The Brussels enigma
by Milka Tadic-Mijovic
It is deeply ironic that, two days before the start of Milosevic’s trial in The Hague, just a couple of hundred kilometres away in Brussels Javier Solana was pressurizing Milo Djukanovic to give up the project of Montenegro’s independence, so that the Serbian dictator’s construction could be preserved: a country established by bloody crimes and from whose centre were directed massacres unprecedented in Europe since the end of the Second World War. FRY, which for a decade was Europe’s deadly nightmare, has become the West’s premier interest - for which it is ready to sacrifice Montenegro.
What motivates Javier Solana to defend so ardently Milosevic’s artificial construction, and to demand with threats that Montenegro should remain within it? Guilt for the bombing of FRY? A desire to compensate Serbia with Montenegrin territory and sea for the wars it has waged and lost? A wish to postpone any solution of the Kosovo problem? Or to score another diplomatic success after Macedonia? Whatever they may be, Solana’s personal motives do not matter so far as Montenegro is concerned. More important is the fact that the EU is doing all it can to negate a right embedded in Europe’s democratic tradition: the right of citizens to decide in a free referendum the fate of their own country.
When, at the end of last year, Solana began his mission of saving FRY, he offered Belgrade maintenance of the status quo for between three and five years. But this proposal was rejected by the Serbian political elite. Solana’s new deal involves a significant concession at Montenegro’s expense. Instead of maintenance of the status quo, Djukanovic is now being asked to legitimize the dead federal structures: i.e. to revive FRY, which after Milosevic’s constitutional coup in 2000 lost all internal legitimacy.
Before consulting with his party and coalition partners at home, Djukanovic travelled to Ljubljana, where Slovene president Milan Kucan gave him support when he declared that the Montenegrin people has the right to self-determination, and that this right is stronger than the wishes of the international community. The Slovene president knows what he is talking about. At the start of the 1990s his country also came under great pressure from the West, while the JNA threat dangled over its head. Slovenia, however, did not renounce its decision to conduct a plebiscite. Djukanovic also met in Belgrade with Austrian president Thomas Klestil, who repeated the EU’s position on maintenance of the federation. Following this meeting Djukanovic told the press: ‘I have never said that a referendum is the only way to regain statehood.’ This statement was seen as a first sign of his readiness to concede.
Djukanovic will present the Brussels plan first of all to his party colleagues. There he will face a current led by Svetozar Marovic, who for weeks now from behind the scenes has been preparing the Montenegrin public for accepting a compromise. He has been praised for this by British ambassador Charles Crawford, another fighter for maintenance of FRY. Crawford has been impressed by the tolerance shown by the DPS vice-president, his understanding for the position of the international community, his eagerness to ‘maintain the ties with Serbia’ and accept a compromise solution. On the other hand the pro-independence parties, the LSCG and the SDP, say that postponement of the referendum would amount to a defeat of Montenegro’s state project. Milorad Zivkovic, leader of the LSCG, has made it clear that if the Montenegrin president declares a moratorium on this issue, ‘he will have to find someone else to support his minority government’. Miodrag Ilickovic, vice-president of the SDP, has also rejected postponement of the referendum, even by only a year. He also sharply criticised the position of the EU: ‘They are trying Milosevic’s policy in The Hague, while in Brussels they are offering the same policy to Podgorica.’
It is clear that acceptance of Solana’s proposal would result in the break-up of the pro-independence bloc. This would most likely lead to early elections, since the Liberals would withdraw their support from the government and the SDP would walk out of the coalition. The government could survive, theoretically, only by making a ‘historic turn’ and aligning itself with the SNP. Regardless of this hypothetical possibility, however, acceptance by Djukanovic of Solana’s offer would undoubtedly spell his political death. His star still shines only because of the support extended to him by the pro-independence parties. The coalition he headed at the last elections won a majority only because it supported independence for Montenegro.
If Djukanovic gives up on Montenegro’s international recognition, he would be repeating the DPS’s mistake of 1992, when FRY was created not on the basis of the democratically expressed will of its citizens but as a result of the will of its political elites. As Djukanovic himself later admitted, the state which emerged as a result was inherently faulty. The Brussels proposal seeks to create another equally invalid construction.
By seeking postponement of the referendum and maintenance of Montenegro’s union with Serbia, Solana is asking Podgorica to surrender the right of self-determination that is modern Europe’s birthright. There is only one democratic way out of the current impasse: a free and transparent referendum. The decision must be made not by the government, but by the citizens. Anything else is a delusion.
This comment has been translated from Monitor (Podgorica), 15 February 2002