bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
Serbian liberals play same old tune - II
by Sonja Biserko

Liberals play same old tune - II

Sonja Biserko

A negative attitude towards Montenegro is escalating, and there is ever more obvious frustration at the impossibility of getting Montenegro to ‘see reason’. The changed circumstances in Belgrade, and the great international support for Koštunica and for FRY’s admission to the UN and other international bodies, only add to the dissatisfaction with Montenegro - which is not just uncooperative, but the only country not to recognise Koštunica as FRY president.

This frustration is visible in the statements made by prominent Serbian politicians. There are those who favour ‘Serbia’s separation from Montenegro, since Montenegro is abusing Serbia’. Most of the criticism is directed against Djukanovic, along the lines of: ‘his political vanity has suffered ... he should understand by now that he will never again be able to behave in the way to which he has become accustomed’. Many assert that Djukanovic will never resort to a referendum, since he is not sure of the outcome; so ‘Montenegro could actually realise its independence only by the will of Serbian voters’. Some national strategists, like Dušan Batakovic for example, are more cautious and indeed paternalistic in their assessment of the situation in Montenegro, ‘whose interest is to remain with Serbia. Further fragmentation of the territory makes no economic or political sense. Since in Montenegro the question of secession is mainly linked to economic problems, separatism there will grow weaker.’

It is the position of so-called liberals like Vesna Pešic and Mileta Prodanovic which are most surprising. Stojan Cerovic in his columns in Vreme has for many months now been arguing against Montenegrin independence: ‘Montenegro’s separatists will be disappointed, but they can no longer blame Belgrade for this. Their ambition finds no support in the world, which means that no one is willing to bail out an independent Montenegro financially, while in the republic itself there is a lack of enthusiasm for that cause.’

Vojislav Koštunica himself began his presidential mandate with the statement that ‘Montenegro’s secession is out of the question’. His visit to Amfilohije Radovic [militant Serb Orthodox metropolitan of Cetinje] following his meeting with Montenegro’s leaders has only fanned the Montenegrins’ existing suspicions - though he has since adopted a more legalistic stance: ‘The people’s will must be expressed in a democratic and legal manner, and it is meaningless for one republic to keep another in a union against its will.’

This attitude towards Montenegro betokens a closing of ranks around Koštunica, on the basis of the old programme which essentially has not been given up. The only difference is that the Serb nationalists have acquired a democratic legitimacy acknowledged by the international community. Their animosity against Montenegro is encouraged by the fact that Montenegro’s separation began long ago and is in reality an irreversible process. Minimizing its role and importance merely illustrates the Serb nationalist mind. Reducing the Montenegro problem to Djukanovic and his alleged personal interests is the same kind of over-simplification as dismissing the new reality in the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia. Montenegro’s self-determination is a precondition for whatever relations come to prevail between the two states in the future.

Sonja Biserko is president of the Helsinki Committee of Serbia

Monitor, 27 October 2000


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