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South Slavic: January 13, 2005

13 January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1


Part II.

In this program of the Radio Most (Bridge) series of RFE/RL/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg discusses the possible consequences for the region of any dissolution of the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro with guests Slobodan Samardzic, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade and adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and Rade Bojovic, a political analyst at the Center for Democracy in Podgorica, Montenegro.

Bojovic: I have no doubt that the process [of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia] is not yet completed, because this is evident by looking at political developments and the general mood of the population in some parts of the country.

When I say that, I am thinking about the situation in Montenegro. Montenegro's case cannot be compared to [that of the Province of] Quebec in Canada. Montenegro and Serbia are the two oldest Yugoslav states, with strong traditions of nationhood....

Some 60 percent of the deputies in the Montenegrin parliament belong to pro-independence parties, which tells us a lot about the political legitimacy of the present joint state of Serbia and Montenegro. If a referendum on Montenegrin independence were to be held now, I have no doubt about the outcome....

Samardzic: There have been many suggestions by Montenegrin political leaders in recent months that they want to hold a referendum in 2005 instead of in 2006, which is the earliest legally possible date according to the Constitutional Charter. Why the impatience, if the pro-independence faction is so convinced of its strength? Obviously, some people feel pressed for time....

Moreover, the law on the referendum -- on the basis of which [then President, now Prime Minister] Milo Djukanovic intended to hold a referendum in 2001 -- provides for a simple majority of those voting with a turnout of at least 50 percent to decide such an important issue. Therefore, theoretically, 25 percent-plus-one of all eligible voters might decide that Montenegro will become independent. From a purely legal standpoint, this is a dubious proposition, especially if one wants a postreferendum environment to which neither the Montenegrin opposition, nor the international community, nor Belgrade will have any objections.

Bojovic: Let me remind you that in 1992, when the so-called Zabljak Constitution [sponsored by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic] was adopted, Montenegro held a referendum whose technical and legal character made it look like a local community poll. It was held on short notice, in a war situation, and according to the 25 percent-plus-one system in order to deprive Montenegro of its national sovereignty.

This means that during the dissolution of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro gave up part of its sovereignty in a very dubious way and became a part of Milosevic's rump Yugoslavia. That is one thing.

Secondly, talking about the present general mood, I would like to remind Mr. Samardzic that the results of all elections held so far, both local and national, as well as all the opinion polls taken during the last three years, show that a stable pro-independence majority does exist in Montenegro.

Regarding the direct general elections for the parliament of Serbia and Montenegro, one should bear in mind that the pro-independence majority in Montenegro has an aversion to all forms of union, which is why one might expect a huge rate of abstention by pro-independence voters and a strong mobilization of pro-union adherents, which would lead to the election of a strong but unrepresentative majority of pro-union legislators....

Cooperation between Belgrade and Podgorica was at its best when the late Zoran Djindjic was Serbian prime minister. But official Podgorica does not view the current prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, as a partner.

Samardzic: What my colleague Bojovic just said about the 1992 referendum actually gives weight to my thesis, not his. If that vote was wrong, it should not be repeated. One should not forget that 62 percent of voters who participated in 1992 voted for the two-member federation. It means that the referendum did reflect the general mood of the Montenegrin electorate, and it would be unfair to challenge this....

The root of the problem is that Montenegro wants to secede. Serbia is more or less neutral and rather inclined toward the status quo. The government of Prime Minister Kostunica has not sought to offend Montenegro. The only thing his government wants is that the law and the Constitutional Charter are obeyed [see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2004 and 6 January 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 August and 17 September 2004]....

However, the entire Djukanovic political team is prone to opportunistic political games. When I say opportunistic, I mean it literally: circumstances dictate the way they behave, especially toward Belgrade.