European Union created special rules for the forthcoming independence referendum in Montenegro
The EU approach to the Montenegro independence referendum opens numerous questions. Among other, what will happen if 54.9 percent of population votes for independence? Does that mean that the Commonwealth of Serbia-Montenegro survives even though the convincing minority of only 45.1 percent voted for it? Only creators of those unusual referendum rules can provide answers, although it is not difficult to divine that as far as Solana and Euro bureaucrats similar to him are concerned the independence of Montenegro, especially in the situation in which Serbia faces the loss of Kosovo in one way or another, is not a desirable outcome
by Luka BRAILO
Feral Tribune, Split, Croatia, February 23, 2006
The pre-referendum fever that has been shaking Montenegro for the past few years is now entering its stormy finale. After a month of hard negotiation conducted by the Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, on behalf of the European Union and its foreign-policy high representative Javier Solana, with representatives, on the one hand, of the pro-independence ruling coalition headed by prime minister Milo Dukanovic and, on the other, of the opposition bloc committed to Montenegro's continued union with Serbia, Brussels has proposed - more precisely decreed - rules for the coming plebiscite on Montenegro's future status. The question "Do you wish the Republic of Montenegro to be an independent state with full international subjectivity?" is to be put to voters by May 14, 2006, at the latest. A decision in favor of Montenegrin independence will be considered valid if supported by 550f those who vote, provided that a majority of the electorate turns out.
It is immediately evident that the EU has introduced into the Montenegrin referendum the principle of the so-called qualified majority, which is without precedent in the area of the former Yugoslavia. In the cases of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia, it was necessary to obtain a simple majority of those who voted and a turnout of 50224c74lus 1 of registered voters. The Slovene law governing the independence referendum, meanwhile, envisaged independence on the basis of 50224c74lus 1 of those with the right to vote. A similar turnout threshold is the practice likewise in, for example, Italy, Portugal, Lithuania and Sweden. In most EU states the referendum decision is made by a majority of those actually voting - a referendum majority being respected in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Greece, Finland, Italy, etc - while in Great Britain and Denmark such a decision is valid only if at least 400f registered voters cast votes in favor.
Considering these examples, as well as those of last year - when the citizens of France and Denmark rejected the EU constitution, and those of Spain accepted it, on the basis of a simple majority and a low turnout - it comes as no surprise that Brussels' special rules for Montenegro have caused a political storm in that country. The unionist bloc, composed of the Socialist People's Party (SNP), the People's Party (NS), and the Democratic Serb Party (DSS) is not very happy with this proposal, since it had demanded the formation of a transitional government, a turnout threshold of between 50% registered to 660f actual votes cast, special control over the police, voting rights for 260,000 Montenegrins living in Serbia... The rules set by Brussels will nevertheless eventually be accepted by them too, since Lajcak's - or more accurately Solana's - "offer" has been well-received by official Belgrade, whither the most prominent member of the unionist bloc, SNP leader Predrag Bulatovic, traveled to be told what his position should be.
Lack Of Respect For Tradition
The Brussels offer is not being rejected a priori by members of the pro-independence bloc, composed of Dukanovic's Socialists, Ranko Krivokapic's SDP and other smaller parties and groupings. They warn, however, that the rules operate against a democratic choice and infringe the principle of equality of all citizens in the coming referendum.
The fact is that the mathematics of applying the Brussels 55:45 percent model shows that in the case of Montenegro the unionists' "no" is worth 1.2 votes, while a pro-independence "yes" is worth only 0.8. In the case of Montenegro, in other words, the EU has abandoned the basic principle that participants in a referendum should have equal chances. This represents a direct contravention of EU proclamations regarding the need to uphold the European standards and democratic rules allegedly practiced by its 25 members.
The approach of Brussels to the referendum on Montenegrin independence opens many questions. One of these is what will happen if 54.90f Montenegro's inhabitants vote in favor of independence. Does this mean that Serbia-Montenegro remains in existence, despite the fact that only a convincing minority of 45.1% has voted in its favor? Only the drafters of these unusual referendum rules can provide the answer. It seems that Solana and similar Euro-bureaucrats do not like the idea of Montenegro's eventual independence, especially at a time when Serbia is about to lose Kosovo one way or another. It is indeed difficult not to avoid the impression that the special rule of a qualified majority for the Montenegrin referendum was contrived in order to make it more difficult for the pro-independence bloc, which is leading the unionists in the public-opinion polls, to win.
Contrived, put differently, in order to create or improve the chances for a minority to invest the Serbia-Montenegro union with new life in a legal manner and with EU blessing. Such an outcome, however, would throw this dysfunctional union (commonly termed Solania) into even greater crisis, since it cannot be expected that the ruling coalition, after winning between 50.01 and 54.99 percent of the votes, would simply acknowledge defeat.
Nevertheless, despite all the uncertainties inherent in the rules imposed by Solana and Lajcak, it would be most surprising if the EU council of ministers did not approve them at its meeting of February 27. It is also difficult to believe that the Montenegrin assembly will not pass a "European" referendum law by the end of February, despite its adverse implications for the pro-independence bloc, given that it was the Montenegrin government which invited EU mediators to help find a common language with the opposition. The ruling coalition cannot risk conducting a referendum on independence alone, while the unionist bloc - with the Brussels wind at its back - no longer contemplates a boycott. What Dukanovic and his pro-independence allies now need to do is to ensure that 560f their supporters come out to vote. And to convince them that the current government does not intend to turn the idea of Montenegro's emancipation into a project for the acquisition of uncontrolled power, as knowledgeable political analysts from Montenegro have been warning for years.
Original headline: "Narodni postotak"