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NO 95-96

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 95-96 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 95-96

May - June 2006



By Nikola Samardzic

If the nature of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro recalled the authoritarian epoch, will its disappearance mark the end of its specific politics? Or, will Serbia become a scene of orgies resembling those that, inspired by the Memorandum, shook most of the second Yugoslavia? Could it be that after a decade and a half, conditions have again been created favoring the continuation of a criminal exploit?

The most recent report on the so-called security agency, recently reformed to the admiration of all who also revealed nostalgia for the time of its disgraceful achievements, refers to non-Serbian national communities as sources of separatism, terrorism, hatred and alien mentality. The prime minister shows his hurt at Europe's disinclination to understand, and condone, his intimate relationship with the killers from Sarajevo and Srebrenica. But, what does all that have to do with Montenegro?

The new isolationism announced by Vojislav Kostunica's government results from a series of events set off by the sudden death of Slobodan Milosevic. Then, the negotiations with the EU were postponed on account of Mladic. But, it is not that the government grieved Milosevic's death. On the contrary, its ideological mentors, wormed out of the infernal 1990s, found the absence of a verdict convenient, as it would have opened the door of justice leading them into a hell on earth. And neither are Kostunica and the majority in his cabinet Europeans who would feel left alone and dejected seeing that the citizens of Serbia have been made the pariahs of the world. But the strong majority in Montenegro was apparently reluctant to remain silent about its lack of understanding for the new maze of political pathology akin to the nature of official Serbia. According to the analysis of one of those who commissioned the murder of the first democratic prime minister, the days after the referendum were marked by a count of national communities whose roles in the theory of conspiracy once again figured in the official policy platform of the Serbian prime minister.

Ever since the early days of the restoration - the forming of Vojislav Kostunica's government - the state union has become the institutional framework for the evasion of international obligations, plunder and corruption, for the placement of surplus traditional nomenclature inherited from the authoritarian epoch, thus becoming an instrument of uncontrolled power and lawlessness. As a member of the state union Serbia demonstrated its aspiration to pursue a policy of isolation, to sabotage reforms and violate laws. The borders and customs survived, under the pretext of protecting agricultural production, both sides went on contributing to insufficiently close and functional mutual and international relations, and a phantom Court of Serbia and Montenegro continued to exist. A recent publication under the title "Occupation in 26 Months" summarizes the characteristic phenomena; unsolved deaths of soldiers, some of whom presumably saw someone or something they should not have seen, "Cvecara II" apartment block, satellite purchase from Israel, "Flack jacket" scandal. The inheritance included the failure to establish civil control over the army or to clarify its role in the Red Berets' rebellion and Zoran Djindjic's assassination. It seems obvious today that the election of Boris Tadic to the presidency of Serbia additionally relativized the political circumstances wherein it was still possible to see a sequence of post-Stalinist replacing one another at the head of the army. And all that to the accompaniment of Tadic's empty, unconvincing rhetoric on Euro-Atlantic partnerships and integrations.

But the symptoms of the state union's ailment remained political. That is not only due to the inclination of both sides to breach the provisions of the Constitutional Charter and deal with the disputes outside the institutional frameworks. Anyway, the implementation of the Charter was limited by the slowdown of transition reforms and the official Serbia's relapse into a state of furious political consciousness. Arrested democratization and Europeanization, along with contempt for important international obligations, once again made Serbia an undesirable collocutor. The prime minister, his advisors and ministers renewed the arrogant, cold war-like discourse that, although devoid of real threat, was just as devoid of any appeal. The only remaining partner in Montenegro acceptable to official Serbia was the quasi-Serbian pseudo opposition which, after October 5 coup, sitting in the federal parliament of that time, openly sabotaged democratization and reforms in Serbia, its opening and decriminalization and, at the same time, became the Trojan horse of Kostunica and his tycoons, army and church militants. It was not by chance that after the assassination, the official Serbia failed to demonstrate its readiness to adjust to internal transformation and speed of Montenegrin politics and its changeable identities. Djukanovic, a pragmatic, took the advantage of that fact to strengthen his power and take the referendum on independence, remaining, with his associates, its sole successful sponsor.

As for Montenegro, ever since its first Yugoslav unification, one could see a continuity in the emerging of new collective and political identities, clearly reflected precisely in the calls to renew the sovereign state. Roughly speaking, the unionists of old times gave rise to the federalists and the federalists to sovereignists. On the territory of the occupied Yugoslavia, Montenegro alone waged a true civil war. Long after, in the early 1990s, the attitude towards wartime aggression once again became the catalyst for the national, political, and perhaps even cultural, realignment. New Montenegrin nationalism appeared. But the intensity of that identity's political and cultural profiling was in reverse proportion to its ability to cause major shocks and produce profound and alarming consequences. From 1997 onwards Djukanovic started to oppose Milosevic openly, offering temporary sanctuary to the Serbian democratic opposition. The Democratic Party, on its part, helped speed up and professionalize the democratic and reform processes in Montenegro. To this Milosevic responded by deploying there a praetorian guard of political irredentists he could count on to act at the right moment.

During the 1990s the EU and the USA both encouraged the independence of Montenegro. Their support to the Constitutional Charter came as a surprise and created confusion. Then came the establishment of the "two-track" approach to the SAA negotiations revealing mutual lack of adjustment and the non-functional nature of the union, and thus also the political failure of all participants in that project. Although there had been some room to promote mutual cooperation, especially in the process of European integration, Serbia and Montenegro failed to use is. They could, in the first place, take that opportunity to adjust the relations in the union according to the principles applied by EU member countries and thus, emulating the EU example, create a common market and institutions.

In response to the proclamation of Montenegro's independence Kostunica demonstratively left for Banjaluka and, long after that, refused to recognize the will of the Montenegrin majority. At the same time, he voiced some doubts as to the completeness of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, by his sponsoring of Mladic, confirmed his determination to sustain the politics of crime that gave rise to Republika Srpska.

At this point of time the official Serbia lacks political readiness to engage in an active and benevolent process of succession and resolution of outstanding issues. Kostunica threatens with the new constitution as the starting point of new isolationism and conservative politics. In Montenegro, the new positioning of the quasi-Serbian opposition is expected in the pre-election realignment.

Liberal Serbia, at present, could rightly expect Montenegro to accelerate reforms and European integration once the post-election situation has calmed down. By obtaining independence Montenegro has shed the burden which Kostunica calls conditions and blackmail, but actually reducible to a request to properly assess a politics of crime, its ideologists, executors and admirers. In other words, Montenegro is free - and that is one of the valuable aspects of its freedom - from the Serbian Memorandum elite that has again become dominant and includes an important segment of mountaineers assimilated in the Academy, politics, mafia and other traditional institutions of the Serbian people. In any case, the forthcoming transition success in Montenegro should encourage democratic reconsideration within Serbia.

If, seemingly absurdly, the completion of the Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav disintegration is a condition for integration, the independence of Montenegro could be viewed from the point of view of establishing a firm and well-founded structure of its future relations with Serbia, such as the state union, in view of its political nature, could not have possibly offered. Should we, in a similar vein, look for a relaxation that will reveal to the Kosovo society - again after it obtains state independence - the everyday needs hinging on good neighborly relations, assistance and cooperation, however empty these words may sound today.

And while Kostunica's government has managed to aggravate and strain Serbia's relations with all its neighbors, Montenegro has cultivated its neighborly relations, among other things, by respecting the identities of its constituent communities and by the generally civic nature of its state. The regional policy currently pursued by Montenegro could encourage Serbia to follow suit, especially in terms of re-examining is relations with Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, in good faith. All that, primarily in Serbia-Montenegro communications, implies mutual political relaxation and, specifically, conclusion of free trade and double citizenship agreements and cooperation in European integration processes. The existing free trade agreements with all countries of the region concluded within the Stability Pact ensure the liberalization of economies that are somewhat complementary. The largest problem in that context is the Serbian agricultural protection policy that could, in this situation, be interpreted as protection of insufficiently motivated monopolists - a kind of protectionism that ruins competitiveness and development. A common market can be based on separate institutions, as the example of the EU shows us. These same principles could be applied to accomplish joint interests in the cultural, scientific or educational policies. Common interests, needs and responsibility have not disappeared with the state union.

The disintegration of the state union should be made to work in the interest of citizens of both states, so they could understand the advantage and rationale of having separate state structures. The citizens should not feel as foreigners, and should not be concerned for their property, security and, in certain cases, prospects in the former member state. They should be encouraged to freely acquire real estate and, reciprocally, enjoy the status of the most favored nation, and should be free to move and establish their companies, invest capital, spend and save, travel, acquire education, exchange experiences, form friendships. In a word, they should profit from the cooperation between two functional states.

The independence of Montenegro does not mean the end of the common political and institutional platform, but that platform does not suit the official Serbia, which has based its new politics on self-exclusion from the prospects of European and Euro-Atlantic integrations. Serbia has remains controlled by conservative political forces that look for support to the uneducated and manipulated strata, imbued with new populism and social demagogy. These forces apparently thrive on the abstention and confusion of the reform-oriented electorate. Time will show whether the official Serbia will try to endanger civic peace in Montenegro and whatever has remained of its own internal order, and if so, whether it will succeed in this exploit.

The newly acquired sovereignty of Montenegro implies greater obligations and responsibilities. Having a state is a serious temptation for governing strata prone to corruption. A state is a reflection of the need for freedom, but also an instrument of collectivism and non-freedom. The continuity of government in Montenegro is too long and uninterrupted, although it did adjust to the political reality and manifested propensity for reform. But this government today does not have a serious democratic reform alternative. Furthermore, the Montenegrin state should keep clear of the politics of identity. Statehood should be developed through free and efficient institutions, while identification with the politics of independence should sooner serve to disperse new optimism throughout and help build the civic society, rather than let it be drowned in the rhetoric of daily politics, since its fragility, especially faced with tradition, is clearly reflected in the lack of hierarchy and firm extra-institutional structures.

Montenegro has been given the opportunity to become, in many ways, similar to the modern successful world. If a civilization is inclined to erasing cultural differences, it helps mitigate the contrarieties and mistrust in ethnic affiliation and religious belonging. Enlightenment is a threat to manipulations of pseudo-history and pseudo-tradition, the postulates of new, unreliable identities and authoritarian ruling dispositions, postulates of intolerance, hatred and crime. Separation of peoples and their grading seems to be the preferred pastime of non-democrats. On the other extreme end, academic views often overdo political correctness so that it does not allow the reexamination of communities considered sensitive to critical views. But enlightened must not be an obstacle to rationalism. Montenegro is facing the integration of its Serbian community and continuing assimilation to the extent required for a balanced civic society. Not one of constituent communities, Serbian in particular - burdened as it is with defeat and frustration - should feel as if living in a state of emergency, or at least depression and self-pity. The political winner, in addition to obligations and responsibilities, has to demonstrate this kind of magnanimity.

Although an exceptional example of speedy changes of identity and adjustability, Montenegro has simultaneously retained internal primordial social links. Both of these facts may cause dissent. A condition for civic assimilation is emancipation from one's own culture, especially if it continues to be filled with pseudo-ethic pathos and strong links of personal loyalty. Montenegro would have to accelerate the processes of positive social identification, but in a way that will not turn it into a passive service provider. If, in the process of gaining independence, identification with sovereignty prevailed over ethnic identification, the social and professional mobility imply acceleration of democratic and reform processes and general opening of the country. If, finally, its most recent misunderstanding with the official Serbia was of political, rather than ethnical nature, the superiority of its political premises allows Montenegro to adjust the political and cultural identities to the reality of the present and with greater freedom think about the future of its democratic alternatives.


NO 95-96

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