Montenegro: At The Crossroads

As Montenegrins this weekend have their general election, President Djukanovic tries to whip up nationalism against Serbia. If there is a majority in Parliament in favour of independence, the country will have a referendum. Pro-Djukanovic economists have recently spoken out about the fact that being tied to Serbia has damaged the economy of Montenegro. Podgorica must not forget, however, that there are more Montenegrins working in Serbia (600,000) than in Montenegro itself (350,000). President Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia stated yesterday that Serbia had no interest in forming an alliance with an independent Montenegro. His opinion is that Montenegro will not vote for independence and claimed that Djukanovic and his followers “are trying to explain away their election defeat”. Djukanovic accused Kostunica of trying to destabilise Montenegro internally, by threatening to activate a fifth column of Serbs within Montenegro. He accused President Kostunica of using “the entire Milosevic propaganda machinery” against Montenegro. In reply to this attack, President Kostunica and Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic issued a joint statement denying any interference in Montenegro and clearly defining Yugoslavia’s position: “The Democratic Opposition of Serbia wants to allow the citizens of Montenegro to choose their own path. We would be very pleased if Montenegro votes to stay in a joint state with Serbs. If that is the decision taken, we will gladly embark on talks about redefining relations with the federal state”. While Podgorica and Belgrade embark on a battle of words, the Albanians make sinister noises, foretelling what Pravda.Ru predicted some months ago: the wings of the Albanian eagle will spread next into Montenegro. Ferhat Dinosa, of the Democratic Alliance of Albanians, claimed at a rally in Plav, Montenegro, that “The homes of the Albanians from Plav, Gusinje, Malesija and Ulcinj have been their homes since the time of Ali Pasha”. He went on to state that Albanians in Montenegro will soon see that “their motherland is and will be Greater Albania”. He exhorted Albanians in Montenegro to claim their true rights, while stating that Kosovo was already independent from Yugoslavia. Whether or not Podgorica decides to divorce Belgrade in an amicable settlement or not, it seems there will be an unwanted baby: an Albanian question. We have heard its cry before.

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON