Un resoconto critico sulla creazione dell'Unione di Serbia e Montenegro, che ha decretato la fine della Federazione Jugoslava. (testo in inglese)
After 84 years, the term "Yugoslavia" will cease to exist. In the course of the turbulent 20th century, this name was used for at least three different countries. In the early 30s, King Alexander officially changed the name of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes into the one already widely used among the commons: the Kingdom of Southern Slavs, i.e. Yugoslavia, because he feared nationalism and was trying to calm the quarrelsome trio of constitutive nations. After the II World War, in 1945, Tito's partisans took the power and created the second Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, which survived during the Cold War, feeding on the tensions between the two blocks and which broke apart some time in 1991, with the secession of Slovenia, then Croatia, and finally Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. The outcome of this is all too familiar.
On April 27, 1992, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was created (ironically, this text is being written on its 10th and most definitely last anniversary). Although the name was preserved, one might say it was exactly on this date that everything the name 'Yugoslavia' stood for vanished. Out of at least six distinct south Slavic nations, the new land was native only to two, Serbs and Montenegrins - and the two had been seen as one nation in some historians' views. So, what 'the country of the southern Slavs' denoted - the romantic yearn for unity among peoples of similar background populating areas from the southern parts of the former Austro-Hungary and north-western parts of the former Ottoman Empire - turned into its own mockery. Moreover, the preservation of the name for the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro was strange because both Serbia and Montenegro had been recognized as independent states at least since the Berlin Congress in 1878. In those days, early 1992, this was read in a variety of ways:
as a clumsy Milosevic's move to 'preserve' the country which had already broken apart, and thus explain all military actions against other republics as a measure against 'secession'; as his attempt to reign 'Yugoslavia' in the manner of Tito, no matter how small this Yugoslavia should be;
as a cunning move to present himself as a 'defender of Yugoslavia', since the name still rang many positive bells in the ears of ordinary people, and reminded them of happier times of the relatively liberal late Tito's country;
as an attempt to claim 'continuity' with the former country, and so simply inherit all of the political and most of the financial share of the former Federation, although all UN commissions had already declared the former country had dissolved into six separate units.
Whatever the reasons for its creation, the new country was seen as a failure from the very beginning. Its constitution was not a consequence of a serious social debate, but of a short-term agreement of the two political elites then ruling (Milosevic's Socialists and the Montenegrin Socialists, today divided as will be seen shortly). Its first two leading politicians were the ex President Dobrica Cosic, and the ex Prime Minister Milan Panic, the former an influential, moderately nationalist Serbian writer, the latter a controversial American businessman of Serbian origin, both of whom Milosevic initially needed in order to secure the country's better position in negotiations, only to get rid of them immediately after they started to become too independent. After this, the country was in the clutches of Serbia's president Milosevic, even long before he officially took the post of the Federal President in 1997.
Constitutionally, prospects for the new country were not bright, either: two-member federations had already disintegrated worldwide (Czechoslovakia was the example mentioned more often), and this federation was so 'unbalanced' (with, say, Serbia's population of about 10,000,000 and Montenegro's of 400,000 - about the size of the city of Nis or a larger Belgrade municipality) that no real equality could be secured, despite the 'constitutional twists', such as the Federal Assembly with two houses, in which the Upper House hosted an equal number of delegates from each of the Republic Parliaments (20 from Serbia and 20 from Montenegro). The institutions of the Federation never really reached any maturity, since the Federal and Republic Laws were never made compatible. The tacit agreement was to respect the Republic Laws when in doubt, which further weakened the feeble Federal country. For instance, although the Federal Constitution excluded death penalty from the very beginning, the Republic Constitutions foresaw it until recently. Or, more generally, even though the political system of the new country was similar to that of Germany, with a strong Federal PM and the Federal President as a mere representative figure, neither was particularly important in the country while Milosevic was in power in Serbia. Moreover, when Milosevic was elected Federal President, all real political power was moved to his cabinet - even though, according to the Constitution, the most he could do was greet ambassadors, grant freedom to prisoners on symbolic occasions or send birthday cards to other heads of state.
It seems obvious that such a country could be preserved only until it was supported by the political elites. It was so until 1997, when Montenegro started to complain. At first those were just small grumbles, which soon turned into an eruption - the complaints ranged from statements about the 'unequal and humiliatingly submissive status of Montenegro' to those about 'Milosevic's mindless rule that will lead us all to disaster'. That year, the ruling Montenegrin coalition of Socialists former Communists split up into two blocks: the Socialist People's Party SNP then led by President Bulatovic, still loyal to Milosevic, and the Democratic Party of Socialists DPS, led by Montenegrin PM Milo Djukanovic. What was made of Montenegro from then on cannot be easily described. Although the support in the Montenegrin electoral body was about 50%-50%, the West saw Djukanovic's open rebellion against Milosevic as a possibility to quickly overthrow the Yugoslav strongman's. Even more so after the Serbian opposition (today DOS) started cooperating with Djukanovic's Democratic Socialists. The next elections in Montenegro saw Djukanovic winning with a suspicious majority, and then the West started pumping money into Montenegro, simultaneously tightening the grip around Serbia. The economical disparity between the two was getting all the more serious, and Montenegro was less and less willing to be politically and economically dependent on the exhausted Serbia. It soon introduced its own financial system, its own currency (today Euro), its own banking system, even customs controls - all on pretexts of liberation from Milosevic, never openly giving anti-Serbian statements. When NATO started bombing Yugoslavia, Montenegro was only partly spared, which enraged Djukanovic who then lost all control in attacking Milosevic. Insults came from both sides: Djukanovic called Milosevic a 'mindless dictator' and his neo-communist wife Mirjana Markovic a 'monster', and Mrs. Markovic retorted that Milo Djukanovic was a 'mobster' who held clans of cigarette smugglers in his 'duchy'. A careful observer might say there was a grain of truth in all such statements, whatever their protagonists. Towards the decline of Milosevic's power, Serbia and Montenegro had already become practically independent, with a 'border' separating them, where there was no need for passports, but where no goods could pass without additional taxation.
Even though everybody was expecting a kind of reconciliation after October 2000 and the ovethrowal of Milosevic, no such thing happened. Djukanovic had already boycotted federal elections and had no MPs in the new parliament. To summon majority, the Serbian opposition was forced to enter a coalition with his opponents from Montenegro, the SNP who had by then abandoned Milosevic, and who now make up an unnatural federal coalition with DOS.
Meanwhile, within Montenegro, the row between SNP and DPS had become an undeclared war, with SNPers presenting themselves as 'defenders of Yugoslavia' and DPSers openly pushing for 'Montenegro's independence'. Things had already gone too far for either side to back down. Even more so, since they were both supported by 50% of the population (traditional Montenegrin attitude). This is why nothing seriously changed even after Milosevic was toppled. True, pressured by the West, and threatened to lose all the perks and money support he had been allowed as a 'pet anti-Milosevic fighter', Djukanovic was now forced to tacitly recognize the Federal institutions. He was seen at meetings of the Federal Defence Council (Presidents of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro), cooperated on some issues dealing with the Army, and even met President Kostunica a couple of times (but was careful to always call him 'Mr. Kostunica', or the 'legitimate representative of Serbia', but never the Federal President).
Status quo thus went on and on, negotiations were futile, with Serbia and SNP demanding a reformed, but unified state, and DPS and most of Montenegro wanting, at best, a 'union of two independent countries', even with two seats in the UN, etc.
The agreement was reached about a month ago, with a strong support (and pressure) of the European Union, and its envoy Mr. Solana, not really a persona grata in these areas, since most people remember him as the NATO Secretary General who ordered air raids against us in 1999 (if intentions to help were genuine, couldn't someone else have been sent by the EU? - this is a common question round here). What was signed by two political elites is a series of compromises no one round here finds very attractive. The new country will be called 'Serbia and Montenegro'. It will have a 'Constitutional Treaty', which will soon be reached according to the 'initial common ground': this implies an agreement about the fact that the new country will have a President, who will also act as a PM, and a Council of Ministers ('Government'?) with maximum 5 ministries - the Army, Foreign Affairs, Security, Finance Coordination and Minorities. They will work in accordance with Republic ministries and will not be able to veto any Republic decisions. There will also be a federal parliament, with just one house, where 'some sort of equality' will be secured. It is not clear as yet whether federal MPs will be elected directly, or perhaps they will be only delegates of the Republic assemblies. It is also not clear yet if there will be elections for the Federal parliament at all.
As this text is being written, the Serbian and the Montenegrin Parliaments have already adopted its framework, but the Federal Parliament could not reach such a decision as yet. This is so, because nothing can be passed in the Federal parliament without SNP's permission, and they do not want to vote for it unless 'real federal elections' are organized in the new country. DPS opposes this, while Serbian parties from DOS seem not to really care any more, as long as a solution is found and the deadlock overcome. It is pretty obvious, however, that Republics will hold most responsibility (they will, among other things, control Central Banks, financing, customs, and security forces; two separate monetary systems will remain, too!), whereas the Federal organs will have a merely representative importance.
It is still not quite clear what the new country will eventually look like. What is clear, however, is that no such thing exists in the world today. A futile compromise, something between a federal country, and two virtually independent states, which can be read either way by opposing parties, does not promise much. Therefore, this country seems to find its birth in a contradiction. Therefore, this agreement cannot be praised much, the always-pragmatic Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic says "it's the best we could do, and it realistically depicts the current situation". This is true, but is the formalization of the status quo really the best thing that could be done? In other words, did Xavier Solana think of anything but reaching any kind of compromise to present himself as a victor, and thus secure another term in the EU? One thing is sure, however - Yugoslavia, in any of its formers, is living its last days.