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Yugoslavia: Emergency Session Convened To Re-Establish Government

  • Jolyon Naegele

Both houses of the Yugoslav parliament met briefly today in an emergency session with only one item on the agenda: the 29 June resignation of federal Prime Minister Zoran Zizic in protest of the delivery of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague tribunal.

Prague, 4 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Yugoslav parliament today accepted Zoran Zizic's resignation from the post of prime minister of the federal government.

Zizic quit in protest at the Serbian government's transfer last week of former President Slobodan Milosevic to the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Today's session was attended by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, a member of the Yugoslav parliament. It came a day after Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica met in Belgrade with the leaders of three Montenegrin parties -- the Socialist People's Party, the Serbian People's Party, and the People's Party -- willing to participate in a new federal government.

The new government would probably seek to develop a platform for constitutional reform, particularly dealing with the relationship between the federation's two republics, Serbia and Montenegro.

Kostunica says his main priority is to establish what he calls "clearly set and timed goals" for the new federal government to redefine the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro.

The Yugoslav Constitution requires the prime minister to be a Montenegrin if the president is a Serb. Kostunica is a Serb.

An unnamed senior aide in Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, or DPS, confirms the republic's intention to become independent. He says his party will neither participate in a Yugoslav federal government nor in any future Yugoslav federal elections. But the party's spokesman, Igor Lukcic, says DPS does want dialogue between Montenegro and Serbia.

"We favor dialogue -- that means dialogue in Montenegro too. The assembly is a logical place for dialogue -- dialogue with the legitimate representatives of Serbia. There is also the issue of communication with the federation and the international community. What we want is not in dispute: dialogue. On the other hand, we have an obligation which we campaigned for in the last elections -- to organize a referendum [on Montenegrin independence]."

Montenegro's new prime minister, Filip Vujanovic, said in Podgorica yesterday that the only way to resolve the dispute between the two republics is: "the model of an internationally recognized state." He told Montenegrin television (TVCG) that his new government wants a referendum on the state and legal status of the republic and wants to hold talks with the Serbian government so that it can soon state whether an agreement has or has not been reached with Belgrade.

"The only way to eliminate the problem with these relations is for Serbia and Montenegro to be internationally recognized states," he said.

On 2 July, the Montenegrin parliament approved Vujanovic's new minority government of the Democratic Party of Socialists and the Social Democratic Party. The new government's program foresees passage of a law on referenda by the end of August and the holding of a referendum within five months of the passage of the law. The referendum would have a single question: "Are you for an independent and internationally recognized Montenegro?"

The man whose resignation touched off the government crisis, former Yugoslav Premier Zizic, says he believes a new federal government will be formed on the basis of what he terms a "new coalition agreement." Vujanovic said one of his government's first moves would be to start talks with the pro-Belgrade opposition parties in Montenegro and to discuss with Serbian leaders what he called "a new model of relations between Montenegro and Serbia as "internationally recognized states."

The chairman of Zizic's Socialist People's Party (SNP), Predrag Bulatovic, says his party would prefer to see early parliamentary elections, but that Kostunica has rejected this alternative. "Mr. Kostunica prefers the option of forming a new federal government, which is a constitutional route. But I have to say the standpoint of the Socialist People's Party is that it is a quite difficult route."

Still, Bulatovic said a new federal government might be formed with Kostunica's and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Opposition of Serbia, or DOS. But Bulatovic added that this could prove to be a "difficult route" because of "deep differences" between the two men. Bulatovic said the DOS-led Serbian government, in his view, had overruled his party in the federal government and had committed an "unconstitutional act" by circumventing the country's courts and handing over Milosevic to The Hague tribunal.

People's Party leader Dragan Soc was among the three Montenegrin party leaders who met with Kostunica yesterday. He pleaded for Bulatovic's traditionally pro-Milosevic SNP to be in the federal government because of its relatively large voter base.

"We also said the SNP should be in the [federal] government, either represented by its chairman or a deputy chairman of the party, to provide gravity and domestic credibility to this government."

Soc said Yugoslavia's reintegration into the international community has been completed and the new federal government should focus on redefining relations between Serbia and Montenegro.

In transferring Milosevic to The Hague, Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic used a law enacted under Milosevic that grants Serbia what is in effect a veto over federal laws.

The departure of Montenegro from the Yugoslav federation might herald further separatist moves.

If Montenegro gains full independence, Kosovar Albanian leaders could be expected to declare their province independent. Kosovo is nominally part of Serbia but has been under UN administration and NATO-led occupation for two years. Albanian residents, who make up at least 90 percent of the population, refuse to consider ever again submitting to Serbian rule.

Kosovo's departure, in turn, could lead to the rapid disintegration of the fragile Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some Bosnian Serb politicians have threatened to pull their entity out of Bosnia and either declare independence or else forge a much closer relationship with Serbia.

Serbian Premier Djindjic is in Salzburg, Austria, this week for an international conference. He told reporters he is sure that a new federal government will be formed within a few days. But he added: "The bad news is that it will not change anything."

In a speech to the conference on 2 July, Djindjic said the "disintegration of Yugoslavia would not be a disaster since the ruling coalition at the federal level is just a piece of paper." The answer, he said, is for changes to the federal constitution this autumn to be followed by early elections. But he said Montenegro's input is needed. H said: "We are ready to accept all Montenegrin requests with the exception of two seats at the UN and other international organizations, since that would mean we have two states."

Djindjic told reporters he expects the current government crisis in Belgrade to be resolved within 10 days and said he is convinced Zizic's SNP will participate in the next government. In an interview in today's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Djindjic dismissed the Montenegrin government's calls for a referendum on independence. "Montenegro's independence would be a waste of time and energy and contradicts the vision of a united Europe."

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