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South Slavic: December 21, 2000

21 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 45

Which Way To Montenegrin Independence? Part I

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge) we are going to discuss which way Montenegro should go to become independent. Our guests are Miodrag Vukovic, president of the steering committee of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists and Miroslav Vickovic, president of the opposition Liberal Alliance of Montenegro. Part II will appear on 4 January.

Mr. Vickovic, the Liberal Alliance claims that Montenegro is now farther than ever from independence. On what arguments you are basing that claim?

Miroslav Vickovic: We see these days that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has become a member of the OSCE, and before that of the Stability Pact and of the United Nations. It is obvious that the international community wants to legitimize that state from abroad in a hastened, stampede-like action, although the state is already covered with cracks.

At the same time, Mr. Vukovic and his party, after depriving us of our country -- the broad, beautiful, and warm Yugoslavia, by sweeping us into Slobodan Milosevic's embrace and into wars that were not fought for the protection of Montenegrin national interests but for the project of a Greater Serbia -- now they are depriving us of Montenegro as well.

It is so obvious that Djukanovic, Vukovic, and others wasted the last three years when the world was ready to accept the wish of Montenegro to be granted full national self-affirmation.

However, since they are an interest group and not a serious and responsible government, those comrades were flirting with all possible projects and with whatever option enabled them to remain in power. This is how the present option arose of what they call the most Montenegrin Montenegro of all. And, believe me, that is only a false substitute for our demand for a democratic and internationally recognized Montenegro.

The policy of Djukanovic and his comrades in the last three years was misdirected because it was based on criticism of Milosevic and on the defense of Montenegro from his regime, instead of winning recognition for the basic Montenegrin need for independence. Now that he has realized what is going on with the international recognition of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Djukanovic has finally understood that the problems between Montenegro and Serbia are much older then Milosevic, while we, the Liberals, have been repeating that for a long time.

Montenegro is now like a castle in the air. This is a time of "platforms". Platforms are appearing one after another...

Miodrag Vukovic: The development of national policy in the last ten years has proven that Montenegro was going the right way. We did not invent Serbian nationalism; it was already there when we came. We did not invent Milosevic; he was already there when we came. It is baseless and absolutely untrue to say that, back in the '90s, we helped Mr. Milosevic to destroy the Yugoslavia that was so dear to Mr. Vickovic.

He knows very well, just like I know that other guys were destroying Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was destroyed by xenophobic nationalistic policies, the patriotic concept in Croatia, the concept of a Greater Serbia, and all those policies that led their nations in wrong directions, leaving behind them graveyards and material destruction.

But tiny Montenegro was not set on fire, like Bosnia. Montenegro has been preserved. Montenegro went its own way for the last ten years, and those years were not eaten by locusts... The entire international community has been repeating all these years that Montenegro is a good example. Is it not true that there were no dramatic events in Montenegro, there was no bloodshed in religious and national wars, that, although the smallest state in this region, Montenegro has preserved religious and national toleration?

Miroslav Vickovic: Since Mr. Vukovic is a prolific columnist in several dailies and magazines, and since I, as an opposition politician, read his writings, I read his column in Belgrade's "Svedok" where he says: "A few days ago a summit of the EU and the countries of Southeastern Europe was held. For many, that was a historic meeting. It took place after ten years that for the peoples and states of the Balkans were needlessly eaten by locusts." Now, Mr. Vukovic, I have to ask you about these locusts: are those some African, Asian, or domestic locusts? And what have you and you comrades been doing these ten years?

Come on! Who was providing crews for Karadzic's and Mladic's tanks? Who was stuffing his pockets with war profiteering money? Who got a medal from Karadzic?...And Mr. Vukovic, who broke the code of Montenegrin strength of character and heroism, as well as international conventions, by deporting to Karadzic those hundred unfortunate Bosnian Muslims who had previously escaped the war and fled to Montenegro in 1992? Our party's paper "Liberal" published their names and called your deed by its rightful name.

Let me remind you that the then prime minister is today's president of Montenegro, Mr. Djukanovic. We said what you did has all the elements of the crime of genocide. Let us not suppress our memory...

The point is that you, gentlemen, are leading us into the new millennium without a state, and by all odds Montenegro will became a Belgrade region, a Serbian county. You are offering us a document that you call a platform. I can tell you that your platform and everything you intend to do represent the ultimate merging of Montenegro into this small Greater Serbia.

Miodrag Vukovic: You can think about yourself whatever you want, I do not deny you that right. However, history does not appreciate good intentions but good deeds.

In the last three years, while we were struggling against Mr. Milosevic, while we were enduring what we were enduring, what was the political rhetoric of the leaders of the Liberal Alliance? Mr. Mirko Marjanovic, the former prime minister of Serbia, must have envied them for that rhetoric. Let me remind you that Mirko Marjanovic accused Milo Djukanovic of criminal activities, in other words, of things Mr. Vickovic has just mentioned, although somehow more indulgently. When those things were discussed in the Parliament of Montenegro, the colleagues from the Liberal Alliance joined Milosevic's allies.

Building a state is a difficult and painful process that demands patience and understanding, endurance and ability to suppress one's feelings. Selfish and intolerant projects -- like the one advocated by the Liberals -- can exist, but those projects do not build states, they destroy them. Things that Mr. Vickovic is talking about represent the attitude of the Liberal Alliance. I respect it, I understand it, but I do not accept it.

We have said that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a state that cannot be allowed to decide the future of Montenegro. We have said that we would not take part in those farcical federal elections and in the procedure of establishing the bodies of that state. We raised an objection against the hasty admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to international institutions.

Yugoslavia is a defunct state that has no sovereignty in Montenegro. We warned the international community that it would be wiser to postpone the admission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to international institutions until the state of Montenegro and the state of Serbia reach an agreement about their mutual relations...

Miroslav Vickovic: To make things clear, one should know that Mr. Vukovic has been a part of the establishment from the time he was 18. He has always been somewhere within the leadership, first as a member of the [communist] youth organization.

I am not sure that you know that I used to work for the Ministry of the Interior until 31 July 1990, when -- unlike Mr. Vukovic -- I quit because I did not want to be even the smallest part of Milosevic's machine that has since provoked bloodshed. Mr. Vukovic did belong to them, and on 20 December1995, after the Dayton peace agreement, he said: "We can say that Milosevic has great international fame." So, I quit -- as the Chinese proverb goes: "One cannot save his face and his backside at the same time." My priority was the former, unlike so many others in Montenegro who opted to serve to Milosevic.

But let me continue. Mr. Vukovic's party keeps repeating that they have won seven elections. How could they possibly lose when they unscrupulously manipulated them with all the mechanisms, all the monopolies of the former, communist system? Who controls the media in Montenegro? Who controls the secret police? Who has 25,000 policemen? Who controls the unofficial economy? Mr. Vukovic, who controls all the mechanisms without which there cannot be elections in Montenegro, only voting?

When you were attacking Dubrovnik, you called us Ustasha. When you were fighting in Bosnia, we, the Liberals, were labeled Mujahedin, Turks, etc. When you had a fight with Milosevic, and we welcomed that event by supporting Mr. Djukanovic in the presidential election, you associated us with Milosevic. So, you keep associating us with your enemies...

The existence of Montenegro is based on the economy of black-marketeering. No one prevents you giving back the property of the League of Communists, which you are illegally and unconstitutionally using. And we, the Liberals, have been using a shack for ten years now. These are the things we are talking about, and which absolutely did not depend on Milosevic.

And about your claim that the state is constantly changing, I fear that the way you are changing it is irreparable. Now you see how quickly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has become a member of all the international organizations, while you just talk about a Montenegrin seat in the United Nations. You tell it to China and wait for the answer about the problem of Tibet, not to mention the issue of Taiwan. And what would be the reaction of Orthodox Russia?

But, please, let us talk about important things, about things that worry the public in Montenegro. The question is: "What are we going to do with Montenegro." Where does Montenegro go?

If you do not organize a referendum with a clear question -- "Do you want an independent and internationally recognized Montenegro" -- it will be just another fraud.