by Vojislava Vignjevic
Solana’s fragile stop-gap solution known as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) - around which official Belgrade has been weaving a clerico-military-political net in the hope of preventing the holding of the referendum on Montenegro’s independence planned for 2006 - is ineluctably crumbling. Thus, for instance, no one demands the surrender of Karadžić and Mladić from SCG, but rather from Serbia. Here likewise is where the circle begins and ends in regard to Euro-Atlantic integration, given Serbia’s stubborn refusal to give them up.
The whirl of games without frontiers organised by official Belgrade against the pro-independence bloc includes a wide choice of measures: from an open alliance with the leading lights of the Serbian Academy - who have mobilized allegedly in defence of the Union, but in reality in order to preserve this last remnant of the Great Serbia project which, though lost ingloriously in the bloody wars in the former Yugoslav area, remains stubbornly alive in national-fascist minds - to the airborne assault by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on Rumija, symbol of the multi-confessional nature of Montenegro. By receiving leaders of the Movement for a Joint State in his capacity as Serbian prime minister, Koštunica declared himself openly a supporter - if not chief leader - of the movement against Montenegro’s independence. Koštunica, it should be noted, has arrogantly rejected Montenegro’s offer of a confederation of two internationally recognised states, which included open borders and equal rights for all its citizens, apart from voting rights. It is clearly the latter provision that bothered him most, since he would be in no position to interfere in Montenegro’s internal affairs via the Montenegrins living in Serbia and Serbian parties in Montenegro. He has never offered any arguments as to why Serbia cannot accept Montenegro’s independence, preferring instead to speak of the need to respect the existing constitutional charter. This charter, however, rests on the Belgrade Agreement likewise signed by the EU, according to which the functioning of the union of Serbia and Montenegro is limited to three years, after which Montenegro would have the right to conduct a referendum on independence. It is possible, of course, that if Javier Solana changes his mind so too will the Serbian prime minister.
As for Solana himself, it seems that he will find it hard to accept the referendum, since an eventual positive outcome would signal the end of SCG. Hence his statement, after Koštunica had delivered to Brussels a list of alleged Montenegrin citizens living in Serbia - who in his view should have the right to vote in the referendum, despite the fact that natives of Serbia living in Montenegro have never voted in any of the three Serbian referenda held thus far - that the EU will take a ‘political decision’ in regard to the Montenegrin referendum. This would be an unprecedented move. The fact is that no one, not even Solana, can deny to the citizens of Montenegro their democratic right to decide their future, which may explain why nothing has been heard since from Brussels on the issue. But various options orchestrated by Belgrade are nevertheless circulating through the EU capitals, according to which Serbia should supposedly be compensated for the loss of Kosovo by retaining Montenegro, or alternatively Podgorica should postpone any referendum until the problem of Kosovo’s status has been resolved. Neither of these options is relevant, in view of the fact that the referendum is inscribed in the de facto international treaty known as the Belgrade Agreement. It must also be borne in mind that the movement for independence is formed on a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and democratic basis involving broad social layers, so that it remains free from any temporary constellation of party-political forces.
The Serb parties and associations active in Montenegro follow the positions of Belgrade and the SPC. They treat support for the referendum as a call to war. Thus a certain Tapušković, a lawyer who heads the NGO called the Serb Corps, sent a threatening letter to the leaders of the Albanian parties in Montenegro, Bardija and Dinoshi, for daring to suggest that the SPC’s action on Rumija was an affront to ‘all peoples and confessions in Montenegro’. In his letter Tapušković promised an ‘armed rebellion of Serb brigades in Montenegro’, and a ‘final solution of the Kosovo question’. It is significant that such chauvinistic outbursts cause little public reaction, even though not so long ago such threats used to be issued against Slovenes, Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians. Nenad Čanak, one of the rare Serbian politicians to have commented on the increased pressure exerted by Belgrade upon Podgorica, recently issued a serious warning: ‘Koštunica and Amfilohije, backed by the army, are planning for a civil war after the referendum, i.e. a war between Serbia and Montenegro. They are preparing a Bosnian scenario for Montenegro. After the people vote for independence in the referendum, which is bound to happen, various SAOs [Serb Autonomous Regions) will be formed in northern Montenegro, just as they were once established in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There could follow a new Dayton for Montenegro. The only difference is that the new peace agreement will be signed by Koštunica and not Milošević.’
On the other hand a significant number of Western political commentators link Montenegro’s independence with that of Kosovo. Thus the respected British weekly The Economist sees resolution of the status of Montenegro and Kosovo as one of the preconditions for solving the problems of the Balkan region. According to the journal, their acquisition of independence would allow the new states as well as Serbia itself to concentrate on their economic and political tasks.
Any objective analysis of Serbia would come to the conclusion that the old Milošević war policy has been left standing, and that his regime has in fact been restored. This is why the process of Serbia’s transition has not advanced beyond its starting point. As for its attitude to Montenegro, the old imperial aspirations remain unchanged, not merely because the current Serbian president Koštunica is a pronounced nationalist, who has never condemned Milošević’s war policy or war crimes and never distanced himself from the project of Great Serbia - seeking every opportunity to present RS as a second Serbian state only temporarily separated from Serbia, ditto for Montenegro - but also because the dissolution of the old Yugoslav federation has not been completed. This historical process is proceeding, however, and will in the case of Montenegro culminate in the referendum on independence.
Translated from Helsinška povelja, Belgrade, no. 85-86, July-August 2005
Serb nationalists in Montenegro, with strong support from official Belgrade and particularly from prime minister Koštunica, have been provoking and fanning conflict in reaction to the projected referendum on Montenegro’s independence. Their strategy is to convince the international community that the only way to prevent further escalation of tensions is to postpone the referendum.
Over the past few months Metropolitan Amfilohije, leader of the most radical wing of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), has been aggressively denouncing the referendum. In cooperation with the army he organised an ‘airborne assault’ on Mt Rumija, with a helicopter depositing a tin church on its summit as a symbol of SPC supremacy. This incident became a key issue in inter-state relations, thanks to the involvement of the Serbian army. Their joint effort has laid bare the collusion between these two national institutions, which have not ceased to work systematically for the creation of a Great Serbia. That the army was formally restricted to a logistic role alone was due solely to NATO’s presence in the region.
Bishop Amfilohije has in this context also raised the question of returning ‘seized church land’, which according to him covers one third of Montenegro’s territory. He has been warning that everything in Montenegro will have to be divided, in the event that the country opts for independence: schools, the budget and, of course, the territory. He recently conducted a service at Kamnička Bistrica in Slovenia dedicated to Chetniks killed there after World War II. And at the recent burial of Radovan Karadžić's mother, whom he never fails to hail as a Serb heroine, he declared: ‘Mother Jovanka is today being received into the ranks of immortal mothers [.] She taught her progeny that nothing is more sacred than faith and honest service to God and nation.’
Montenegro has always been at the centre of the Serb nationalist project, which is why the resolution of Montenegro’s status is of strategic importance for the whole region. Only Montenegrin independence would end the Serb nationalists’ illusion about Great Serbia. That this idea is still alive is testified to by the fact that Vojislav Š ešelj, in his first appearance in the role of witness for the defence of Slobodan Milošević before the court in The Hague, insisted on the concept of Great Serbia. Š ešelj, who is president of the Serb Radical Party, did this in order to attract voters away from Milošević’s Serb Socialist Party, which is falling apart. He insisted that the Radicals, the largest single party in the Serbian parliament, are the true bearers of this concept, which ‘assumes a single Serbian state that would include all Serb lands and the majority of the Serb people’, and that would nurture ‘the brotherhood and unity of Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Serbs, Muslim Serbs, Protestant Serbs and atheist Serbs’.
From an editorial in Helsinška povelja (Belgrade), July-August 2005