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South Slavic: August 15, 2002

15 August 2002, Volume 4, Number 27


Part I.

A program of Radio Most (Bridge) with Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service and Danijel Cvjeticanin, professor of the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade and adviser to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, and Nebojsa Medojevic, director of the Center for Transition in Podgorica. It was broadcast on 21 July 2002.

RFE/RL: Representatives of the governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed [on 14 March] to "harmonize" the economic relations of the two members of the future commonwealth. Mr. Medojevic, what do you make of that document?

Nebojsa Medojevic: It was a pleasant surprise to me that such a good and fair document was signed without too much foreign involvement. This shows that some new, positive elements have entered the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro.

I think that credit should go to Serbian Minister of Finance Bozidar Djelic, who was educated in the West and could not care less about Balkan myths. This is the first document in the last 12 years from official Belgrade circles that actually respects the national and state identity of Montenegro, based on eliminating things that obstruct the free flow of goods, people, and services [between the two republics].

This is why I think that Mr. Djelic is going to take a lot of heat from many politicians in Serbia who want a unitary state. They are mostly from the old school and are troublemakers of long standing.

I fully support my colleague Djelic, not only because he is partly a Montenegrin -- since his mother is from the Piper clan -- and because we belong to the same generation, but also because I [too] think that we need to scale down grandiose plans and tackle problems in a pragmatic way.

Danijel Cvjeticanin: I also applaud the agreement of the two ministers of finance, Mr. Djelic and Mr. [Miroslav] Ivanisevic. They respect both the individual and common interests of the two republics that will form the joint state.

I would rather not label people or talk about the new and old forces. I do not like Mr. Medojevic's references to people wanting a "unitary state." Such distinctions belong to the [communist] past.

We should be aware that the [planned] Constitutional Charter will define one state and one market, which cannot exist without minimal joint functions or a minimal joint state.

We have to accept that Serbia and Montenegro belong to the same state, with only one seat in the United Nations, one entry in all international statistics, and one seat in all international financial and other organizations.

Medojevic: I cannot agree with Belgrade economists who claim that according to the Belgrade agreement, a strong federal government will force Serbia and Montenegro to harmonize their economic policies based on laws adopted by the federal parliament.

A correct reading of the Belgrade agreement will lead us to conclude something else: that barriers to the free flow of goods should be removed, and policies should be simply coordinated. I do not think the federal government will have the power to impose anything on the governments of the republics....

I fear that nothing can be done if one keeps insisting on one state, one nation, one leader, and one market. This is what irritates the Montenegrins and reinforces their doubts regarding the Belgrade agreement.

At the same time, Belgrade should stop looking for politicians in Montenegro who will back a unitary state. That is what makes Bozidar Djelic's even-handed approach so good.

But one should bear in mind that the new state of Serbia and Montenegro -- with only one seat [in the UN, etc.] -- was not created in a natural way but with the help of Mr. [Javier] Solana, who acted as midwife. That is not a normal state, and one should not even try to describe it as a normal state.

Cvjeticanin: By granting only one seat in the United Nations and other international organizations to Serbia and Montenegro, the international community has made it clear that this is going to be a joint state and not a commonwealth of independent states. I think that the idea of a commonwealth of independent states belongs to the past.

In that context, I expect the Constitutional Charter to define several -- I mean a small number of -- very important and vital functions of the federal state that are going to ensure the protection of every citizen of the joint state.

Therefore, there will be no fiefdoms in which oligarchies can do as they please. Everyone must act according to federal laws [backed] by the international community.

Medojevic: Any attempt to enforce Belgrade's authority in Montenegro is seen as an attempt to impose the will of the majority [Serbs on the much smaller Montenegrin population]. I think that we should rather let life itself determine the level of joint functions.

A good example for that is the European Union that started in 1957 as a customs union, and, step-by-step, reached the present level of integration.

One should similarly bear in mind the lessons from the past while determining the relations between Serbia and Montenegro. Nothing should be imposed by force, nothing should be over-regulated, and there should be no take-it-or-leave-it kind of solutions.

It would be very good if we started by agreeing about the functioning of a common market, the way it was done in the European Union. We should also take steps to protect citizens' rights in both republics.

I think that such an agreement can be reached without a strong federal apparatus, just like the two ministers have already begun to show.

RFE/RL: Mr. Cvjeticanin, do you think Serbia and Montenegro should have two separate monetary systems, with their own currencies and their own central banks?

Cvjeticanin: I would rather not waste our time trying to convince my colleagues from Montenegro how much better it would be to have a national monetary policy and national currency.

I think that my Montenegrin colleagues understand the problem quite well, but the symbolic attraction of the euro is too strong. For now, they will not admit how difficult it is to have a currency whose structure is defined by the Central Bank in Frankfurt while the money is used in Zabljak.

Our colleagues from Brussels have also tried to convince our colleagues from Podgorica that they do not belong to the euro system, but that they are only using the euro -- just like any other region, even smaller than Montenegro might do.

However, let us wait for reality to set in among Montenegrin economists. I might add that neither Serbia nor Montenegro meets the requirements for joining the euro system

Medojevic: Professor Cvjeticanin's arguments would have been acceptable if the new community of Montenegro and Serbia had emerged in a natural way -- if a referendum had been held and the cause of a joint state had triumphed at the ballot box.

However, this state was made by a political agreement, under the pressure of [the EU], which complicates things.

Our entire experience with monetary policies defined in Belgrade was negative, and this is why Montenegrin public opinion sees the euro as a safeguard against further abuses in Belgrade.

It would be probably better for Montenegro [again] to have its own currency -- the perper -- but it would be very difficult to prevent Montenegrin politicians from printing money every single time they needed more perpers for their electoral campaigns. If nothing else, this is what makes the introduction of the euro beneficial.