At the Berlin Congress in 1878, the international community recognized Montenegro as an independent and sovereign state. Before that Montenegro was for several centuries a free and independent country.
At the end of WWI, in 1918, the international community did not support the further continuity of an independent Montenegrin state. The Kingdom of Montenegro united with the Kingdom of Serbia (Podgorica assembly), and then the state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the first Yugoslavia, was created.
At the end of WWII, in 1945, the international community, appreciating the contribution of the Yugoslav nations to the anti-fascist struggle supported the continuity of the Yugoslav state, within which Montenegro got the status of a republic [state].
During the disintegration of the Yugoslav state (the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), in 1991 and 1992, the international community supported independence of all Yugoslav republics [states]. Unlike Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Macedonia, citizens of Montenegro, in the given political circumstances, did not accept such an offer of the international community and in the referendum held on March 1 1992 opted for a common state with Serbia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Respecting the will of the citizens of Montenegro and the authorities in Serbia, the international community accepted the creation of that new state as a fact, without confrontation, but also without joy.
Now, ten years after the break up of the former Yugoslavia, the international community does not support the independence of Montenegro and further disintegration of FRY, despite clearly formulated demands of the current authorities in Montenegro in that respect. Similarly, it is believed, based on public opinion polls and recent election results, that somewhat more than a half of residents of Montenegro and about one third of ethnic Montenegrins living in the state support the independence.
Without questioning the inalienable right of every people, including the people of Montenegro, to freely and independently decide about its fate and the status of its state, the international community advocates democratic Montenegro, together with democratic Serbia, in democratic Yugoslavia implying the democratic reform of the existing federal organization of the state.
In that context the international community puts emphasis on democracy, and the fact that true democratic mechanisms and institutions provide an opportunity to establish relations between Serbia and Montenegro in such a constitutional and legal framework that would guarantee full economic and political equality of both components of the federation, fully satisfy individual national and state interests, and interests of their citizens, and also fully respect true differences that exist between them (in territory, number of inhabitants, size of economy etc.).
Such an attitude of the international community is motivated by numerous reasons. We shall state only some of them.
Autocracy and democracy. In the international circles, both political and intellectual, the current attitude is that the prevalence of autocracy and dictatorship over democracy and freedom was and remains the chief reason for the generation and acceleration of disintegration processes in the former and current Yugoslav space, as well as the discrediting of the Yugoslav ideal. That prevalence produced and still produces nationalist, hegemonistic and other backward ideologies, which leave behind themselves only graves and wasteland.
Similarly the international community is convinced that the changes that occurred last October and the fall of Milosevic's authoritarian and dictatorial regime have created preconditions for the removal of the main reason that ten years ago led to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, and which seriously threatened to engulf the remaining Yugoslav space.
Democracy and freedom got their historical chance to become a new social energy that, contrary to autocracy and dictatorship, will generate and accelerate possible integration processes not only within the existing and formed Yugoslav space, but also within the Balkans, Europe, and Euro-Atlantic region.
After all the tragedies that took place in the last decade in the former and present Yugoslav space, the international community is trying to as far as possible encourage and with all available means support the created historical chance for the development of democracy in Serbia and Yugoslavia. For precisely the same reasons, four years ago, the international community decisively supported the democratic orientation of Montenegro and the new democratic Montenegrin authorities, which courageously opposed Milosevic's hegemonistic and authoritarian aspirations.
The democratic orientation and achievements in Montenegro were considered and are still considered by the international community to be a very important factor in the spreading and strengthening of democratic and integration processes everywhere in the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans, rather than an occasion for the conclusion of the process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, initiated ten years ago. The current historical and international circumstances cannot be compared with those from ten years ago. "Political gauges" from the time of the break up of the former Yugoslavia cannot be mechanically applied to the current political situation in FRY. Now, everything is different.
In the newly created democratic conditions the international community does not see a single valid reason for supporting the definite disintegration of Yugoslavia. It does not believe that the conclusion of that proves is either necessary or irreversible, but it does agree that that process can be carried out and is possible. Namely, the same reasons that ten years ago led to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, the prevalence of autocracy over democracy, could lead to the final disintegration of the FRY.
A possible failure to grasp the historical chance created by the changes from October 2000, slowness and falling behind in the development of democracy, boiling down of those changes to the mere "democratic fašade" and "sporadic changes" of the old autocratic authorities, would necessarily lead to the further strengthening of pro-independence mood in Montenegro and the conclusion of the process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, which at that point may be openly supported by the international community.
Consequently, the international community views the issue of Montenegrin independence as a process, which exclusively depends on the speed and results of democratic development, rather than on anyone's subjective or willful ideas or impatient ambitions for state renewal. Every violent acceleration of that process brings with itself the burden of dangerous political consequences, some of which have already been seen in the current Yugoslav space.
Early holding of the referendum, in spite of (the lack of) necessary democratic achievements, would necessarily cause in Montenegro even deeper political divisions than the currently existing ones, with all the undesirable political risks that those divisions imply.
Political dialog. In any case, the holding of a referendum should be preceded by a true, creative and transparent political dialog between the federal units about the organization of their mutual relations. The social climate in which that dialog will be conducted and its results will depend not only on political will and readiness of the participants in the dialog but also, above all, on the achieved level and trend of democratic development in both federal units. Every concrete progress in the development of democracy in Serbia and Montenegro, and Yugoslavia respectively, will give impetus to political dialog and will make the final outcome of dialog more definite and realistic. Exactly concrete democratic development in Montenegro and Serbia would be the real "platform" for political dialog between them.
About nation and state. Fundamental reasons because of which, in given historical circumstances, the leading circles in the international community do not support the creation of new statelets in the Balkans, including the creation of independent Montenegro were explained the best, it seems, by Strobe Talbott, former US deputy secretary of state:
"The following questions must be answered: What is a nation? What is a state? When does a nation become a state, and what allows it to survive as such? What are the economic measures, what are natural borders that make a piece of land capable of surviving as a sovereign country? Really, what is sovereignty and what are its limits? This does not only have to do with geography, but also with anthropology - which is the mystery of human behavior. What is the necessary degree of similarity, and in which cases that similarity is necessary so that the inhabitants of a certain territory feel that they have a common identity, common destiny, and frequently, common weaknesses? After the end of the fourth Balkan war, we have a chance to bring parts of the former Yugoslavia, together with other countries emerging from the ruin of Communism, to the orbit of those innovations in the national identity and foreign relations that Western Europe is putting in place.
"Or, allow me to use Wilsonian terminology, we have a chance to make the whole continent secure for democracy, by creating the environment in which self-determination can be developed without necessity of breeding of ethnically based micro-states."
Balkan context. The issue of independence of Montenegro is viewed by the international community in the context of all-encompassing reconstruction and democratization of the Balkans. Debalkanization of the Balkans has become the central issue for the international community, including the way to put an end to its continuous fragmentation, most frequently followed by unforeseeable tragic consequences.
In that sense the creation of the independent Montenegro, among other, would simply be the creation of yet another small sovereign Balkan state (mini-state) that would become an additional burden for the international community and a perpetual recipient of economic assistance. In addition the international community would have to guarantee the political and other modes of security of that state.
Dangers and risks. In the leading circles of the international community there is still fear that the creation of the independent Montenegro would nevertheless provide an impetus for disturbances and instability, both within Montenegro and in the wider region, despite the assurances from Montenegro that she does not have "internal capacity" for producing problems of that sort. The international community observes the consequences of possible independence of Montenegro also through the prism of current agony of Macedonia. Arguments that Montenegro cannot be compared to Macedonia are not seen as convincing by the international community. Namely, the achievement of greater-Albanian nationalist ambitions, objectively, could in no way pass Montenegro by. In the greater-Albanian nationalist project there is no space for multiethnic and other non-homogenous societies.
The international community also fears a possible disintegration of Montenegro, after her independence, having in mind the complex ethnic and territorial structure of the state, so that that could prompt new internal disturbances.
Furthermore, it is believed that the creation of independent Montenegro could prompt modifications of the existing borders in the Balkans, the creation of independent Kosovo, influence the status of constituent entities in Bosnia-Hercegovina, destabilize the overall political situation in Serbia and significantly slow down, and even bring into question, her necessary democratic transformation.
Strategy of the international community. For the international community the current priority is to maintain and support the initiated democratic course and reforms in Montenegro, and to postpone holding of an independence referendum for a more suitable and fortuitous time. From the current Montenegrin authorities the international community expects a pull back from euphoric demands for independence that only serve to fuel internal divisions, already dangerous and unbearable, and a turn towards the all-encompassing democratic reconstruction of the Montenegrin society, the creation of true democratic values, institutions and mechanisms, development of a market and civil society, implementation of economic reforms, economic recovery and development.
Briefly, democracy is now more important than a referendum and independence. Only democracy and democratic development, instead of backward consciousness, nationalist passions and private-selfish interests, will determine the future status of Montenegro and her relations with Serbia. Every attempt to prejudge the final solution, abandoning the necessary democratic course of events, in already seen political style of "promised speed", is contrary to the current and long-term state and national interests of Montenegro.
The coming era is on the side of democratic Montenegro, democratic Serbia and their democratically organized joint state, but also on the side of other possible democratic modes of organization of state communities in the former Yugoslav space, and even wider, in the Balkans and Europe. The dominant view in the international community is that democratic Montenegro and democratic Serbia could enter united Europe faster together than on their own. And then, within united Europe, the status of Montenegro could be addressed in the real and generally acceptable manner.
The author is a diplomat and was until recently ambassador of FRY in Brazil