanding of what their starting point is. Their positions vary from one case to another, while the basic message apparently remains that ``Montenegro will not accept less independence than the current constitution grants it.'' Due to its lack of a concept of its own, and its chronic dependence upon the Belgrade regime, this government has proved incapable of foreseeing developments. This is why it regularly finds itself in a situation where it is forced post facto to adopt positions against which it once fought with all its might.'

In the issue of 15 November 1991, Monitor asked whether Montenegro's place should be in the United Serbian Lands or in a United Europe: `Bulatovic and Dukanovic have always known that Milosevic is a tyrant, that his policy relies on naked force, and that it will have a tragic outcome; but they have never dared to draw his attention to the fact, if only in a friendly manner. They have followed him blindly, so leading not just themselves but Montenegro too into a blind alley.'

Assessing the political results of 1991 for Montenegro, Monitor concluded in its last December issue: `The contribution of official Montenegro towards the ideological project called ``rump Yugoslavia'' has been considerable all along. From the start, it followed every political move and caprice of the Belgrade regime, not desisting even when it became clear that a Greater Serbia was possible only by the Serbs becoming all powerful. It altruistically offered up on the altar of this idea all that Montenegro possessed - the chance of working together with the rest of the world, an immense historical and moral capital - and did not hesitate to offer when needed also Montenegro's young men.'

During January and February 1992 Monitor wrote a great deal about Montenegro's chances of escaping from the Yugoslav chaos and joining Europe. `The only nation in this area which has always been free and in possession of its own state will now not gain one when others are doing so, because it has not been permitted to demand it. The Montenegrin government is hoping that someone else will give it the sovereignty that it is not permitted to demand. A strange transformation has taken place in the minds of people who were capable of winning their sovereignty at a time when no else could, but who are now not able merely to say ``yes'' when those who remained silent throughout their history have done so', wrote Monitor in its issue of 3 January 1992 under the heading `Fear of oneself'. `Montenegro must understand what its government is carefully hiding from it: that Yugoslavia no longer exists, and that the rump Yugoslavia represents a historical cataclysm for all who ``wish to live together'', and especially for Montenegro. It must understand that has waged war for someone else and at a price of its own shame. That its youth has been used as cannon fodder for the aims of the Serbian regime and army. That its puppet government was what tipped the scales, and could have prevented the outbreak of war and Yugoslavia's disappearance. That this government has no other aim but to remain in power and is ready to make every sacrifice for this purpose. That at this moment its only aim is to survive the regime of its Serbian creator.'

Following the decision of the Montenegrin assembly to hold a referendum in which the citizens would decide whether they wished Montenegro to continue to live in the same state as Serbia, in its article `A nonüexistent state' published on 17 January 1992 Monitor argued: `The decisions of the DPS [exücommunist ruling party] Central Committee, though carefully formulated to permit all manner of different interpretations, should be under stood as follows: that the citizens of Montenegro will not be permitted to declare themselves in favour of independence and international recognition for their republic. The forecast that the Montenegrin leadership will offer a choice between different options has proved wrong.'

Monitor reported in detail on the events preceding the formal proclamation of the SerbianüMontenegrin federation. Our paper paid great attention to the fact that in such a state Montenegro could not be equal to Serbia; and spoke out against the irregular atmosphere and undemocratic acts that accompanied the referendum preparations, targeting especially the Montenegrin government: `They are the ones who compromised this country and isolated it from the rest of the world. It is they who invented conflicts between Serbs and Montenegrins, who fortified the borders between Serbia and Montenegro and began an economic war between the two countries. But by sowing fear and applying all kinds of pressure and terror, they are still able to create an atmosphere to justify it. They who have brought disaster upon the nation - its ruin and its social and economic misery; its moral and spiritual degradation; and above all its international isolation - are capable of doing the same in the future. In various ways, including by holding this referendum, they can preserve or increase their power; but at the price of a permanent fear that conjures up vampires in their drugged minds', wrote Monitor two weeks before the referendum.

During this time Monitor also published a comment entitled `The nation as a cudgel', quoting the Serbian politician Kosta Cavoski: `The Montenegrins are the only people in the world that is happiest living in a foreign state.' In a subsequent issue we stated: `The Montenegrin leadership has agreed to all Milosevic's blackmail. He who created them out of nothing is now returning them to their original state. The ethical lowest point has been reached and the coming referendum is nothing but a farce.' And on 28 February 1992 Monitor's editorial related: `The Montenegrin nation has economic, civilizational and historical reasons for having its own state. Momir Bulatovic has announced that he will resign if Montenegro opts for independence. He is the first ruler in Montenegro's thousandüyearüold history who does not wish for independent rule.'

The referendum itself was accompanied by a report entitled `Referendum about abolition of the state of Montenegro', and subtitled `the whole thing was a fraud'. Monitor wrote: `The International Human Rights Federation believes that the referendum in Montenegro was held in conditions contrary to articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Declaration on Human Rights. The result cannot have any legal value. The Federation is ready to defend this view before the international bodies to which it is accredited: the United Nations and the European Union.' This refers to a letter sent by the Federation's president to Branko Kostic on 3 March 1992, which Monitor published immediately after the referendum on 6 March. Monitor also wrote about the hurried procedure for adoption of the federal constitution, the draft of which was available for public discussion for only ten days. `The Federal Assembly on one and the same day discussed the draft constitution, confirmed its procedural validity, and adopted it - with 73 deputies voting for it out of a total of 230.'

Monitor termed this `third Yugoslavia': `soücalled', `rump', `temporary', `little', `truncated', `Serbogora'. As soon as it was proclaimed it became a nonüexistent state, plagued with numerous problems. One was the evident inequality between its two components, as Monitor pointed out in its issue of 10 July 1992. `They [i.e. the Montenegrin leadership] have rushed into the new state with the false hope that the promised equality will come as a reward for their readiness to save Milosevic's - and, of course, also their own - regime, and for their display of brotherly love [for the Serbs]. The opposition's clamour that union with a state sixteen times larger will cement Montenegro's inequality, that the referendum was illegal and the government is illegitimate, has led to its supporters being labelled traitors and separatists. Everything has carefully been wrapped up in platitudes about ``complete equality'', ``a sovereign state'', ``the minimum below which we would not go'' - but it is clear that these are nothing but empty words.'

By entering into a federation with Serbia, Montenegro also accepted the burden of international economic sanctions. In its issue of 25 September 1992 Monitor summed up the consequences of international isolation, which `the incompetent administration skilfully uses as an alibi for its own mistakes', as follows: `Bad managers also use the sanctions as ideal cover for their own alleged innocence in the ruin of their firms. One can frequently hear managers, and especially those from the economic chamber, saying that the sanctions are to blame and that without them Montenegro would indeed flourish.'

Life, however, carried on. `At 11.15 p.m. precisely Montenegro acquired a new constitution. Its most relevant aspect is that Montenegro barely exists as a quasiüsovereign quasiüstate', wrote Monitor on 12 October 1992. Ensuing developments elicited the following comment, published on 30 October 1992: `There is only one political ideal for which it is worth living today, and that is a peaceful, modern and sovereign Montenegro.' It was during this turbulent period that the hundredth issue of Monitor appeared. In a text dedicated to this proud event, the editors noted: `Monitor is written proof of the fact that what is being done in Montenegro's name today has nothing to do with Montenegro and the Montenegrins.'

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