Monday, April 17, 2006

In Montenegro resort, a rift over independence

By Nicholas Wood The New York Times

HERCEG NOVI, Montenegro Over the next few weeks this seaside town will fill up with vacationers from across Europe, primarily Serbs from Montenegro's neighboring republic.

But in a month's time residents here and across Montenegro will face a tough choice, one that some say could upset their town's livelihood. In a referendum on May 21, Montenegrins will decide whether to retain their ties with Serbia or go their own way and declare independence. The two now make up the federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

The question has hung over Montenegro since Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s. Montenegro's connections with Serbia - they share the same religion and language - gave it little reason to break away, and the government here supported Serbia throughout the wars of 1991 to 1995. But a small independence movement took root, and was ultimately adopted by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in 1998 as he distanced his republic from the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic.

Since then the government has emphasized other aspects of Montenegro's history, which includes a separate church and royal dynasty. Between 1878 and 1918, Montenegro was in fact independent, and it became part of Yugoslavia only after the First World War. In that light, Djukanovic describes the referendum as a chance to restore independence. His critics say it is an attempt initiated by the region's longest serving leader in order to entrench his control over the republic.

This city, which offers reasonably priced holidays on an increasingly expensive Adriatic coast, appears split down the middle, like much of Montenegro. Pollsters say they have stopped asking questions on doorsteps.

"We give them the questions to fill out by hand," said Rasenko Cadenovic of the Damar polling agency, based in the capital, Podgorica. "It's the only way to avoid a family row."

Cadenovic says the elderly are more inclined to support the union with Serbia and the younger to favor independence. There are geographic divisions too, with areas in the northeast, near Serbia, generally in favor of the federation, and areas on the coast wanting to break away. The pro-independence bloc is thought to have a majority, but perhaps not the 55 percent needed to effect a split-up.

"We all have friends or relatives on one side or the other," said Miroslav Milosev, a 32-year-old waiter who came to Herceg Novi five years ago to find a job. He favors independence, but his wife, Ksenja, wants to keep ties with Serbia, whose economy and population, around 10 million, far exceed those of Montenegro, which has just over 600,000 people.

"I think its silly to make new borders now," said Ksenja Milosev, whose parents are Montenegrin but live in Serbia. Not only does the town benefit from Serbian tourists, she said, but residents travel to Serbia to go to university and get medical care.

"Education and health care are much better there," she said.

Opponents of Djukanovic suggest that Montenegrins stand to lose if Serbia cuts their access to such benefits in retaliation for a vote for independence. Warning darkly of the Serbs, Pedrag Bulatovic, the leader of the pro-union bloc, said, "How Montenegro will look after May 21 and whether there will be a barbed wire fence between Serbia and Montenegro will be decided by others, not the prime minister."

In reality, Serbia and Montenegro are quite separate already. Both have their own customs services, currencies and separate governments. Beyond the military forces and a foreign service, there is little they share.

"We are struggling together, and it's inevitable that we will go our own way eventually," Miroslav Milosev said.

"Everyone else has gone their own way," he said, referring to four other former Yugoslav states, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, which all declared independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. "Why stop some else from having their own state?"

For Serbia, a separation would come at a hard time. Negotiations are ongoing on the future of Kosovo, the Albanian- dominated province being administered by the United Nations, and it, too, could become independent.

But Montenegro has a constitutional right to declare independence, and diplomats say that retaliation, economic or otherwise, could harm Serbia as much as Montenegro. (The tiny republic is Serbia's only route to the sea.)

The difficulty facing Djukanovic is to get the special majority, 55 percent of the vote, as agreed by the government and the European Union, which Montenegro wants to join.

"With a 100 percent turnout, we estimate he has a six to eight percent lead," Cadenovic said. A lower turnout could whittle that lead, leaving a bare majority but not one big enough to create a new state with international recognition.

While the government has argued that independence is needed to complete political and economic reforms, it needs the support of some of its fiercest critics to win. Many voters are highly critical of Djukanovic, whose administration has been tainted by repeated accusations of corruption and links to organized crime. The prime minister is also wanted by a court in Bari, Italy, which investigated him for possible links to cigarette trafficking.

Nebojsa Medojevic, a leading critic of the government, predicted that nothing would deeply change for Montenegrins after a vote to break away, considering that Djukavovic has been in office now for 17 years.

"Why would he start to reform things? Any serious reform would endanger him and his friends," said Medojevic, who is the director of a group called the Center for Transition, which lobbies for Djukavovic's removal from office. "I am for independence, but I am absolutely against this regime."

There is little doubt that the referendum will prompt high emotions, but few expect it to spill over into the kinds of conflict that followed the declarations of independence in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, which led to wars.

"It won't be like that here," Ksenja Milosev said. "Everyone's roots here are so mixed."


Anonymous said...

Who would ever want to be associated with a terrorist country like Serbia? I am certain that Montenegrins will break away next month. Who needs 3 dinars that Serbs still have to spend in vacations. They will get much more Albanians to go for vacation there :). I think Serbia has lost the right to govern themselves due to their obsession with greater Serbia.

Anonymous said...


They don't need Serbs and Albanians. Although this summer might possibly see a slight decrease in tourism from Serbia, if Montenegro goes independent it has a great future in front of itself. Montenegro is small and doesn't need massive tourism but rather quality from countries like Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia. They bring the hard currencty, not Albanians and Serbs. It makes sense though that those away from the coastline that don't directly benefit from tourism are in favor of staying with Serbia. They don't know any better although this is the smartest thing that Montenegro will do in it whole history.

Independence for Kosova said...

Europe is a bitch setting a quota of 55% of pro-independence for Montenegrians to break from an aweful union. The relationship Montenegro has had with Serbia was no near mutual, more money went to serbia and less was returned (i.e. for infastructure). It will be fun finally for Montenegro to gain international recognition.

kosmet1 said...

I guess some people in Montenegro want to have a very poor country that has to be supported by outside powers. Montenegro needs Serbia-like Kosovo does. They are not strong enough to be their own countries. Europe is going to have so many joke countries. Same goes for Bosnian Serb Republic-Serbska or whatever it's called.

Anonymous said...

serbs worrying about the welfare of Kosova and Montenegro reminds me of crocodile tears. They raped, massacred, burned and now they "care" so much about us albanians they they can't let us go. Man, what do these fucking rapists drink or smoke to be such imbeciles.

Anonymous said...

Proof that serbia wants partition!

Serbs to choose Kosovo return sites

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, April 18 (UPI) -- Serb minority refugees could choose places to return in Serbia's Kosovo province under a U.N. plan.

The plan stipulates legal frameworks to protect refugees from discrimination, said Sandra Michell, newly appointed director of the U.N. Office for Return in Kosovo's chief town of Pristina.

Michell said the plan is to create easier conditions for the return of displaced people, the Beta news agency reported. Lack of security and a poor economic situation are major problems that returnees face.

About 2,000 Serbs have returned to Kosovo in the past nine months. Some 200,000 Serbs left Kosovo following NATO air attacks in 1999 and ethnic Albanian attacks on Serbs in March 2004.

Kosovo, formally still part of Serbia, has been under the U.N. administration since 1999.

Serbs and ethnic Albanians in February began mediated talks on the future of Kosovo to decide who will govern the province once NATO and U.N. personnel leave.

cvijus said...

Let's look it from the other side, it's better for Serbs to go to other tourist destinations such as Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Italy, Croatia, etc. for the following reasons:

- Cheaper
- Better and more friendly service.
- You get changes in the form of monetary units instead of chewing gums.
- Constant supply of electricity and water.
- No provocations on the basis of ethnicicity (suprisingly also in croatia, last summer I had the time of my life over there)
- Good organized traffick (busses, etc)

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with Serbs wanting partition? I don't understand why Albanians want the Serb areas.

Anonymous said...

If we albanians get albanian areas then there is nothing wrong with serbs getting their areas.

Anonymous said...

Serbia a "democratic" country attacking its minorities.

Ethnic Hungarians in Serbia seek autonomy for Vojvodina

(Novi Sad, DTT-NET.COM) – Ethnic Hungarian politicians in Serbia have called for Northern Province of Vojvodina to be granted autonomy, same as Belgrade is offering to Kosovo Albanians and is seeking for Serbs in UN administrated territory.

Andras Agoston from Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, Sandor Pal from the Democratic Community of Vojvodina Hungarians and Laslo Rac Szabo from the Hungarians’ Civic Alliance have said in a letter sent to Serbia’s President Boris Tadic that Hungarian and other minorities in the northern part of Serbia should be granted autonomy the same political rights that Serbia is offering to Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and also seeking for Serbian minority there.

“We think that the principles of autonomies that are in the basis of the Serbian Government plan for resolving the position of Serbs in Kosovo are also valid in relation to the open and unresolved position of Hungarians and other minorities in Vojvodina,” the three leaders wrote in the letter.

It’s the second time in last four months that Hungarians raise the issue.

In December of last year the same three leaders in a letter addressed to Tadic and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called for talks for new upgraded status of Vojvodina to be held in parallel with already UN led launched process on the future of the breakaway Kosovo.

There was no response from Serbian leaders on the letters.

Serbia lately has been under pressure from international human rights groups and European Parliament for repeated acts of violence in the Northern Province which has a minority of more than 300,000 ethnic Ethnic Hungarians.

Last month two incidents against Hungarians were reported.

An Ethnic Hungarian was beaten by unknown attackers in Subotica town. According to Hungarian agency (MTI) the young victim, who has received cuts on his face has said that the assault was ethnically motivated as he was attacked when speaking in Hungarian language on the phone.

Another assault happened against a 28 year old Ethnic Hungarian in town of Kikinda. But this time the man was beaten at the police station.

The victim according the MTI has received serious injures that his spleen had to be removed. Twelve policemen have been sacked by Serbian authorities.

In the report by International Crisis group (ICG) Serbia has been criticised on its Hungarian minority human rights record. The ICG said that local politicians have recorded only in first five months of 2004, around 300 incidents orchestrated by members of Serbian radical party, including beatings, threats, the destruction of graveyards and national monuments, and anti-minority graffiti.

The European Parliament (EP) in a second resolution adopted in September last year warned Serbian government that respect of human rights is a strict condition Serbia must implement in order it can move closer toward EU and to conclude the talks on Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with EU.

The resolution also called for increased competencies of Vojvodina’s institutions, which were abolished in early ‘90s by Slobodan Milosevic.

The issue of Hungarians in Serbia is followed closely by Hungarian government and Hungarian members of European Parliament. Hungary joined the EU in May 2004.

Anonymous said...

Minorities are attacked in every country-it doesn't make the majority ethnic group that the attackers come from evil.

Think of all the African-Americans attacked and shot by white police officers in the United States.

I do think that if Kosovo gets independence-the Hungarians will get independece as well. It may take a few years. They should launch a KLA like group and attack Serb police and military.

Anonymous said...

"Minorities are attacked in every country-it doesn't make the majority ethnic group that the attackers come from evil. "

Great excuse. How come you mentioned only USA, how about france, germany italy etc.

Independence for Kosova said...

Cvjius how in hell can Serbs live in Egypt. Let's review some facts

Egypt is a vary Islam dominated country.
Egypt does not reward mass-murders.
Egypt would not let a 0.1% minority rule all of Egypt.

How are serbs going to live under Muslims, I mean terrorists?

Think before you talk.

Independence for Kosova said...

"Minorities are attacked in every country-it doesn't make the majority ethnic group that the attackers come from evil. "

NOT true!! But they do somehow always happen with Serbs around. Vojvodina, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Kosova....etc.

Maybe because Serbs are ready to cleanse everyone who is a Non-Serb?

Anonymous said...

Oh my god this is so biased
"serbians attack minoritys" ok just stop
listen if we were so bad and killed so many people why is it that in 1998 the population dispertion was as follows:
37% other 36% serbian 27 % albanian
and now what is it? it is:
7% serbia 3% other and 90 %(guess who)
so ask yourselvs who the real criminal is?

Anonymous said...

My former blog was about kosovo.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that population in Kosova was 27% albanian and 34% serb in 1998?
Dude, you are an insult to human evolution.

Anonymous said...

This Autonomy is bullshit, if Albanians want to be free of Serbia, GO TO ALBANIA, if hungarians want to leave GO TO HUNGARY, these ethinic groups should stop taking parts of serbia just because they have a majority population in the areas.

Johnny said...

"these ethnic groups should stop taking parts of serbia just because they have a majority population in the areas."
You racist imbecile!
You see, there's something called democracy and there's also one thing called respect and equality for everyone. It's because of people like you that Serbia lost so much and will still lose what's left to lose. It's a shame for Serbia that so many of its citizens are so retrograde. As a conscious European, I strongly support the independence of Kosovo and Montenegro, and I also support that studidity may be erradicated from Serbia, so that we can all start supporting Serbia as well.

Anonymous said...

@ johhny, so you're saying any minority who is a majority in a particular area, can ask for independence?

Johnny said...

Yes, why not?
If it's better for the future of a determined region where a minority is a majority to become independent, then they naturally have the right to become independent. The idea of a sovereign country only makes sense if its boundaries go along the boundaries of the ethnic community that find that country's nationality as their own. Minorities within them should abide to the rules of that country if their rights are respected. When a minority becomes a majority in a single area, then it's up to them to decide whether they should be better off by separating, or remaining within the country. Serbia had its chance to provide Kosovar Albanians with rights that would make them feel comfortable within Serbia. The Great Serbia nonsense and the disrespect by the Kosovar citizens' rights could only have the result of growing their bitter disappointment and willingness to break away from Serbia. It was actually a gross miscalculation by Milosevic. A minority that is a majority is never to be underestimated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply Johnny. I can see what your saying, but how far should that go? Just taking the United States and African Americans as a example, the city of "Gary, Indiana, had the highest percentage of black residents of any U.S. city in 2000, with 85 percent, followed closely by Detroit, Michigan, with 83 percent. Atlanta, Georgia, has a large African-American population of about 65 percent. The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., had a 60 percent black population." (From wikipedia) Now we know what kind of situation, a large proportion of the African American population are in, should these cities, if the majority wanted it, be declared independent?