It could get worse
by Miodrag Perovic
(from an editorial in Monitor)
At a time when more than half Montenegro’s electorate supports independence, a constitutional arrangement (rather than just some kind of interim confederal deal) under which the right to a referendum is suspended for three years has been seen by the independence parties [SDP, LSCG] as unacceptable. The DPS [Djukanovic’s dominant governing party], meanwhile, accustomed to the pragmatism of its leaders, has supported their interpretation of it: that under it all the state functions Montenegro has wrested from the federal state over the past years have been preserved, while better conditions have been created for a continuation of the struggle for independence and European integration. Although this is largely true, and Serbia has for the first time since 1918 acknowledged Montenegro’s right to independence in an international document, the ‘For Yugoslavia’ Coalition [pro-Belgrade opposition bloc] is celebrating the agreement as its victory. This means that the agreement will be accepted in the Montenegrin parliament [it was, on 12 April 2002]. What follows is the adoption of a constitutional charter and the construction of common institutions of the new/old state.
The SDP and LSCG rank and file are in turmoil, with talk of unilateral violation of the coalition agreement and of betrayal. The SDP is threatening to leave the government and the LSCG to withdraw support from it. If things go too far, one possible outcome is that the ‘For Yugoslavia’ Coalition will come to power. So the new political reality demands an urgent answer to the question: what is the best policy for the independence forces in the changed circumstances?
The content of the Belgrade agreement is imprecise and to a great extent depends on who will implement it. The constitutional charter that is to be drawn up on the basis of it might have twenty or two hundred clauses, depending on who holds power when it is drafted. In other words, it might be more disadvantageous for Montenegro than what has been provisionally agreed and might create the possibility for a renewed brutal control of Podgorica by Belgrade. So the independence bloc must devote the greatest attention to it, as if it were to last for three hundred rather than just three years. All possibility of misuse of the common institutions against Montenegro and its interests must be eliminated. Equality in decision-making, which the agreement allows for, must be part of normal procedure in the work of the common institutions, rather than a kind of exceptional protective mechanism, since this would place Montenegro in a position of constantly struggling against domination. For all these reasons, it is a matter of life and death for Montenegro that until the constitutional charter is adopted its government should be based upon a parliamentary majority of the pro-independence bloc.
As for independence, it will continue to be necessary in order for Montenegro to free itself from a century of almost colonial subordination and direct all its forces towards building a democratic and prosperous society. But the Belgrade agreement has now altered the sequence: democracy and the building of a prosperous and equitable society have become the precondition for achieving independence, as a guarantee of freedom and equality, in the framework of the European family of nations.
... A state agreement with Serbia has been imposed upon Montenegro, which encourages integration into a single state, but does not foreclose the possibility of Montenegrin independence either - if this shows itself to be the best path towards its democratization and European integration.