De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty

By Tozun Bahcheli; Barry Bartmann et al. | Go to book overview
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3

Montenegro and Serbia

Disassociation, negotiation, resolution?

Philip Lyon

In his introduction to Milovan Djilas' Land without Justice, William Jovanovich calls the people of Montenegro 'Serbian by nationality, Orthodox by faith, Montenegrin by choice'. 1 As Montenegro begins the twenty-first century, this assessment has perhaps never been so apt or so mistaken. Montenegro, still nominally bound to Serbia in a joint state, is a divided country and has spent much of the past several years wrestling with the prospect of its own formal independence. After elections in April 2001 returned an ambiguous majority to the Montenegrin Parliament, Serbia and the Federal administration also devoted themselves to this topic and engaged with Podgorica over whether, where and who should negotiate either a radically redefined federation or else Montenegrin independence. 2 In spring 2002, Serbian, Montenegrin and Yugoslav representatives reached an EU-brokered agreement to establish the new state of 'Serbia and Montenegro'. Thereafter, however, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) lingered on as a country without a valid constitution or a functional government, a 'hollow edifice whose institutions hardly function except as an address for the international community' 3 while Serbia's and Monetenegro's leaders struggled to agree on a constitutional charter for the new state. Even under the new joint-state arrangement, the locus of real power remains in the republics. Montenegro, in fact, has been not just autonomous or even sovereign, but de facto independent for several years. In many ways, therefore, the real question in recent years has not been whether there would be an independent Montenegro, but rather whether there would be a redefined Yugoslav federation.

Montenegro's moves towards disassociation from Yugoslavia have not occurred in isolation. Rather, they have been largely products of and reactions to actions taken by Slobodan Milošević during his reign, and thereafter by his successors in Serbia and FRY. Economic arguments are also involved, as are local power politics. Indeed, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović's stubbornness in negotiations with Belgrade in 2001, was partly tied to the need to satisfy his stridently separatist coalition partners in order to keep his own party, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), in power. 4 These have diminished somewhat due to DPS electoral gains in 2002. Nevertheless, Montenegro's leadership seems only very tenuously committed to their new state arrangement with Serbia.

The debate that raged between Podgorica and Belgrade was fundamentally connected with questions of sovereignty. Sovereignty is an inherently slippery

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