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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 16:02 GMT
Yugoslavia's death is Balkans' gain
Yugoslav tank leaves Kosovo
Yugoslavia has now suffered its final defeat
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By Mark Thompson
Balkans Program Director, International Crisis Group

Yugoslavia, which died in spirit a decade ago, can now be buried.

It will have no further incarnations.

This is the first significance of the agreement signed in Belgrade on Thursday by the federal, Serbian and Montenegrin leaders along with Javier Solana, the European Union's first High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security.

Map of the Yugoslav Federation
Slobodan Milosevic, who did more than anyone to make Yugoslavia a dirty word, launched Serbia and Montenegro as the "third Yugoslavia" in April 1992.

But his federation was a fake, an effigy of multi-ethnic statehood that betrayed a once noble idea.

Milosevic never intended his Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to function democratically.

When his stooges in Montenegro lost power in 1998, the federation was pitched into crisis.

To no-one's surprise it proved incapable of reconciling the legitimate interests of its two republics, Serbia and Montenegro.


Thursday's acceptance by all parties of a new "Union of States" should spell the end for a delusion that had become dangerous.

For this reason alone, the agreement is a welcome step that should help to stabilise the Balkans.

Javier Solana
U-turn: Solana's deal favours reformists
Supporters of a stronger foreign policy role for the EU will also be satisfied. Following his widely praised mediation in Macedonia last year, Javier Solana has now won further credit.

The most ardent supporters of the FRY since Milosevic's fall in October 2000 have been found in Western capitals.

Fearful that abrupt Montenegrin independence would destabilise not only Serbia but also Kosovo, Bosnia and even Macedonia, the international community has openly backed Belgrade against Podgorica, in the process encouraging the least enlightened elements in both republics.

In this context, it is fascinating to see that Solana has brokered a framework solution that clearly favours the reformists.

Bitter pill

The Serbian camp wanted a veto on rapid, unilateral Montenegrin secession, no impact on Kosovo's status, a single seat in international institutions, and a range of important joint ministries.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica
Federal leaders have won a battle but lost the war
For their part, the Montenegrins wanted international acceptance of a future referendum on independence, to keep the euro as currency, to have soldiers serve in their own republics, and protection against being swamped by Serbia in joint institutions.

These demands have been met. Crucially, the "re-examination provision" will allow referenda after three years.

The agreement will be welcome to Serbian Government leaders, many of whom would be happy if Montenegro went its own way, but don't want to incur a nationalist backlash by letting it go.

Federal leaders, on the other hand, along with pro-Serbian groups in Montenegro, may find the agreement a bitter pill.

Their apparent success in thwarting Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic masks a deeper defeat for their cause.

Dysfunctional statehood?

These groups may be tempted to take revenge by stalling the agreement's implementation - and there will certainly be abundant opportunity for this, as the agreement lacks much significant detail.

President Milo Djukanovic
Djukanovic may be counting on dissolution
"The modalities for achievement of these goals shall be formulated in parallel with the Constitutional Charter," the text of the agreement concludes somewhat blithely, referring to a document that does not yet exist.

Negotiations on the modalities will take months, diverting energies from much needed internal reforms.

Indeed, it won't be surprising if the agreement is never implemented in full.

In that case, the peoples of both republics might grow more inclined to dissolve their new "Union" at the earliest opportunity. Djukanovic and Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic may even be calculating on this outcome.

Javier Solana must be hoping that the new hybrid state will gain weight and roots over the next three years, giving Kosovo's government vital time to mature under its UN protectorate.

While this is unlikely, it could happen.

A perfectly acceptable alternative would be a separation in 2005 by mutual agreement, without disruption.

What cannot be discounted, however, is a third possibility: that frustration with yet another dysfunctional form of statehood, imposed on twisting local leaders by the great powers, will accumulate and sharpen existing antagonisms.

Averting this risk will be Mr Solana's continuing task.

Do you agree with the views expressed in this article?

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Let's hope the chest thumping and homicidal dysfunction that was called Yugoslavia has finally come to a groaning end - good riddance. It was far too late in coming. I'm just glad if happened without drawing the Sandzak region - one of the last forgotten ethnic islands which happened to straddle the Montenegrin and Serbian border - into the almost inevitable psychosis of partition and displacement that has become the region's perverse hallmark.
Aubrey Verboven, Canada

The only reason why the West has been showing tolerance towards Mr. Djukanovic, is that he was against Milosevic. He is very much like Milosevic and cannot stand competition. He has shown his real face since the Serbs removed Milosevic from power. Now the West doesn't want to have to economically support one more mini-state, and this is the reason why Solana is there to cynically exploit the situation. EU - thanks but no thanks!
Cobic, London, UK

The West has chosen to postpone the Kosovo headache. Is it a surprise that Serbs and people from Montenegro are no real parties in this agreement? Now they will have to figure out how to make this "new, bad-old Yugoslavia" work.
Laert Dogjani, Albania

As a Kosovar Albanian I couldn't care less as long as we're not in it, whatever they decided to name it. Words like Yugoslavia and Serbia will always remind me, and most of my compatriots, of decades of repression, death, torture, misery and occupation.
Arianit Celaj, Kosovan - UK

Nobody should feel sorry for the "Artifical Yugoslavia" that in fact did not exist.
Adem Beqiri, Switzerland

I do not agree. The article is so obviously anti-Serbian; the "expert" shows contempt for Serbs and for any idea that hints at Serbian national unity [which this Serbo-Montenegrin deal, in fact, cements]. The author also forgets that Djukanovic represents only 24% of Montenegro's population and that the most recent poll shows that - for the first time in months - the majority of Montenegrin citizens want to live in union with Serbia.
Joe, Canada

Once the bloodletting started, it was very difficult to keep Yugoslavia together. All hopes disintegrated after Bosnia left. The best thing to do now, is to let them go their separate ways and hope for the best. Regarding Sandzac, my wife is from there, and since it did not blow up in the '90s with the war in Bosnia, it will probably not blow up now. Sandzac is a relatively wealthy region in Yugoslavia - I wish them peace and prosperity as well. Regarding the Montenegro-Serbia union, it may not work, but the violence is most likely over... if the West plays a stabilizing role this time.
Mihalis Veletas, USA - of Greek descent

The Serbian and Montenegrin people have prevailed by affirming their positions for common statehood. It's my strong conviction that the reforms of the current state will lead to stronger harmonisation between Serbia and Montenegro. The majority of Montenegrins are certain to favour a common state with Serbia, especially when the separatist forces in Montenegro are neutralised and consequent democratic elections are held in that republic. Nevertheless, during the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic, the Western powers silently supported separatism in Kosovo and Montenegro, in an attempt to destroy the Milosevic regime. These political games nearly lead to the destruction of a country that Western leaders are now keen on defending. It's evident that Western politicians have now come to their senses, since a strong Serbia and Montenegro represents stability and development for the rest of Southeastern Europe.
Milan, Canada

The author fails to mention that one of the Milosevic "stooges" in Montenegro was Mr Djukanovic, except that he was shrewd enough to switch sides before losing power. Djukanovic was the one who together with Milosevic created this third Yugoslavia in 1992, the same country that he now wants to do away with. He is the same man who is again starting a new union with Serbia. He has also stayed in power in Montenegro more or less countinouslly since 1987, making him the most durable leader in the Balkans:

- from '87 to '92 as a staunch communist who supported war in Croatia and even payed a visit to the JNA (Yugoslav People's Army) troops on the Dubrovnik frontline during their shelling

- from '92 to '97 as a Socialist federalist who strongly supported Milosevic and ruled the province with Momir Bulatovic

- from '97 to 2000 as a Socialist who supported the federation of Serbia and Montenegro but wanted more power-sharing at the federal level

- from 2000 to the present as Socialist separatist, who promised his voters in 2001 that they would be living in an independent Montengro in the very near future.

The article also completely omits a very probable scenario of Mr. Djukanovic losing in presidential elections in Montenegro which are coming up later in the year which would be the severest blow possible to the Montenegrin separatist movement.
Mark, Canada

The end of Yugoslavia could be the beginning of a Greater Serbia. When Montenegro finally goes it alone, will Republika Srpska look to merge with Serbia, and what of Kosovo and Vojvodina? If the third Yugoslav State could not survive then what hope is there for this there for this new quasi-state? The Balkan cartographers will be very busy for the near future, this one will run and run.
Robert, UK

Good riddance to Yugoslavia. Now the agenda should be to be rid of "Greater Serbia". Vojvodina, Presevo, and the Sandzak should all be allowed to secede as well. Does anyone notice, it is all the Milosevic supporters that are trying to keep "Yugoslavia" intact. Is it because, to them, and really every Serb, Yugoslavia is Serbia?
Luan , United States

I just want to see Djukanovic out of power. He has been paid to finish the job, to separate Montenegro from our mother Serbia. I don't think he will make it. There are many more of us from Montenegro who love and support Serbia than those who he represents. I live for that day to see him gone for ever. God bless Serbia and Montenegro!
Mirjana Kostic, Toronto

As a Canadian who has lived and worked in the Balkans from 1994-1999 for a UN sponsored agency I believe that it is a momentous step forward for the Serbs and Montenegrins to form the new nation, "Serbia and Montenegro". If they had done this 10 years ago they would have avoided much of the misery experienced in the recent past. The new nation of ┐Serbia and Montenegro┐ is a leap towards stability in the Balkan region and by realising their own identities the people of this new country can once and for all lose the delusion of "Yugoslavianism" and except themselves as a nation much like the Croatians, Macedonians, and Slovenes.
Alex Mihailovich, Canada

The BBC's Paul Anderson
"There is still a get out clause"
See also:

15 Mar 02 | Media reports
Balkan media divided on historic deal
14 Mar 02 | Europe
Yugoslavia consigned to history
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