Coming negotiations between leaders of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, of Serbia and Montenegro should dot their “i’s” in the fate of Yugoslav Federation. If it does, in Montenegro a referendum about state and legal status of the republic will be carried out in April. Yet, will Yugoslavia be retained as a united federal state, or the small half-a-million nation will declare its independence? This and some other questions of PRAVDA.Ru correspondent were answered by Doctor of Historical Science, director of International Research Centre on Balkan Crisis by Slavonic Institute of Russian Academy of Science, Yelena Guskova.
Yelena Guskova: Now, relations between Serbia and Montenegro enter the last phase of the crisis. In Montenegro, passions are raging, the society is devoted. Milo Djukanovic proposes to turn to “coordination of activities” of internationally acknowledged states of Montenegro and Serbia, while with such coordination, president’s post is not necessary. Belgrade supports such modes of the Federation, in which there will be joint army, common economical space and currency. While central authorities will occupy themselves with foreign policy for all republics’ profit. It is obvious that within the time which is left till the referendum the dispute about Montenegro’s independence will be sharp. Though, in my view, it is too early to speak about inevitability of Montenegro’s separation. During the latest election, supporters of the Federation unity showed themselves as a force which is able to oppose separatism. They deprived Djukanovic of serious arguments for independence. Now he cannot say he is supported by population majority of Montenegro. Recently, I returned from Montenegro, and in my view, most of Montenegrins are aware of the seriousness of the situation, and that on their decision, not only the federation’s fate depends, but the nation’s fate as well. Apropos, in the parliament, I managed to talk to deputy Marovic, chairman of Foreign Relations Committee. According to his forecasts, further correlation of forces is possible in the referendum: a more than 50 percent will express their support to united Yugoslavia, and most of Montenegrins will be among them. 7 to 15 percent, mainly national majorities’ representatives, will vote for independence. Therefore, Marovic supposes, the referendum will not solve the problem, so negotiations will be continued. According to him, only negotiations are able to solve the problem of Yugoslavia’s future.
Q. And are there some historical preconditions for Montenegro’s separation from Serbia? Are the Montenegrins right, who single themselves out, as a nation separate from Serbs?
A. Most of Russian historians suppose that in spite of different ways of historical evolution, many things draw south Slavic nations together. There were not any serious oppositions. As for Montenegrins and Serbs, many scientist are inclined to regarding them as one nation. Remember, not long ago, in the hard years of international isolation (1992-1995) Podgorica fully supported Belgrade. 75 percent of local population supposed that maintainance of Federal Republic of Yugoslavai would be the most optimal decision for small Montenegro. Nevertheless, in the end of 1980s, in Montenegro a dispute started between supporters of Montenegrins’ distinctive character and that ones who justified historical aspiration of the two nations for unification. The discussion is still continuing. This autumn, in Podgorica a science conference took place devoted to Negos dynasty. Montenegrin scientists divided in their views. First supposed Montenegro had always been independent and now it should restore its independence, while arguments from historical sources were being presented. Others used the same documents to prove unity of Serb and Montenegrin nations and their common way of evolution. Unfortunately, today’s Montenegrin society is submerged in politics. So, historical problem is often used by politicians for their own interests. This phenomenon is not new. The same phenomenon could be observed at the end of 1980s in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina… Today’s prime-minister of Serbia, Zoran Djinjic contributed his mite to complication of situation in Serbia. Earlier, he called to decreasing Montenegro’s participation in Yugoslav state bodies depending on number of citizens, while stated that several hundreds of thousands of Montenegrins cannot have the same rights as several million of Serbs. Yugoslavia should be changed in accordance with the principle: one person – one vote, Djinjic said. According to him, small and poor Montenegro could not fill up 50 percent of the federal government. As a result, the country is on the verge of destruction.
Q. If Serbia is able at the very least to go through break-up of the united state organism and to maintain its national identity, but for its “younger brother”, the federation’s destruction promises the most serious prospects. In Politika central Yugoslav newspaper, from one issue to another, events in Montenegro, Vojvodina are the second most important subject after Kosovo, while there more and more loudly “Albanian factor” appears. The mountain republic’s territory is regarded by Albanian extremists as a part of their future “Great Albania.” And it is not excluded that the events here could develop according to Macedonian scenario…
A. Today, “Albanian factor” seems not to be obvious in Montenegro: there are not so many Albanians here, only about 7 percent. Though it does not signify that there is no issue at all. March 19 of the last year, militant group of Montenegrin Albanians Plava and Gusinje Liberation Army manifested. As Montenegrins finish their referendum, local Albanians will raise the question about their status. Some work is being carried out in this direction. In Ulcin city, in Montenegro, a seminar took place organized by a New York based international organization, in the framework of Project on Ethnic Relations. At the seminar, interethnical relations in Montenegro were discussed, and especially Albanians’ status. This was so-called first round of the negotiations on Albanians’ status in Montenegro. Later, in Montenegrin parliament, at the meeting with Albanian parties’ representatives, the question was about bettering it. Now, the demands were more hard: to open borders with Albania, to create Albanian faculty in Montenegrin university, to guarantee Albanian representation in power institutions. The situation was similar to what had happened in Macedonia. In their time, Macedonian authorities also supposed the problem of national majorities was solved. Unfortunately, Albanians’ problem in the Balkans does not depend on its constitutional decision…
Q. Recently, the West seems to have lost interest in Milo Djukanovic’s policy. Montenegrin government is as pro-Western as it was before, while it does not have that constant support of international community as at the time of Slobodan Milosevic. Moreover, OSCE does not like the plan of referendum proposed by Podgorica: the decision about separation must be taken by the whole Montenegrin population majority, but not by the majority of the voters…
A. Now, the situation of foreign policy has changed. The Balkans became second line problem for leading world powers. The US authorities are not united as for Montenegro’s issue. That ones who formed Clinton’s policy on Yugoslavia’s disintegration continue to support Djukanovic’ separatism. Though the Bush administration has not completely formed yet its position on Balkan crisis. The September events in the US changed the view on terrorism in the Balkans. The only thing which remains is NATO topping role in the region. While the official’s relationship to Djukanovic is rather cold. This is why, today the US prefers to charge Europe with solving this problem, while forming its own position with general phrases about democracy, human rights and respecting Montenegrin people’s choice… While Europe is not inclined to support Montenegrin separatism. All the more taking into account Djukanovic’ trade machinations that recently became known. Venice Commission of the European Council expressed its position on Montenegro’s separation. In the report, it was noticed that the referendum was necessary but it was not enough for the independent republic. Democracy cannot be reduced to a simple will manifestation. The referendum must be carried out in accordance with legal system in general, especially with that regulations concerning the Constitution’s revision. According to the Council, the referendum can be considered to have taken place, if a decision was supported by the majority, and it must be confirmed by two thirds of Montenegrin Skupschina’s deputies.
Q. I would like to hope that Yugoslav Federation will be maintained with Serbia and Montenegros’ membership. However reform of federal relations is inevitable. In your view, what could be an optimal model of the state’s reorganization?
A. There is not sense to propose my own model, taking into account that the republics’ leaders have so long discussed different variants. The main thing is that the nations could live peacefully, while not noting the borders and not firing in each other, that they could freely walk in the streets without fear, to visit each other, to fall in love not dependently of nationality. Generations of leaders should probably replace each other before they start to think about people, but not about their portfolios and chairs. It is good when there is nothing to share. However better to say in another way. When everything is shared, it is time to set common life going.
Yelena Guskova was interviewed by Sergei Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/01/17/35657.html