of relations between
Serbia and Montenegro
Balkans'21 / volume 3 - 2003
Agreement on Basic Principles for Redefinition of Relations Between Serbia
and Montenegro was endorsed on March 14 2002, the most content seem
to be the EU representatives and Solana himself. Namely, through this Agreement
the EU showed that it has become a political force capable of facing a
diversity of problems in its surrounding without direct assistance of the
USA, even before the conflicts escalate.
This could ôconditionallyö appear as the second success of the EU diplomacy in the one-year period, including the agreement which prevented war in Macedonia. This is a success only ôconditionallyö since it is yet impossible to fully envisage the long-term effects of these agreements, but in the short run, they beyond any doubt significantly contributed to relieving of tension in the region.
In this way the EU has showed its determination to prevent fragmentation in southeastern Europe. Also, this is another move which indicate the major orientation of the EU foreign policy toward the areas in crisis: taking over political and economic responsibility (and more intensive military responsibility is highly likely) for situation on the Balkans, whereby the EU takes actions in an early stage of conflicts with the emphasis being on the policy of carrot. Namely, Serbia and Montenegro were promised easier and faster European integration and larger inflow of capital, while as for Macedonia, about US$515m was collected at the Donorsĺ conference for assistance in reconstruction of this country, reaching almost double amount than expected.
Apart from emotional outpouring of disappointment on both sides and not so much euphoria for survival of the joint country, at least three kinds of criticism should be distinguished: the politically-propagandist one, aimed at repudiating the endorsees of the Agreement or at distinguishing own parties and political groups; the formally-legal one, pointing at all weak points of the Agreement with no regard to internal and external circumstances under which the Agreement was signed (or diminishing importance of those circumstances), and the real-political criticism, which take into account the context in which the Agreement was signed and points at its good and bad sides in respect of the prospects and dangers which would come along with its implementation. The last one seems to be heard least.
After the series of criticism, the question arises as to what was the alternative to the endorsed Agreement. As a rule, there is no answer to that key question. Or, if there is, it is simplified and plain, with no complex approach to the problem and consideration of both the internal and international context. Yes, it would have been best for us to exist as a federation or as separate states, since these are the pure models. But, the pure models are usually applicable on pure situations, which is the case neither in Montenegro, nor in Serbia.
As the issue of relations between Serbia and Montenegro is not only the internal issue of Montenegro, it is not the internal issue of Serbia, either, and therefore, any reference to the electoral will of the citizens ľ populism ľ sounds attractive but is not real. Namely, apart from electoral will of the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, the EU estimation on whether the first, second or the third solution is a contribution to accomplishment of wider objectives and values important for international community, such as stability in the region or protection of human rights for example, is by all means important. Accordingly, one of the main motives for the EU to stand behind this Agreement is to protect security and stability in the region and to create conditions for easier and safer approach of the states in this region to the European Union. That context implies the EU wish not to press the Montenegrin authorities too hard and leave them no exit, which might prompt unilateral moves toward independence, which would (again) cause tension with unpredictable consequences both within Montenegro and between Podgorica and Belgrade. The Montenegrin authorities should have stayed in game as a potential partner to the reformists in Serbia, a partner with far better image than the current DOSĺs partner in Montenegro, a partner who, amongst other things, would not be an obstacle to cooperation to the Hague Tribunal.
When it is about significance and scope of this document, apart from everything advanced so far, the following facts should be taken into consideration, as well:
- The Montenegrin citizens are divided in regard of their relation with Serbia. As it was showed in the latest opinion poll carried out by the Institute for Social Science, a slight advantage the pro-independent block used to have gradually melted, leaving those in favor of the joint state slightly ahead at present, which probably resulted from the EU pressure, but also from the DPS dilemma on whether it was necessary to follow the EU suggestions. The citizens were indeed influenced by the arguments in favor of the joint state, i.e. the high price of insistence on unilateral independence without agreement with Belgrade and the EU support was emphasized.
- The unresolved relations between Serbia and Montenegro has become increasingly large burden for Serbia, primarily as a constraint for further institutional reforms, and indirectly economic reforms, but at the same time the absolute majority of Serbian citizens support the joint state.
- Unresolved relations between Serbia and Montenegro are the obstacle for our international political and economic relations, i.e. they have bad influence on our overall international position and the EU suggestions were directed toward the attempt to save the joint state, which will facilitate the association of this region into the European integrations for both Serbia and Montenegro, as well as for the EU.
- Kosovo, which is under international protectorate, is a hot spot of instability on the Balkans, and thus any new states would additionally disturb security balance in the region, which is also the estimation of those who administer that region.
- Disregard of the EU suggestions would additionally weaken the already fragile thrust of the West in Serbia (fragile primarily due to insufficient cooperation with The Hague Tribunal) and its position in general.
- Disintegration of the DOSĺs united approach to this issue (which could have happened if the problem had been postponed any further) would mean intensification of internal conflicts among the parties in Serbia and departure from the course of economic and institutional reforms to the field of political conflicts with unpredictable consequences.
for evaluation of the general scope of this Agreement, the following could
title of the Agreement itself ľ Basic Principles for Redefinition of Relation
Between Serbia and Montenegro points out that this is about an initial
document which stands as the basic framework for future legal and institutional
arrangements and not a paper aimed at providing all the answers to the
issue of relations between Serbia and Montenegro.
On the Montenegrin political scene after the Agreement was endorsed, a real Rashomon-show occurred. The Montenegrin President and Prime Minister presented the Agreement as the maximum possible at the moment and expressed readiness to share responsibility for its endorsing with their coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (the SDP) and the Montenegro Liberal Alliance (the LS CG), assuring them that it is just a step toward their joint objective ľ independent Montenegro.
On the other side, the SDP and LSCG, after initial shock quite emotionally presented in the Montenegrin media, started new bargaining with the Democratic Socialist Party (the DPS): they threaten to overturn the Government, but at the same time do not reject the possibility to enter the new, ôreformedö Government, but of course, with much larger share (the SDP) or key positions in it (the LS CG).
The DPS is obviously ready for huge concessions so as to diminish discontent of these two parties with the Agreement, but above all, discontent of independence-oriented citizens of Montenegro, which are majority in the structure of followers of this party. An agreement with the parties of the pro-independent block would largely reduce the criticism, and hence the DPS is ready to offer the Liberals a Prime Minister position, coupled with some other important positions, and to their smaller coalition partner even bigger role than it has had so far.
The question arises whether, if they had success with it, they would jeopardize the Agreement itself. Namely, it is true that it starts from the factual situation of large disconnection between Serbia and Montenegro, but nevertheless suggests closer integration of Belgrade and Podgorica. Any new Government of the old partners, at least according to the announcements, would take even stronger pro-independent course, and thus annul direct positive effects and aggravate harmonization and approaching to the EU suggested in the Agreement.
Excessive requirements of the SDP and liberals on the other hand, would force the DPS to call early election or to make an agreement with the pro-Yugoslav block. According to the announcements of the DPS leadership, however, the latter is completely excluded.
The DPS should be concerned about a significant part of voters which exists within the party and who do not support insisting on independence at any price, finding the EU suggestions useful for the Montenegrin citizens. If the DPS leadership continues strict ôindependenceö rhetoric which could be interpreted as obstruction of the Agreement, that part of voters is likely to refuse supporting it any further, with or without assistance of Svetozar Marovic.
Although the DPS seems not to be in the best position from this prospective, it does not mean that only signing the Agreement caused such a position; that step, in the view of party-only interests, is less evil for the party. If they had refused the Agreement, it would have caused more damage since the party would have broken up on the line of relations with the EU, not with Serbia.
Of course, in Montenegro, like in most countries in the region, any combination is not unexpected, which is proved by numerous examples. Namely, it is Montenegro where one social democratic and one liberal party are the closest, while two socialist parties are the most distinct. Is it not an absurdity that the LS CG, a party which have been supporting the idea of independent Montenegro from its very beginning, at the last election won approximately the same number of votes as ten years ago, when about ? of the Montenegrin citizens supported joint state, while at the last election a little over half of the citizens who took part in election voted for the parties which promote the idea of independent Montenegro? Was it not Montenegro where the Montenegrin (the LS CG) and Serbian nationalists (the NS) used to be in coalition, in the golden era of nationalism in this area? Is it not strange that nationalistic romanticism is one of the major features of the social democratsů
But, these are the internal absurdities of Montenegro. There also exist those on the line Podgorica ľ Belgrade: a coalition of angry opponents from the last election (the DOS and the SNP), while the current opponents are the former allies (the DPS and the DOS), who blame each other for such a situation. Of course, the main reason for unnatural coalition and natural break-up of former allies is related to the issue of redefinition of relations between Serbia and Montenegro. Although Serbia attempted to enter the process of redefinition of relations with low-key approach, so as not to irritate the Montenegrin citizens and authorities, it could not avoid being the target of sovereignty-supporters who were unselectively looking for guilt for lack of sufficient support in hegemonic Belgrade.
It is especially irritating for Belgrade that the Montenegrin pro-independence block put the main guilt for all the misfortunes on Serbian hegemonism, diminishing or even denying the Montenegrin nationalism, with many dismissive qualifications that the change of regime in Belgrade does not change anything and Serbian hegemonism remained untouched. Especially worrying is the fact that the pre-political national-romanticism still precedes all political and life issues.
There are many problems in Serbia, too, but those of another kind dominate. Namely, the issue of relations with Montenegro does not prevail in Serbia. Serbia even took the step back a bit deliberately, leaving the EU to persuade the Montenegrin leadership of importance of survival of the joint state. There are many ômore importantö questions that are in focus, such as cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, economic and institutional reforms, battle against criminality and a range of others, which reflect the conflict between the DSS and rest of the parties which still (?!) make the DOS. The Perisic affair, which put the Agreement in the background, also shows that the Montenegro issue is not a top priority.
Apart from the SPS and SRS which expressed political - propagandistic criticism more aimed at the DOS as the leading political force than at the contents of the Agreement, the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia (the DHSS) was the loudest in Serbia, and first started with the campaign for independent Serbia, which seems to be motivated by the need to distinguish the party and occupy some still vacant space in Serbia. This action aimed to build up and improve the distinguishable identity of this party and to make it a kind of a trademark of the increasing discontent among the citizens in respect of the crisis of relations with Montenegro.
If all the circumstances in Serbia and Montenegro are taken into account, there is an impression that without active monitoring of the European Union, The Basic Principlesů has no chance for success, that is, establishment of functional state which advances towards European integrations. In other words, although this Agreement requires closer cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro, this cooperation will be hardly implemented unless the provisions of the Agreement, which prescribes the EU intervention in case of non-satisfying the obligations from the Agreement by one of the members of the state union, are fulfilled.