Montenegro in Transition - Problems of Identity and Statehood

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Montenegro in TransitionProblems of Identity and Statehood by Florian Bieber (ed.)

Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft Baden-Baden

Die Deutsche Bibliothek CIP-Einheitsaufnahme Ein Titeldatensatz fr diese Publikation ist bei Der Deutschen Bibliothek erhltlich. ( ISBN 3-8329-0072-1

1. Auflage 2003 Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2003. Printed in Germany. Alle Rechte, auch die des Nachdrucks von Auszgen, der photomechanischen Wiedergabe und der bersetzung, vorbehalten. Gedruckt auf alterungsbestndigem Papier. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically those of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, broadcasting, reproduction by photocopying machine or similar means, and storage in data banks. Under 54 of the German Copyright Law where copies are made for other than private use a fee is payable to Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort, Munich.



Preface Florian Bieber Montenegrin politics since the disintegration of Yugoslavia The dispute over Montenegrin independence The Belgrade Agreement: Robust mediation between Serbia and Montenegro Who are Montenegrins? Statehood, identity, and civic society A short review of the history of Montenegro The economic development of Montenegro National minorities in Montenegro after the break-up of Yugoslavia

7 11 43

Beta Huszka Wim van Meurs


Sra Pavlovi

83 107 139

erbo RastoderDragan uri Frantiek stek Bohdana Dimitrovov The authors Bibliography

159 181 183


Florian Bieber

PrefaceMontenegro has been a much-neglected part of the former Yugoslavia. Few books and articles, and only occasional media coverage, have marked this probably least-known republic of the former Yugoslavia in the western perception. 1 Responsible for this has been its small size (less than 700 000 people) and that Montenegro has been spared of war (the only republic of former Yugoslavia to have avoided conflict). The current volume is not written in anticipation of conflict, but is rather aimed at filling an important gap in understanding former Yugoslavia during the past decade. It is exactly the absence of conflict in Montenegro which means that Montenegro merits more, rather than less, attention. One of the underlying threads of this book is the attempt to understand why Montenegro has been spared of the wars which devastated large parts of the former Yugoslavia. The answer is not simple. In the early 1990s, Montenegro supported the Serbian governments war aims in Croatia and Bosnia; it was thus an accomplice (albeit partly unwilling) to the crimes committed in its western neighbours. At the same time, a strong anti-war movement, which rejected the extreme Serbian nationalism of the early 1990s, also existed. Later, Montenegro broke with Serbia only shortly before Serbia became immersed in the Kosovo war, engaging in the large-scale expulsion of Albanians and experiencing NATO bombing. There is, however, more than a collection of lucky circumstances to explain why Montenegro has evaded war. Considerably better inter-ethnic relations have prevented an escalation of majority-minority relations, which would have been conducive to conflict or war, as Frantiek stek and Bohdana Dimitrovov explain in their chapter on minorities. In addition, national homogenisation the process in which the different nations of former Yugoslavia were mobilised by the political elites to put national interests before all other concerns was only partially successful in Montenegro. Montenegro has seen competition between two national identities during the past decade, reflecting an earlier division among the inhabitants of Montenegro as exemplified in erbo Rastoders survey of Montenegrin history. The dispute between Serbian and Montenegrin national identity was, essentially, a conflict over who Montenegrins are, a question posed by Sra Pavlovi in his chapter on identity. This debate is far from being resolved and, as such, it has confronted the majority population with each other during the 1990s, rather than against the other, as happened elsewhere in former Yugoslavia. The debates over identity were themselves deeply political in nature, shaping party choices and informing the preference for the kind of state in which the citizens of Montenegro wanted to live. The issue of independence and secession from Yugoslavia was certain in the other republics of former Yugoslavia, at least among the dominant population group, but Montenegro was the exception. In the first half of the 1990s, a clear majority of Montenegrins supported a joint state with Serbia. Only in the second half of the past decade has public opinion begun to turn in favour of independence. Throughout this pe1 The Library of Congress and Amazon list only a handful of books published on Montenegro since 1990. The same can be said for French or German language publications.


Florian Bieber

riod, however, there has been no clear majority for either choice. Montenegrins are deeply divided over which state will best represent their interests. In addition to identity, the debates over the Republics status have been considerably informed by economic considerations, as Beta Huszka explores in her chapter on the dispute over Montenegrin independence in recent times. In addition to the intra-Montenegrin debates over relations with Serbia, the process of redefining ties with Serbia have shaped Yugoslav and Montenegrin politics. The agreement reached in March 2002 through European Union mediation and pressure has put an end to Yugoslavia and has established Serbia and Montenegro as a (possibly) temporary solution. As Wim van Meurs explains, the Belgrade Agreement has the potential to transform relations between the two republics; at the same time, it might also be a mere stopgap before Montenegro achieves independence after the three-year moratorium contained in the Agreement. The debates over Montenegros status have been the primary political issue for years while not being the most important concern for most Montenegrins. A number of opinion polls over the past few years have repeatedly shown that the economy and jobs are by far the most important issues. 2 In fact, the anti-bureaucratic revolution in 1988/9, which brought to power a new pro-Serb leadership, was motivated not only by nationalism but also as much by economic concerns. As one of the less-developed and poorer republics of Yugoslavia, the precarious economic position of Montenegro has been a continuous issue. Milo ukanovi sidelined the conservative forces within his ruling party in 1997 by engaging in the rhetoric of reform. In the process, some steps towards the transformation of the economy and society have been made. Nevertheless, as Dragan uri analyses in his chapter on the economic and social situation facing Montenegro, the reforms have exhausted themselves largely in rhetoric and have failed to bring about the desired improvement in citizens quality of life. 3 The elections of October 2002 signalled continuity with the sustained success of the Democratic Party of Socialists in power without interruption since the end of communism and the stable and nearly even division of Montenegrin society into the supporters and the opponents of independence. More than ten years since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Montenegro is both lucky and unfortunate. It is lucky because it has avoided war and has not seen inter-ethnic relations poisoned by ethno-nationalist mobilization as elsewhere in former Yugoslavia. It is unfortunate because its economic and social situation leaves it in a precarious position, with not much chance for improvement in the short or the medium term, irrespective of whether Montenegro is independent or remains part of a union with Serbia. It is also unfortunate because the political divide over status vis--vis Serbia has papered over other, more pragmatic, divisions in the political system, making reforms more difficult to ac2 See opinion polls by CEDEM, CfT and NDI. In March 2001, for example, during the election campaign and in the midst of bitter discussions on independence, 49% of those surveyed listed the economy as the most important issue while only one-third mentioned the status question. When combining first and second priorities, the distance increases to 87% to 52%. See NDI: Economy is Most Important Issue for Prospective Voters in Montenegro, Podgorica, 28.3.2001. 3 In 2002, over 80% live on the edge of subsistence while 20% live in poverty. See Senko Cabarkapa: ukanovi Seeks Another Chance, IWPR Balkan Crisis Report 17.10.2002.



complish. In fact, this deadlock might have been both Montenegros reason for avoiding conflict and also its reason for the particularly difficult road towards democratisation and economic transition.Acknowledgements I would like to thank the editors of the South-East Europe Review , Peter Scherrer and Calvin Allen, for supporting this project and making possible this timely production. Thanks are also due to Ivana Prazi for translating into English the historical review by erbo Rastoder.


Florian Bieber

Montenegrin politics since the disintegration of YugoslaviaIntroduction Montenegrin politics, unlike those of most of the other former Yugoslav republics, has been a story of continuity throughout the 1990s. In the absence of war, Montenegro has experienced few radical breaks. The most important break was arguably the fallout of Milo ukanovi with Slobodan Milo evi and Momir Bulatovi in 1997, which ushered in a period of political re-orientation towards the west and a democratisation of political life through the disintegration of the dominant Democratic Party of Socialists (Demokratska partija socijalista , DPS). This turning-po