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NO 95-96

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Helsinki Charter No. 95-96

May - June 2006



By Sonja Biserko

Chaotic and rather mixed-up as it is, the Serbian society is a product of the actual government's unwillingness and inability to take stock of the past and thus establish a link with reality - the reality that makes a part of contemporary global trends Serbia distinguishes not. With Montenegro's independence and the solution of the Kosovo issue at hand, Serbia will get its borders at long last. However, she still has to come to grips with key problems if she wants to become a modern state. By sticking to the same pattern - and thus disclosing its frustration more than anything else nowadays - the government fuels Serbian radicalism that will mushroom as long as Serbia remains an undefined state. Premier Kostunica's communication with the world more and more sounds like Slobodan Milosevic's discourse. So he messaged the European Union with rather bitter hostility that "the policy of permanent conditioning was utterly wrong" for its outcomes had been nothing but negative up to now. As it seems, Vojislav Kostunica has not realized that the EU is a club with clear standards and tenets, and that any new membership implies that a state has endorsed its value system.

The manner in which the great majority of Serbia's political elites reacted at the outcome of Montenegro's referendum once again manifested their attitude towards others and denial of reality. Slovenia's, Croatia's, Bosnia's and Macedonia's parting has evidently made them no wiser of an ongoing process they particularly turned a blind eye to when it came to Montenegro. Force was not used this time - not because of the official Belgrade's pacifism, but due, in the first place, to the presence of the international community that has been involved in the process of Montenegro's independence from the very beginning. Regardless of the fact that it has sided Belgrade, the European Union, having itself laid down the referendum standards and principles, recognized the independent Montenegro under summary procedure. For Belgrade, such swift decision was a slap in the face. It has obviously expected the EU to refute the results of the referendum.

It was only under the pressure of the international community that Belgrade stopped questioning the outcome of the referendum and recognized Montenegro's independence. That's for sure not a good beginning of future relations. And it was only after his visit to Moscow that Premier Vojislav Kostunica "found words for" the independent Montenegro. Kostunica himself, his Democratic Party of Serbia /DSS/ and the political circles close to them see the outcome of the referendum as a "national defeat." "Congratulations would sound sarcastic to Montenegrin citizens who have stood for the state union," said Milos Aligrudic, head of the DSS parliamentary caucus.

During his visit to Russia Metropolitan Amfilohije announced he had been promoted exarch, which made him equal with the Patriarch of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. This new title warns that Serbia has not reconciled herself to the outcome of recent wars or to new borders in the Balkans. Amfilohije made no public statement about Montenegro's independence though the Montenegrin Orthodox Church had called the Serbian Orthodox Church to recognize the new state. However, the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the outcome of the referendum. It said it hoped "the political change would not be a temptation for brotherly nations' churchly unity." Macedonia not only recognized the independent Montenegro, but also the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. Actually, Macedonia was the first to recognize Montenegrin church. This is only logical when one bears in mind that the Serbian Orthodox Church has never accepted autocephaly of the Macedonian church.

Serbian officials seized the opportunity of Montenegrin referendum to once again draw a parallel with Republika Srpska and demand the same right for it, i.e. separation from Bosnia-Herzegovina and proclamation of independence. But the EU responded promptly. Oli Rehn clearly messaged the Republika Srpska leadership that "parallels between Montenegro and Republika Srpska are misguiding," given that "Montenegro was entitled to hold a referendum under the Constitutional Charter, while the Dayton Accords do not invest Republika Srpska with this right."

Montenegrin referendum forced Serbia to proclaim her own statehood, which she did rather reluctantly. It was only in the second round and with 126 votes that the Serbian parliament voted in the decision whereby Serbia actually became an independent state. For, the parliament was working without a quorum, as usual.

Concern for the Serbian people in Montenegro became the topic of the day. "Serbs are being marginalized in all aspects - they have no media of their own, no political representation, no influence on policy-making and their economic well-being is threatened," say politicians. They underline that the Serbs are being denied their identity in Montenegro and should, therefore, fight for "a model of consociate democracy." Presently, the Serbs in Montenegro are getting organized in various associations such as the Society of Serbian Writers in Montenegro, Serbian scouts or Serbian historians. This process of Serbs' "national awakening" unavoidably evokes the memory of the so-called independent autonomous provinces in Croatia and Bosnia. And the state of Serbia is expected to abundantly subsidize "fostering of the Serbian identity" by schooling Serbian children from Montenegro.

Though the relations between the two newly established states have been formally normalized, Serbia behaves as if she expects the process to come to an end, i.e. as if after some next elections the independent Montenegro will decide to call a counter-referendum that will once again nestle it under Serbia's wing. Serbian nationalists believe that things would change once "the Albanians in Montenegro do what they've already done in Macedonia." "Montenegrins will awaken when they realize that a union with Serbia is their only chance to survive as a coherent whole," they say. The defeated unionist bloc puts across the same messages but more because of its financial dependence on Belgrade. According to Montenegrin media, the Kostunica cabinet has illegally transferred millions Euros to Montenegro to encourage the unionist bloc, particularly Predrag Bulatovic as its only respectable politician.

In the atmosphere of general frustration and discontent, the government initiated drafting of a new constitution, while some political parties begun to advocate restoration of monarchy in Serbia. According to officials, Western capitals show understanding for the government's new plan for Kosovo. At the same time, the government announces a joint plan of action with the European Union for successful completion of the cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, a plan similar to the one Croatia has had for Ante Gotovina. President Tadic tours neighboring countries. While visiting the village of Orlic in Croatia, he reminded his Croatian hosts that their country has actually done little for Serbs' return. The Politika daily is used for campaigning for the so-called third Serbia, which is nothing but yet another in the series of fabricated theses to be served to the world. Actually, this is all about the DSS' attempt to affirm itself as an unavoidable factor in the next reshuffle of cards.


NO 95-96

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