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  Montenegro: Which Way Next?

Podgorica/ Brussels, 30 November 2000
The removal of the Miloševic regime is forcing the Montenegrin government to confront the contentious issue of Montenegro's future status, whether within or outside Yugoslavia.

Over the past three years, Montenegro has increasingly distanced itself from Belgrade, as the Miloševic regime undermined meaningful participation by legitimate Montenegrin representatives in federal bodies. In practice Montenegro already functions independently of the Yugoslav federation. Freed from the threat of a crackdown by Belgrade, the Montenegrin authorities have opted to legitimise this reality, and to seek, following a referendum, full independence as a recognised, sovereign state. While they have expressed a willingness to achieve this through negotiation, they have declared their determination to hold a referendum in the first half of 2001 if no agreement with Belgrade is reached.

A substantial proportion of the Montenegrin population still favours a continuation of Yugoslavia, whether as a very loose confederation or as a resurrection of the Yugoslav federation. In such circumstances, moves towards independence would be highly divisive.

The choices open to Montenegro are analysed in a briefing paper released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) today.

ICG's President Gareth Evans said that "the Montenegrin and Serbian authorities should be urged seriously to pursue a negotiated agreement, keeping open all realistic options, including some form of very loose confederal arrangement within a single state". The briefing paper argues that the priority for the international community should be to find a solution which will be acceptable to all parties and which will not upset either domestic or regional stability.

The international community has expressed reservations about the idea of Montenegrin independence, citing in particular fears that it would not help the consolidation of democratic change in Serbia. However, crude international pressure in favour of a particular outcome would, in the present environment, be counterproductive.

In continuing to provide international assistance to Montenegro, conditionality on progress in reforms should be more rigorously applied. The international community's practice of supporting the current administration should be discontinued, and the focus should rather be on promoting democratic reforms, under whichever government.


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