Djukanovic Cautious Over Independence

Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, says he's in no hurry to call a referendum on independence.

Djukanovic Cautious Over Independence

Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic, says he's in no hurry to call a referendum on independence.

Tuesday, 13 June, 2000

(BCR No. 148, 13-June-00)

Slobodan Rackovic, SR: Do you still think Milosevic could try to impose state of emergency in Montenegro?

Milo Djukanovic, MDJ: When you share a house with Slobodan Milosevic, only a naive person could be taken by surprise. He is capable of all sorts of twists and turns. He might try to impose a state of emergency in Montenegro, officially or unofficially, but I'm certain it would end in failure because he is not strong enough to destroy Montenegro's democratic will.

SR: Victory in the June 11 elections would allow you to continue reforms, and prepare the ground for a possible referendum on independence.

MDJ: I would not say that the results of these elections will determine our conduct in the immediate future. I do not believe in spectacular change on the Montenegrin political scene. I think that the change will take place gradually, more slowly than we wish it. We must not lag behind with reforms, but at the same time we must respect the deep divisions in Montenegro.

SR: So, your earlier predictions that the Yugoslav crisis will be resolved by the end of the year were much too optimistic?

MDJ: I do think things are, in essence, being resolved. These are important elections because we shall show that we have made progress. Secondly, by the end of the year, local elections in Serbia will have taken place. They will be an important test of Serbia's democratic potential. Finally, by the end of the year we will inevitably enter the last months of Milosevic's presidential mandate.

SR: You recently called on the international community to stop insisting "on Montenegro remaining within Yugoslavia, FRY, a state with a dubious future." How has the international community reacted to this?

MDJ: The international community strives to integrate the Balkans. This is why it now opposes any form of disintegration, especially if that disintegration, as in the case of the FRY, could cause new crisis spots to emerge in the Balkans. The international community wishes to encourage the development of democratic processes in Serbia.

However, we cannot sacrifice our strategic state interests. We have offered Serbia a redesigned Serbia-Montenegro union. For a year now, we have seen Serbia ignore such an idea. If Serbia continues to insist on the status quo, I believe it is quite logical for us to tell the international community that they should countenance a change in the legal status of the Montenegrin state.

After all, who has the moral right to demand that Montenegro and Montenegrins renounce their future and continue to live in a community with very dubious prospects.

SR: Many have wondered if Montenegro is hiding behind military guarantees from abroad while talking of separation.

MDJ: If a conflict breaks out, I am sure that the international community would not sit idly by. An attack on Montenegro is an attack on democracy, an attack on the policy of the South-Eastern Europe Stability Pact, and, therefore, an attack on the European Union, on America and Russia. If someone dares to attack all that, then he must truly be ready to face the consequences as well.

SR: The Yugoslav army is increasingly losing its Yugoslav character, and Montenegrin citizens perceive it as less and less their own. There are ever fewer Montenegrins in positions of command and you have been practically barred from the Supreme Defence Counsel.

MDJ: I've been excluded from the Supreme Defence Counsel since December 1998! That body has not convened in the meantime. Milosevic proclaimed himself the supreme commander and this is how the military leadership addresses him. That is unconstitutional and illegal.

On several occasions I have warned the military leadership in the FRY that the day when Milosevic will be held accountable for everything he has done is not far away. All those who helped him destroy the constitution and the country, and to threaten people's lives, will be held responsible alongside him.

The [the Yugoslav army] has abandoned its constitutional obligations and often seems like Milosevic's guard. A very large number of people in this republic wonder whether it's worth having such an army in Montenegro.

SR: If Milosevic visited Montenegro would he be arrested?

MDJ: He is on The Hague Tribunal's list. However, no one is asking us to do anything which might greatly harm stability in the region. That would create a bigger problem for the international community.

SR: Do you accept that the fates of Kosovo and Montenegro are connected?

MDJ: Not at all! Kosovo has been an integral part of Serbia since time immemorial, while Montenegro is a state on its own.

Montenegro must have the same rights as Serbia, as well as the same rights enjoyed by Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia [as republics within the former Yugoslavia]. Kosovo must remain, probably within the framework of Serbia, as a highly autonomous region.

Montenegro, however, is a state, which joined the community [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] through the will of its citizens and those same citizens can decide on a different constitutional and legal status.

SR: Is your personal security threatened. If so, how much?

MDJ: Unfortunately, I must say that the security of all is at risk because of the protracted duration of the crisis in Yugoslavia. As far as I am personally concerned, I am completely aware of what I am doing in politics. I am aware that this means entering a conflict of interests with those who have become accustomed to an undignified and humiliated Montenegro. I neither can, nor wish to go back!

Slobodan Rackovic is a journalist with the STINA news agency in Split.

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