bosnia report
New Series No: 29-31 June - November 2002
Javier Solana beneath Mount Lovcen
by Ivo Banac

Ivo Banac photo

There is a direct connection between the pro-Belgrade policies of the European Union and the current chaotic state of Montenegrin politics. After the events of October 2000, the West ‘rewarded’ official Podgorica for helping to replace Milosevic by supporting policies that would disable Montenegro from becoming an independent state (‘Democratic Montenegro must be in a democratic Yugoslavia’). This policy is the brainchild of William Montgomery, US ambassador to Belgrade, and has been serviced by a whole series of his sub-contractors : in Croatia, for example, by Pukanic’s Nacional, which played a crucial role in compromising Milo Djukanovic by means of the tobacco affair.    But the worst part of the job has fallen to Javier Solana, an impatient representative of the European Union and a person with very limited knowledge of the situation in the Balkans.

he essence of Solana’s programme was to disrupt the referendum on Montenegro’s independence, which Djukanovic had promised would take place in May this year. Instead Solana initiated negotiations between Belgrade and Podgorica, and in mid March proposed ‘provisional bases for reforming the relations between Serbia and Montenegro’. This agreement, better known as the ‘Solana Accord’, was a pre-condition for these two states being even considered for the initial steps of integration into Europe (the association and stabilisation process – or so-called SAA pacts). In this way, the EU ruled out in advance any separate approach by the two states to the union, and made impossible any democratic solution to the Montenegrin national question. No wonder then that the Accord divided the Montenegrin public.  Let us not forget that it represented a formal abandonment of the Montenegrin government’s platform since December 2000, in which  Djukanovic’s government committed itself to seeking Montenegro’s independence and international recognition.   In return, Belgrade and the EU seemingly gave up the idea of a common customs, monetary and foreign trade framework. Somewhere in the small print, however, it was written that the signatories committed themselves to aligning their trade and customs policies, in a process of ‘harmonizing the economic systems of the two member countries with the EU economic system.’

The exact meaning of this obscure clause became apparent when another European institution, in consultation with EU experts, asked new concessions from Montenegro very soon afterwards.   At the beginning of July the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg sent a ‘outline of elements for possible incorporation into the constitutional charter’ to members of the joint commission for writing the charter. This document was in sharp conflict with the Solana Accord. For example, it gave the parliament of the future joint state the right to introduce laws on international economic relations (hence, also on customs, foreign trade, and the currency and cross-border regimes); it entrusted an internal economics minister with maintaining a - necessarily single - domestic market; and it implied the common state’s authority over human and minority rights and a specific ‘federal’ citizenship.   In a roundabout way Solana thus attempted to impose what he had not been able to in March: a single market, a single customs regime, a joint foreign trade and fiscal system, and a joint monetary system. He found the ideal ally in Miroljub Labus, vice-president of the federal government, the US favourite in elections for the Serbian presidency scheduled for September this year.   All of this resulted in another round of talks, this time between Djukanovic and Djindjic, which under present political circumstances in Serbia and Montenegro cannot bear fruit.

Dukanovic and Solana medium

Solana’s methods are wholly counter-productive, representing as they do an insincere imposition of old centralist contents in circumstances of virtual independence. Why should Montenegro agree to subordination to Serbia as a precondition for integration into Europe? Would not integration into Europe be more acceptable – not just for Montenegro - if Solana helped Montenegro to achieve its own goals?   And this new one-sided Western foreign policy has caused graver harm than mere loss of credibility for the EU.    Its impositions have led to new divisions in Montenegro, which began with the initial Solana Accord.  Djukanovic’s surrender under EU pressure brought him new worries, and endangered his government. While the pro-Serbian north celebrated the defeat of Djukanovic’s  policy, the Montenegrin independence bloc was falling apart in Podgorica.   In mid June the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG), hitherto an unconditional advocate of independence upon whose support the minority government depended, agreed to co-operate at local level with the pro-Serbian Socialist People’s Party (SNP), main component of the ‘Together for Yugoslavia’ (ZZJ) coalition. By these means the ‘unnatural’ partners won power in two thirds of the country’s municipalities, while Liberal mayors took office in Niksic, Kotor, Budva, Tivat and Cetinje.   They justified their nihilistic policy simply as retaliation: Djukanovic has agreed to the proposed state framework, so it does not matter whether the LSCG allies itself with his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) or with the parties of the ZZJ.

Following their ‘successful local co-operation’ orchestrated by Western diplomatic circles as additional pressure on Djukanovic, the LSCG and the ZZJ formed a new majority in the parliament (by just one vote, it should be said) and started to undermine Djukanovic’s advantages in the media and in the electoral rules. They announced the replacement of the chief editors on the daily Pobjeda and in Radio and Television of Montenegro, and changes to the way in which the work of state and government officials was reported.    But the seemingly emancipatory struggle against the ‘Podgorica regime’ was revealed as thoroughly anti-liberal and restrictive when the LSCG proposed – and the parliament adopted – laws governing how the media (including those in private hands) should cover the now inevitable election campaign. These amendments would have determined how much should be written about the parties in how many articles, and who should be interviewed and how; and they recommended that journalists should consult party officials about the titles and content of their articles.

Djukanovic responded on 20 July. He announced early parliamentary elections for 6 October, and under the current law. Thereupon parliament refused his candidates for the Constitutional Court (vital at election time). Djukanovic threatened to postpone the elections, including the presidential ones scheduled for the end of this year, while the opposition (the parliamentary majority) threatened to dismiss him if his mandate ran out before elections were held. After parliament once again adopted the electoral and media laws that Djukanovic had refused to sign, he finally did sign them on 30 July, but stressed that the old laws would apply in the forthcoming elections, since they had been in force when he called them.  The OSCE and Council of Europe experts agreed to this.   However, the skirmishes are still continuing, and every institution is being fought over. The fiercest battle is taking place over Djukanovic’s stronghold, the State Security Service. Srdjan Darmanovic, director of the Podgorica Centre for Democracy, is warning that a continuation of the conflicts between parliament and the executive could lead to boycotts, blockades, disturbances and postponement of the elections. (Vijesti, 6 August).

There is no doubt that the hand of Western diplomacy can be discerned in the current political skirmishing in Montenegro. The LSCG, which last year was considered a ‘disruptive element’ in Western capitals, is now being supported, getting funds to launch a daily newspaper - and quite simply being used. The price is its integrity.   In the meantime, Djukanovic for his part is paying dearly for having delayed reforms.  Although he is trying to renew his ties with the disappointed ‘third bloc’ – the ‘civic forum’ of Montenegrin intellectuals - it may turn out that this initiative has come too late. Energetic reforms from above could have generated economic renewal, Montenegrin independence and continuity of power.   But the time for this was in 2000.  Now the word ‘reform’ is the rhetorical property of former Milosevic favourites, given legitimacy by the ‘most Montenegrin’ party.  The only chance is if Djukanovic holds firm under attack and  the ‘Montenegrin bloc’ is revived.  For this chaotic situation cannot profit Montenegro, or Serbia, or their neighbours, or Europe.   But only when it is too late will this become clear.

European bureaucrats like Solana, or the US diplomats who paved the way for him, seem unable or unwilling to understand that the break-up of Yugoslavia was conditioned by all the failings of the previous constitutional order and ruling ideology. That is why it could not be halted. All that was possible was to prevent new borders being drawn between the units of the federation formed in 1974.    It is absolutely clear that the Balkan states too should be integrated into Europe. This is not at issue.  But integration will not succeed if these states are forced into old moulds, with the language of an obsolete Yugoslav federalism, against the desire of the national communities for independence.  Montenegro, Kosovo, even Vojvodina, must thus become political subjects before they can be integrated in any way, and especially into Europe. Those politicians who are once again seeking legitimacy against these principles (Kostunica, Labus – their name is legion) do not represent integrative forces.   In the Balkans, hegemony cannot lead to integration.   But it can lead to all kinds of misfortune, and even to bloodshed. In the final resort, the same rules apply to big and small alike. To the big if they want to stay big, and to the small if they want to avoid embarking on a course without rules.


This comment has been translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 29 August 2002


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