16 December 2004, Volume 6, Number 40
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL South Slavic Report" will appear on 13 January 2005.
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's 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.
RFE/RL: Analysts disagree about the possible consequences for the status of Kosovo of the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro. Some claim that it would speed up Kosovo's independence, while others think that the one would not affect the other. Mr. Samardzic, what is your opinion?
Samardzic: All post-Yugoslav succession issues are interconnected. There are several potential candidates for different kinds of independence or secession. Let me just mention Kosovo, western Macedonia, Montenegro -- i.e. the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro -- and finally Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state that is not really stable and whose borders are not yet final. Politically speaking, there is no doubt that change in any one of these areas would have a knock-on effect on the others, in what is metaphorically called the domino theory.
RFE/RL: Does that mean you think that Montenegro's secession would speed up or encourage the tendency for Kosovo's independence?
Samardzic: The drive for independence has been so strong among the Albanian majority over the past 10 years or so that one cannot speak of intensifying it any further. The point is that the Albanians in Kosovo feel that the case is closed and Kosovo and Metohija should be an independent state. The only thing that the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro might affect is that the Albanians might pressure [the UN civilian administration in Kosovo] UNMIK and the EU to speed up the process leading to independence.
Bojovic: For me the problem of Kosovo, i.e. the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, is one political issue, while the future of Montenegro is something completely different. I think that the independence of Montenegro might to a certain extent influence events in the neighborhood, and therefore the position of Kosovo, but it certainly cannot be treated as a central element in the Kosovo discussion. I do not think that the independence of Montenegro would really have a significant influence on the dynamic of developments regarding Kosovo.
RFE/RL: Some Montenegrins argue that Montenegro cannot afford to remain a hostage to the Kosovo dispute indefinitely.
Samardzic: That is what those currently holding power in Montenegro say.... The governing team in Montenegro argues that Montenegro is potentially or virtually already independent, that it has nothing to do with Kosovo, and therefore that it has no responsibility for what is going on in Kosovo. On the other side of the equation, many political parties and forces in Montenegro think that Kosovo, although part of Serbia, is a common political problem for both Serbia and Montenegro. It simply depends whether you belong to one Montenegrin political group or another.
Bojovic: I do not consider Montenegro a hostage of the unsolved Kosovo problem. For me, any decision about the status of Montenegro depends on the political balance within Montenegro. But the fact is that the issue of Kosovo was used as an argument against Montenegro's independence by some political circles in Brussels while they were setting up their phantom and virtual creation -- the commonwealth of Serbia and Montenegro -- and also by some Serbian political parties and their political allies in Montenegro.
The fact is that there is wide disagreement in Montenegro. There is a pro-independence majority that believes that the issue of Kosovo should be treated separately from the issue of Montenegro, while the backers of the union of Serbia and Montenegro -- here in Montenegro we usually call them pro-Serbian parties -- support the dominant political view in Serbia that the two questions are interlocked.
RFE/RL: According to some views, Montenegrin independence might represent the logical completion of the process of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, which, as they claim, is not yet over. While Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia seceded, only Serbia and Montenegro remained in the so-called rump Yugoslavia.
Samardzic: I find that an exaggeration. According to which law is Yugoslavia supposed to be dissolved into every last single unit it was made of?
What I see happening is a "re-feudalization" of the region, in which polities are fragmented while local oligarchies promise their populations a better life. Where should this process of dissolution end? Should it continue despite all the lessons we have learned since it started? Should the views of the population of only one area be considered, or those of people across the country?