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"ICG-CEPS open letter on Montenegro"  

An Open Letter to Dr Javier Solana Madariaga, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Dear Dr Solana,

We have been following with strong interest your efforts to try to resolve the present impasse over the future of Monetenegro-Serbian relations. We are extremely concerned that the EU is trying to bull-dozer Podgorica in a direction that would be economically and politically unwise.

On the economic side, Podgorica has already moved faster towards the open European market (tariff average 3%) than Belgrade (tariff average 10%), and should not now be required to move backwards.

Podgorica has already introduced not only the DM as its currency two years ago, but now successfully - and without external help- moves onto the euro for its budget and replaces DM by euro notes and coin. It should not be forced back onto the Yugoslav dinar, a currency with a very bad track record.

Economic openness and the euro as currency make sense for a small coastal Adriatic economy, which can build a prosperous future with tourism as its main export industry. There is no reason why a small economy of this type cannot be viable - in population Montenegro is about the same as Cyprus and much bigger than Malta.

Re-integration of the region together with its integration with the EU, are objectives that we all support. But the EU should not push for a federation between unwilling partners. As you will remember surely, history is littered with failures of this type, mostly imposed by the European great powers of the day.

A different scenario is entirely possible, and suggested in fact by the Montenegrin statement of 5 February. If a constitutional agreement cannot be found today, it would be better to welcome the perspective of progressive convergence of Serbia and Montenegro over the time horizon ahead for preparing for EU accession (i.e. at least ten years). In the meantime, there would be several options including: (1) a loose confederation, allowing for different economic policies for the time being, and (2) independence. Either one would have to be legitimised by a referendum. We strongly believe that the people of Montenegro should be allowed to excercise their democratic right to decide on the future of their republic.

In all cases the outcome could be supported by an agreement between the parties to resume re-integration talks after some years as EU accession becomes a closer prospect. The EU should abstain from expressing any further preference over which should be the solution, but simply facilitate an amicable resolution without more delay, and agree to be supportive in all cases.

In all cases Belgrade should get on with the job of rationalising its own government structures, eliminating the overlap of Yugoslav and Serbian governments.

Finally we must express our alarm at the undoubted fact that EU pressure for a federal solution is playing into the hands of political factions in both Belgrade and Podgorica that are the least progressive in terms of modern European values, rather than the reverse.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group; former Foreign Minister, Australia

Daniel Gros, Director, Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels

Desmond O'Malley TD, Chairman, Joint Foreign Affairs Committee, Irish Parliament

Ersin Arioglu, Chairman, Yapi Merkezi, Turkey

Emma Bonino, Member of the European Parliament; former European Commissioner

Richard Caplan, Research Fellow, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford

Michael Emerson, Senior Research Fellow, CEPS

Tim Judah, Journalist, London, England

Heidi Rühle, Member of the European Parliament Pär Stenbäck, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finland

Ed van Thijn, former Minister of Interior, The Netherlands; former Mayor of Amsterdam

Nicholas Whyte, Research Fellow, Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels



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