- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

Yugoslavia is now a ghost. While its former dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, was at The Hague trying to explain his way out of his responsibility for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the last decade, the leaders of what was left of his former six-republic empire, Montenegro and Serbia, decided in March that Yugoslavia would no longer exist. The agreement brokered under European Union leader Javier Solana would replace Yugoslavia with the state of Serbia and Montenegro, a loose union that would allow each republic to maintain its own leaders and parliaments, and have them alternate representation at international organizations such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe. In meetings last week with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his blessing to the new state, but did not give any sign of approving an independent Montenegro. This was short-sighted.
While the name change agreement is to be commended, it is not enough to reflect the changed reality of Montenegro's relationship with Serbia. Like Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Slovenia before it, Montenegro is now yearning for independence, and the new surge of Serbian nationalism since Milosevic was taken to The Hague is nothing the Montenegrins want to be connected with. According to the new agreement, Montenegro would have the opportunity to vote for independence at the end of three years. Yet three years is plenty of time for Serbia to thwart any moves Montenegro would want to make toward independence. As Serbia's deputy prime minister so boldly pointed out in an interview with this newspaper's Jeffrey Kuhner, Serbia hopes the three years "will allow the separatists to see that the disintegration of their country will not make sense." In other words, the agreement ensured Montenegro's captivity, rather than opening the door to independence.
Yet there are moves within both Serbia and Montenegro for complete independence. Unfortunately, the United States and Europe have been putting pressure on Montenegro to avoid it. This is unfortunate, since there is growing consensus in both republics that independence would be better. In Serbia, a member of Yugoslavia's ruling coalition, Serbia's Democratic Christian Party, has launched a campaign for Serbian independence. Justice Minister Vladan Batic, the leader of the party, hoped 300,000 of Serbia's 8 million people would sign on to the campaign calling for a referendum on independence. He has collected more than 2,000 since April 22, and he will continue his campaign until June 28. In Montenegro, Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic resigned after his coalition fell apart because the March agreement postponed the referendum for Montenegrin independence. Now all that remains to finalize the March agreement is an endorsement by Yugoslavia's federal assembly. As Mr. Djukanovic has backed down on his call for independence due to international pressure, the Montenegrins themselves have little hope that the agreement will be reversed.
The United States has supported Yugoslavia's other former republics' right to self-determination and has protected them from Serbian nationalism. Montenegro should not be forgotten.

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