Academic journal article The Cato Journal

The Making of a State: Transition in Montenegro

Academic journal article The Cato Journal

The Making of a State: Transition in Montenegro

Article excerpt

The first Montenegrin state started to take shape in the 8th century with the arrival of the Slavs and their mingling with the local population. Originally it was called Doclea, whose ruler received a royal insignia by the Pope Gregory VII in 1078 (Andrijasevic and Rastoder 2006). Montenegro fell under the Ottomans in the late 15th century, but acted as a de facto independent state until formal recognition came at the Berlin Congress in 1878. Despite being on the victors' side in the Balkan Wars and in World War I, it was annexed by Serbia and lost its sovereignty in 1918. After the Second World War it became a part of socialist Yugoslavia, where it remained until 1992.

Montenegro's political transition started in earnest after the Belgrade Agreement signed in March 2002. Montenegro held an independence referendum in 2006 and was subsequently admitted to the United Nations and other international organizations. Today Montenegro is engaged in accession talks with the European Union (EU).

Political Aspects of Transition in Montenegro

At the beginning of the 1990s, the process of opening a socialist society began in Montenegro, as it did in most other countries undergoing transition. The first multiparty ballot elections and the establishment of the first democratic government took place. Since the beginning of transition, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), successor of the League of Communists, has been the main political driver in the country. One can say that the transition in Montenegro has been characterized by program changes of the DPS, which also defined the country's path.

At the beginning of transition, the political and economic processes in Montenegro were under the dominant influence of the transition processes in the bigger member of the federation, Serbia. At the same time, the character of the Montenegrin society, which was predominantly a traditional society, made for a slow opening up to Europe. This stage of transition is characterized by a clash within the communist elite, as a pro-reform opposition never took form (Darmanovic 2003). Shortly after the changes, the Democratic Forum was established, a roundtable which prompted the establishment of multipartism.

In order to understand Montenegro's institutional setting, it is important to remember that the Yugoslav republics enjoyed significant rights stemming from the 1974 federal Constitution. Even prior to 1992, Montenegro had a number of institutions such as the constitutional court, parliament, government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and central bank. This institutional history makes Montenegro's situation somewhat different from other newly independent countries. Slovakia, for example, started creating institutions from scratch after the Velvet Divorce. So did the three Baltic countries after 1991.

Still, most of the political decisions were made in Belgrade, and Montenegro's institutions were quite weak. Additionally, the political process of transition in Montenegro was weighed down by civil wars in the former Yugoslavia and sanctions imposed by the United Nations in 1992. Thus, the political transition in Montenegro truly started after the clash in the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists in 1996. The DPS split into two factions: one that remained loyal to the Milosevic regime in Belgrade with the then President Momir Bulatovic at the helm; and the other, a pro-Western faction, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. These intraparty clashes created conditions for a new stage in transition and resulted in the Agreement on Minimum Principles for Development of a Democratic Infrastructure in Montenegro. It provided guarantees to the opposition that the electoral process would be fair and to the pro-reform part of the ruling party that it would receive the necessary support to oppose the official stance of Belgrade. The result was the election of Djukanovic as the President of Montenegro in 1997. …

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