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September 6, 1997
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 309
Stojan Cerovic’s Diary

Montenegro and Serbia

This week separatism has really gone overboard. Montenegro has separated from Momir Bulatovic and has practically renounced him before the elections have even started. This is the least that can be concluded from the fact that the Montenegrin Government reached an agreement with all parliamentary parties regarding upcoming elections and the development of democracy. In fact, this agreement will prove far reaching and its signatories are probably not far from the truth when they call it historical.

The scene took place in Villa Gorica which, in my childhood, was called Blazo’s Villa and remained for me the symbol of remote, unaccessible omnipotence not unlike Kafka’s Mansion. Times are different, and today, all sorts of local politicians are gathering there, signing documents, shaking hands and drinking champagne. For something similar to happen in Belgrade, it would be necessary for Milosevic to invite Beli Dvor together with, let us say, Draskovic, Seselj, Rugova and Ugljanin... That is impossible for more than one reason, of which the smallest one is that Milosevic’s police had already arrested every one of them, or had physically molested them, or both.

Momir Bulatovic and his faction are the only ones not included among the signatories of the "historical agreement", which means that they will not be credited with anything. On the contrary, had they not been where they were, had they not called on Belgrade for help, had there not been any insults, threats and accusations from Montenegrin regime media, Djukanovic would not have been in a hurry to accept the opposition’s ideas and demands, nor would the opposition have acknowledged that he had made improvements and that he has serious intentions. The agreement had been to a certain extent forced, which does not mean that it lacks sincerity and that it will not be respected. Bulatovic’s decisive statement that Montenegro is under threat of martial law had been equally forced, as that great idea which has been accepted for some time now in Kosovo, had evidently been abandoned.

All in all, tensions have abated, and the conflict which could have given birth to many deranged, well known monstrosities, seems to have been channeled and reduced to petty pre-election squabbling. However, the agreement remains, representing for all intents and purposes that significant and necessary fundamental consensus which stands at the beginning of every solid path toward political organization. In this way Montenegro had gotten that for which Serbia years in vein — the first clear step that must be made jointly and in the same direction by all political actors and representatives of all groups and echelons, for there to be mutual understanding and respect for the same rules of behavior once they each go their way.

The real rift with Serbia begins with this, inevitably promising only to grow in dimension. Montenegro is demonstrating a will for cleaning its house, while Serbia appears more and more like a theater in which actors constantly change roles and mix genres — someone is singing, someone crying, someone sleeping while the public occasionally jumps on stage, and while one man keeps claiming that everything is under control because he is the responsible stage director. The last chance for reaching even a partial agreement, one that would certainly have excluded Albanians, had been missed with the dissolution of Coalition Zajedno, which had fallen apart above all because of desire not to fulfill the instruction made by Gonzales’s Committee relating precisely to the agreement between the Government and the Opposition.

It turned out that Djukanovic had listened to Gonzales’s Committee, despite not being asked to do so, while Milosevic, who was the reason for its coming here in the first place, had found a way of eschewing, foregoing and weaseling out. Instead, he chose to meet secretly with leaders of the opposition and to make separate secret deals, knowing that the human qualities they all possess will make it hard for them to resist. However, the separatist Djukanovic met with everyone, and publicly at that. In fact, what we are seeing is the difference between honest and dishonest ways of playing the game. In the first case, conflicts multiplied hopelessly, while in the second, foundations of a democratic system have been put in place. In the same way, the solution to the problem of the media in Serbia had been found in Ms. Radmila Milentijevic, while Montenegro, exclusively because of separatism, wishes to institute multiparty head committees.

If separatism, that is to say a real striving for complete state independence, were what we are seeing, masked with reformist maneuvers, I think that it would be clear and few people would be mistaken by it. Personally, I would have little interest in the matter, that is to say, I would have little to say on the subject, beside the fact that I would be faced with some technical difficulties in the future. First of all, it is of course not difficult to agree with those who say that Serbia and Montenegro should live in peace, freedom and prosperity. There were few dilemmas while they shared the war, chaos, sanctions and poverty. However now, when they are moving in different directions, it is worthwhile answering the real questions.

If Serbia and Montenegro, that is Milosevic and Djukanovic continue as they have been doing, the federation will be weakened, which would lead to a complete separation or to a maintaining of only those relations which would not interfere with systemic differences. Those who are against that, and who think that the federation is already weak as it is, would have to think hard and unveil to us the way in which Montenegro could change things in Serbia. However, those who prefer Milosevic need not think about anything.

Of course, this problem is too important and too big, so that it is not advisable to jump to any hasty decisions. In this respect, it seems to me that Montenegro is very responsible and is taking its time, leaving Serbia all the space it needs to get back on its feet. But who can say now how much time Serbia will really need? Comparisons only prove uncomfortably painful: on the same day in which historical champagne was being toasted in Podgorica, the conscientious customs men were keeping the infamous ten buses, Berlin’s present to Belgrade, from crossing the border. What is the connection between these two events? There isn’t any, if the fact that the Mayor of Belgrade and the head of an opposition party is to be credited with that present is glossed over. Thus, in one part of this country, elections laws are being changed and media is adapting to opposition demands, while in the other part, Serbia is being told that Djindjic’s buses will not be driven here. At the same time, this blind hate and a senseless vendetta does not promise any victory, success or stability, and it is of little importance that the city, the citizens, the people, and even the regime itself will certainly only see harm from this bus affair. The main thing is that Djindjic will have nothing to show for his troubles.

Here a coalition of stupidity and terror has been created, and it is managing to survive in power with surprising success. It is very difficult to fight against it, and even more difficult to cooperate with it — those who understand stupidity will come up against force, while those who escape force, will have to deal with steadfast stupidity. Is it no easier to give up or flee somewhere? Do any of the helpless and desperate citizens of Serbia have anything to hold against Montenegro?

The conclusion of the elections in Serbia will, to a large extent, affect future relations in the federation. A certain victory by Lilic (or more correctly by Milosevic) and the left would lead to a more stepped up distancing. Any appreciable victory by the Radicals would immediately initiate a crisis. If SPO and Vuk Draskovic win, I promise to eat a gold coin with his image engraved on it. For the maintaining of the federation, it would be best if the boycotting faction were to get as much support as possible, because that seems the only way in which the regime might ask itself whether it is possible that something is wrong and a change needed. Then someone might actually remember to see how things are going in Montenegro, and might actually accept to be taught.

In the meantime, until it becomes clear what will actually happen, we can forget about the buses and console ourselves with the knowledge that they were nearly all made by Mercedes, and we all saw how easy it is to crash a Mercedes. Perhaps this sad episode carries with it consolation for the monarchists, or perhaps the republicans — I’m not entirely sure. The most important thing is to look at things in a positive light. Perhaps after looking hard, something good might actually come out of it.

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