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Serbia And Montenegro: New Union Gets Mixed Reception

  • Jolyon Naegele

Europe has a new state, Serbia and Montenegro, the loose successor to rump Yugoslavia, which was founded in 1992 after four of the six former Yugoslav republics seceded. As RFE/RL reports, the new state is getting a mixed reception.

Prague, 5 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The speaker of the lower house of the former rump Yugoslavia's federal parliament, Dragoljub Micunovic, proclaimed the new state of Serbia and Montenegro last night after a joint session of parliament adopted the Constitutional Charter and accompanying laws. "Whereas the federal parliament at a joint session of the Chamber of Citizens and Chamber of Republics today, on 4 February 2003, adopted the Constitutional Charter of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro, the identical text to that adopted by the assemblies of the Republic of Serbia and of the Republic of Montenegro, I hereby proclaim the Constitutional Charter of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro."

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the establishment of the new common state will benefit the citizens of the two constituent republics. "The results will be visible very soon in two directions: first of all, in the formation of a common market, a genuine union in which citizens in both Serbia and Montenegro will have the same rights. They will fall under the same laws. They will have the same protection," Djindjic said.

Djindjic said the establishment of Serbia and Montenegro will also simplify foreign policy. "The other effect is that we expect the government that will be formed very soon will unblock the process of our European integration, which in the course of the past few months has had a number of difficulties. The main reason was that international organizations did not know who their [negotiating] partner was. The IMF [International Monetary Fund], the World Bank, and the EU [European Union] wondered whether we were going to succeed in forming a union or whether this was a process leading to a crisis," Djindjic said.

The Serbian prime minister said that in light of the unfulfilled dreams of the former Yugoslav states, expectations are rightly lower. "I think that we have achieved a healthy compromise. In the past, we founded states based on great goals and great ideals, and they were not successful. For a change, we are forming a state with minimal ideals and minimal goals, and perhaps it will have a greater success than our previous states. I think we have sufficient political will to give these institutions the strength for this union to succeed," Djindjic said.

Montenegro had been on the road to independence before EU foreign-policy and security chief Javier Solana intervened and persuaded Montenegrin and Serbian leaders to accept the Constitutional Charter as the basis for a new, loose common state for a three-year period, after which each republic could hold a referendum on independence.

Former Montenegrin Prime Minister Miodrag Vukovic said he is relieved that the slow death of Yugoslavia is now over. "Yugoslavia, which we experienced in various forms, in all its variations, we have now consigned to history, once and for all. From tomorrow, the procedure for constituting the state union in a new form gets under way," Vukovic said.

In Podgorica, Montenegro's new prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, said the adoption of the Constitutional Charter and accompanying laws was a logical end for Yugoslavia and creates the conditions for reforms to be implemented, while opening the way to European standards in politics and economics. "I think the key factors of resistance to speedy implementation [of reforms] was the position of the federal administration. [Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica and his followers in Montenegro wanted to prolong their political importance, but in the end, we enacted the Constitutional Charter. I believe it will create the conditions for the launching of the institutions of the new common state [and for serious reforms]," Djukanovic said.

However, the birth of this latest permutation of the Serbian state bonded to Montenegro has caused a minimum of celebration. Professor Savo Lausevic of Niksic University in northwestern Montenegro said: "This is a paradoxical situation in which the Constitutional Charter and accompanying laws constitute a new state union, while at the same time intentionally creating blockages and disputes leading to disintegration. It is as if from the start they wanted it to be stillborn, as if the parents were not happy over the birth of a new life."

Pro-Yugoslav Montenegrin academician Zoran Lakic has regrets and fears. "I'm afraid [the adoption of the Constitutional] Charter opens the way to separatism behind the backs and out of sight of the people. Most of us don't want to bring out the champagne for the new state. This act is understood by the public as the unjustified burial of Yugoslavia. This is the demand of globalism, though it is neither the need nor the wish of the people," Lakic said.

According to a timetable agreed upon by representatives of the two republics, outgoing Yugoslav President Kostunica must set a date within two weeks for the Serbian and Montenegrin assemblies to elect deputies to a new parliament. That parliament, in turn, will elect a speaker and a president of the new common state, who will appoint and head the new government.

The new parliament, once elected, will have 60 days to adopt a flag for the new country and until the end of the year to adopt a coat of arms and anthem.

And for some time to come, the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro will be traveling on Yugoslav passports.