Montenegro: on the Road to Independence?
AbstractThe Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, proclaimed in 1992, is currently at a crucial crossroad since the parliament of Montenegro is preparing a referendum on independence. Although the joint state retained the name of Yugoslavia, it was in fact established as a Serb nation-state. It became evident, however, that this link was far too powerless. The two member republics, Serbia and Montenegro, became increasingly estranged, especially after the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina, both as regards their foreign policy orientation and their national policy as well as in their economic policy. What was decisive for the further functioning of the Federation was the inability to reach agreement on a unified economic policy after 1996; this led to the introduction of a separate monetary system in Montenegro. The war with NATO in 1999 and the establishment of an international protectorate in Kosovo further undermined the edifice of the Federation so that it is now a confederation rather than a federation.
The position of Montenegro can be compared to the position of Slovenia in the former Yugoslavia shortly before the declaration of independence. But apart from its own monetary system, Montenegro has its own diplomatic service and is responsible for controlling its border crossing points, it makes no contributions to the federal budget and neither does it draw from it.
The collapse of the Milosevic regime in Serbia removed the main obstacle but the Montenegrin leadership is not interested in resubordinating itself to the Federation or in abandoning the political influence which it has acquired. Following the fall of the regime it need not fear an armed attack against its secession. That is why it is accelerating its moves towards independence. Now there are three possible solutions: a reform of the federation, that is to say a new accord between the representatives of Serbia and Montenegro: in actual fact a "fourth" Yugoslavia; a confederation, i.e. a union of two sovereign states; or two entirely sovereign states. Opinion polls reveal that it is more than likely that in a possible referendum the majority of the electorate will vote for independence. It is, however, desirable that a referendum does not endanger the road of Serbia nor that of Montenegro towards democracy. That is why the international community would do well to bring both sides to the negotiating table to discuss the future of the Federative Republic of Yugoslavia and to reach a mutual agreement which would not be dictated merely by specific interests based on the internal policy situation of those political forces which are in power at the moment in the two republics. This question is of increasing importance as a result of its interlinked character with the Kosovo issue because the Yugoslav authorities were among the signatories of the accords on Kosovo. Should the existence of Yugoslavia be questioned, these agreements, too, will be questioned.
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