interview by Luka BRAILO
KRIVOKAPIC: The Union [of Serbia and Montenegro] was created with the justification that it would speed up our accession to the EU. But, as you know, the Feasibility Study has been put off until the end of this year, which means that Montenegro has lost another year because of remaining links with Serbia. In 2002, the year the Union was formed, Montenegro was at the point of producing its own Feasibility Study. This means that what was being presented as the formal reason for joining the Union turned into its opposite, and has slowed down Montenegro's progress towards EU membership. As time goes by, the negative aspects of the Union are becoming ever more evident.
Not much longer. You can cheat everything but time. In politics as in life, time reveals what can and what cannot survive. To be sure, even in this interregnum Montenegro is behaving like an autonomous state. We are independent in many ways, apart from foreign relations - and even there we have two foreign policies. My visits to Germany, Austria, Slovenia etc. were all arranged through Montenegrin channels, independently of the Union and the Belgrade diplomatic corps.
Because even when, for example, I attend the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe as official representative [of the Union], I face strong obstruction on the part of our so-called joint foreign-affairs diplomacy. Its structure has not changed much since Milosevic's time. The only thing that has changed is the party-political allegiance of the staff, in the sense that former members of JUL and SPS [the parties of Mira Markovic and Slobodan Milosevic respectively] have en masse switched to the new ruling parties. And anyway, Serbia is run today by a de facto coalition between the SPS and Kostunica. The secret wartime alliance between Kostunica and Milosevic has now become public.
At the core of Kostunica's political ideology lies the unrealized imperialist and expansionist program, as he made clear at the start of his presidency when he stated that the strengthening of the union with Montenegro was among his priorities, well above the Kosovo issue. We are dealing, in my view, with plans to annex Montenegro.
According to Monitor, unification of the customs regimes has cost Montenegro 45 million euros. Is that correct?
Yes, which proves my assertion that fifteen years of cohabitation with Serbia has led to Montenegro's economic devastation. One should add to that sum another 45 to 50 million Euros for the Army of Serbia and Montenegro, which was politicized during the war and ended up with very few truly professional officers. This is a lot of money. 7,500 soldiers have remained on the territory of Montenegro, even though there is no need for them. Montenegro can defend itself with police forces and reservists. On the border with Croatia, for example, we have stationed only a Montenegrin police force, yet we still have the Union army on the border with Serbia. Such examples show that the two parts have nothing common. The only thing we share is problems stemming from the Union.
There is an increasing dispute over the question of the referendum on Montenegro's independence which could be held in 2005 or 2006?
The Belgrade Agreement clearly stated that the referendum would be postponed for three years. The Serbia and Montenegro Charter is an act derived from the Agreement, and cannot be interpreted differently from what is set out in the fundamental document, particularly since it was adopted by both parliaments and carries Javier Solana's signature. We in the SDP stick by that date. We do not have to organize the referendum on March 14 next year, but the decision when to do so must be in our own hands after that date.
What about Kosovo?
Recent events have shown how effective the international policy of maintaining the status quo really is. We have got a government in Serbia whose leader Kostunica exudes nationalism, and who has made clear his intentions regarding Kosovo, prompting the other side to respond. You have two nationalisms and an immediate escalation of conflict. It will not be possible to sweep the Kosovo issue under the carpet for much longer. In my view the year 2005, after the presidential elections in the United States, will be decisive for Kosovo, and also for Montenegro which will regain its right to freely decide its own future.
We are grateful to Mr Solana for his effective contribution in many fields. Two years ago, however, when I did not vote for the Belgrade Agreement, I already said that it was an unsustainable union and that it would not advance any of the promised paths of development. Practical results have shown that Brussels was wrong and that we did not need the Union. The best proof is the deceleration of adhesion to the EU.
It appears, however, that Montenegrin society is no longer interested in independence. Will it be possible to revive the old energy?
The greatest damage caused by the Belgrade agreement, apart from that I have already mentioned, has been the dissipation of pro-independence energy. People are greatly disappointed because they expected that a referendum would take place. The SDP, the party I represent, was not responsible for this. By leaving the government we brought it down, but we were replaced by the Liberals, who in the meantime had defected to the other side, further contributing to the loss of energy. The pro-independence movement, however, has a long tradition and cannot easily be halted. It is up to us to carry out the necessary reforms as part of our road to independence. This autumn we will inform the citizens of our country of the date of the referendum, after which the momentum will quickly return, since nothing stimulates people more than the sense of freedom. Mankind is constantly striving towards freedom, and independence is a necessary precondition for it.