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Montenegro: New Prime Minister Reiterates Independence Call

Montenegro's parliament yesterday elected a new government under Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, the country's former president. Djukanovic says he expects Montenegro to gain full independence from Belgrade within three years while concentrating on further stabilization and transformation.

Prague, 9 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Approval of Montenegro's new cabinet marks an end to a feud within the ruling coalition sparked by a scandal involving the arrest of the country's deputy state prosecutor on suspicion of involvement in trafficking in young women. The arrest marked the first time in the past decade that Montenegrin authorities have prosecuted senior officials for corruption or involvement in organized crime.

The new prime minister, Milo Djukanovic -- who was Montenegro's president until late last year -- was angered that he had received no advance warning of the impending arrest of Zoran Piperovic and three other suspects on 30 November. As a result, Djukanovic declined to reappoint the interior minister, Andrija Jovicevic, who had won international praise for his handling of Piperovic's arrest.

The two coalition parties -- Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists and the Social Democratic Party, which together have 39 seats in the 75-seat parliament -- also disagreed over whom to appoint as finance minister.

The dispute dragged on for a month, delaying the appointment of a government until the coalition parties were finally able to strike an agreement. The new interior minister is a Podgorica lawyer close to the Social Democrats, Milan Filipovic, while Djukanovic's incumbent finance minister, Miroslav Ivanisevic, has retained his post.

Parliament, minus the opposition, approved the cabinet yesterday.

Djukanovic said the authorities will continue the investigation into the Piperovic case to the end. "We demand clear accountability for everyone who morally or politically violated the standard norms of society."

In a speech to parliament, he also revived his call for independence for Montenegro after a three-year period of coexistence in a loose common state with Serbia that is due to be established soon following ratification. "If we have a little luck, enough wisdom, self respect and responsibility, Montenegro in my view will become an independent, internationally recognized state and will take full responsibility for its future in Europe."

Djukanovic said the new government is privileged to enjoy a degree of security and political stability that its predecessor lacked. "Thanks to the conditions of full security and political stability, this government will certainly be up to the task of proceeding with economic and democratic reforms to resolve the serious economic and social problems in society, establish a state of law, [and] efficiently deal with the issues of corruption and crime which affect all societies in transition."

But opposition Serbian People's Party parliamentary faction leader Novak Radulovic accuses the new government of not being up to the task of fighting crime and corruption. "Instead of the economy being run by market forces we have an irregular and illegal market, smuggling and other forms of an underground economy. There is an escalation of immorality, smuggling of drugs and cigarettes, the sale of people and a market in human misfortune."

Podgorica independent political analyst Nebojsa Medojevic said Djukanovic failed to present a detailed reform program in his speech to parliament and instead delivered an address that had more in common with an election campaign speech than a government program declaration. "The composition of the government shows that Mr. Djukanovic is sticking to his old style by maintaining loyal, obedient aides. He assumes all responsibility rather than sharing it with some sort of reformist team. He's chosen a group of party faithfuls without any ideas or critical views."

Medojevic said it is in everyone's interest for the government to open a dialogue with the opposition, the nongovernmental sector, and the trade unions to develop a consensus on how to proceed.