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South Slavic: January 4, 2001

4 January 2001, Volume 3, Number 1

Which Way To Montenegrin Independence? Part II

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 Liberal Alliance of Montenegro.

Part I appeared on 21 December. The Liberals have meanwhile agreed to support the government, which lost a coalition member that favored retaining ties to Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001).

Miodrag Vukovic: I have been listening to Mr. Vickovic talking about how we have won elections thanks to the police, media, torture, and dictatorship, [all of which also belongs to] Milosevic's rhetoric [against us]. Hence I wonder whether I am really talking to the respected president of the Liberal Alliance, or to a spokesman of the Socialist People's Party [that served in both the last and the current Belgrade governments]. The point is that both [the Liberals and the Socialist People's Party] use the same language to slander us.

But it does not matter. Listen to what Mr. Vickovic said. "Have you, Mr. Vukovic, asked great Russia about the seat in the United Nations," [which the Djukanovic government wants]? Can you guess who asked me the same question last night? It was Dusko Jovanovic of the Socialist People's Party. He asked me the same thing: "Did you ask for the great powers' permission to grant you the seat in the United Nations"?

Mr. Vickovic wants Montenegro to become independent immediately and hastily, but he grumbles that our efforts to achieve international endorsement of Montenegrin sovereignty are senseless...

But let us go to the heart of the matter, as Mr. Vickovic has demanded. Do you know that two policy options confront each other in Montenegro? One inclines only to a sort of alliance or federation. The other wants an independent Montenegro...while remaining in a certain democratically agreed and mutually accepted relationship -- we call it an alliance -- with Serbia.

Have you ever heard about it? I do hope that you are not ignoring it intentionally. When was the last time you were in Berane as a president of a respected party? Get out of your "shack" (as you call it) [see Part I] and go to Berane. Go to Pljevlja, Bar, or Herceg Novi. Go anywhere to meet your Liberals, and, believe me, you will learn some very interesting things.

You, Mr. Vickovic, have handed Herceg Novi over to the Socialist People's Party. You have even tried to do the same with Podgorica. You left the coalition government in Herceg Novi and Podgorica at the most difficult moment. You did that so that you could provoke early elections and help Milosevic finish the job. That political move of yours was politically selfish, or even worse than that...

Miroslav Vickovic: How is it that the Socialist People's Party does not criticize your latest platform [on relations with Serbia. See "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2001]? They do not criticize it because it serves their purpose. There is a common state with three functions -- monetary, defense, and foreign policy -- in their program as well...

Tell us something about the state you are building. Where is Montenegro going? What are your plans for Montenegro? Who has given you the right to conclude any new deal without a previous confirmation of the will of the people? Who has authorized you to transfer their authentic sovereignty? Who has given you that right?

Miodrag Vukovic: Stop misleading our people. It never entered our mind to transfer any part of the sovereignty of the citizens of Montenegro. Do not lecture me about who has sovereignty and who has not. You have jeered at everything that is Montenegrin in Montenegro...

Miroslav Vickovic: Montenegrin Liberals represent the honor of Montenegro. They saved its face [in the early 1990s] while you were losing it [by supporting Milosevic and his wars in Croatia and Bosnia].

Miodrag Vukovic: Yeah, right. Why don't you explain to the listeners in Europe how come you have always gotten only some 6 percent of the votes in what you call the rigged elections over the last ten years? And today some 52 percent of Montenegrins want a sovereign and independent Montenegro. Whom should they vote for, Mr. Vickovic? The last opinion polls show that you cannot possibly get more than 7 percent.

You'd better ask yourselves in that "shack" of yours what your policy has been. Stop lecturing us. If we had followed your advice, blood would have been shed in Montenegro. Montenegro is going where it belongs, led by a wise policy. You are acting like a child.

Miroslav Vickovic: That is strong language. You are talking like [veteran political gadfly] Mr. [Novak] Kilibarda, who said: "The Liberals have a great program, but the time was not right for it back in 1991 and 1992."

No, that is not correct. While you were [shelling Dubrovnik], supplying Mladic and Karadzic with crews for their tanks, and doing all sorts of nasty things in former Yugoslavia -- of course that time was "not right."

Miodrag Vukovic: Let us talk about those times and see where the leaders of the Liberal Alliance sought refuge. Did not leaders of the Liberal Alliance take refuge in Zagreb, which, at that time, was not run by the present democratic regime, but by another one?

Miroslav Vickovic: That is not true. You are trying to belittle us. Although people have short memories, you are not going to get away with that in Montenegro.

Miodrag Vukovic: Come on. Stop looking for an alibi for your political miscalculations in some made-up or real mistakes committed in the 1990s. Let us leave the past to the historians, let us talk about the present.

Miroslav Vickovic: We are ready to take part in a struggle for an independent and internationally recognized Montenegro... But Montenegrin Liberals will not endorse another fraud [of yours]... Come on, explain to us your platform, and allow the listeners of Radio Free Europe to realize that it is just another fraud. And it might as well be the last one, since there will be no more Montenegro [afterward]. Come on, tell us more about the platform.

Miodrag Vukovic: The international community has told us that they will accept whatever we agree on, but not any sort of quick solutions, which you prefer. And this is what we, as a serious government, are going to say to the people: Here are the facts... But instead we could do the same as [Bosnian Muslim leader] Alija Izetbegovic and others who did not care about the consequences [when they sought independence]...

Miroslav Vickovic: The question for a referendum is: "Are you for an independent, internationally recognized Montenegro"? Then the date should be set, decisions should be made about changes of legal infrastructure, a law about a referendum should be adopted, etc. If citizens vote in favor of an independent Montenegro, the parliament should proclaim it and adopt a new Constitution of the Republic of Montenegro as an independent state.

If, however, the majority of the citizens vote against independent Montenegro, the idea of independence will be rejected, but Montenegro will remain as a geographic or administrative notion. In that case, the parliament should endorse the results and begin negotiations with Serbia.

Of course, that is if Serbia still wants to negotiate. Let us imagine that Serbia says: "We do not want that." What a humiliation it would be for Montenegro. I can tell you that there are more and more people in Serbia saying: "What do they want anyway? Some 600.000 [Montenegrins] keep blackmailing us..."

Miodrag Vukovic: What sovereign Montenegro are you talking about? You want Montenegro to be internationally recognized and yet you say: "This Montenegro, which should be immediately recognized, is autocratic, despotic, villainous, and run by war profiteers and Milosevic's stooges."

However, when I ask you what we are supposed to do with such a Montenegro, you say: "I do not need such a Montenegro, I am going to crush it." Mr. Vickovic, you'd better repeat in public what you said after the elections in Podgorica when you had 6.35 percent of the votes. You said: "You beasts, now you have the government you deserve."

Miroslav Vickovic: That is not true. I was talking in the spirit of Solzhenitsyn's words: "We understand that patriotism is an overall and permanent feeling for one's nation, serving one's nation, and not flattering that nation..."

Omer Karabeg: Let us, please, bring this conversation to a close by answering my first question: Which way to go to independence? What would be your conclusion, Mr. Vickovic?

Miroslav Vickovic: Briefly, after the talks with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, the gentlemen from the Democratic Party of Socialists will offer the citizens of Montenegro what we are expecting -- a referendum to endorse their latest fraud. Accordingly, the question will be: "Do you want an independent and internationally recognized Montenegro -- which is a trap for the advocates of sovereignty -- to enter into a union with Serbia?"

We are supposed to be extremists while they are good guys. Following the good old communist pattern, they have chosen the golden mean. But things have changed, and their fraud will become clearly visible.

The point is that, even if everything falls to pieces in Montenegro, they will never risk the unity of their party. One could turn deaf listening to Mr. Vukovic talking about democracy, but democracy has not arrived here...

Miodrag Vukovic: That is just empty talk. You are trying to heal the traumas of your failed policy over the last ten years. By blaming others who work with a sense of responsibility, the Liberals are attempting to hide the catastrophic mistakes of their own policy.

The Democratic Party of Socialists is loyal to the concept of an independent and sovereign Montenegro, but, at the same time, we are serious politicians aware of the complex political situation in Montenegro. We also bear in mind that a wrong move might destroy everything that we have acquired with great difficulty -- while Milosevic and Mr. Vickovic were accusing us of being criminals...

Today's Montenegro is a role model, and it is respected as an equal partner. This Montenegro is made up of wise men belonging to all kinds of political orientations. We are ready to discuss what should be our next move, namely the referendum.

Miroslav Vickovic: What will you ask at the referendum?

Miodrag Vukovic: We will ask the citizens of Montenegro the question that will help them preserve their Montenegro, make it internationally recognized, and allow them to have democratic relations with their neighbors. And we will formulate that question after we have, as a responsible government, explained to the citizens that the international community will accept whatever our citizens decide. We will tell the citizens whether we have or have not reached an agreement with Serbia about living together, so that eventually our citizens can decide. Nothing less and nothing more than that.