Thursday, May 20, 2021

Politics of Anger: Montenegro Edition

My future retirement home, Montenegro, has been experiencing the growing pains of a young Democracy. Last year saw the peaceful exchange of power as a new party came to power for the first time since independence. So a (VERY) short history is in order, particularly with regards to Serbia.

A Brief History Since 1990 (Simplified)

The breakup of Yugoslavia started with Slovenia leaving the federation. After that, Croatia left and forced the Yugoslavian breakup with Bosnia Herzegovina and Macedonia (now called North Macedonia) leaving, triggering the Bosnian War. A vote,  considered unfair by pro-Independence voices, was held in 1992, and 99% of the population voted to stay in federation with Serbia.

The war ended in 1995 and left the rump of Yugoslavia as Serbia and Montenegro. But Serbia was a political pariah because of war crimes committed in the Bosnia war. In 1996, the Montenegro President (Milo Đukanović) put distance between Montenegro and the Serbia President / War Criminal Slobodan Milošević. Because of Serbia’s war crimes the country faced international sanctions that devastated the Yugoslavian (now Serbia and Montenegro) economy and currency.

Select image to enlarge

In 1996, Montenegro adopted the German Mark as the currency and moved to the Euro when it was adopted. 

In 2003 a new Constitution was adopted, and “Yugoslavia” became the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. In 2006 a Montenegro vote called for Independence peacefully and Montenegro became independent again. Milo Đukanović was the President and his party ruled the country. To cement independence, President Đukanović joined NATO, started talks to join the European Union and opened his country to investors from not only Russia and Ukraine, but Europe and the United States. The many Serbian nationals that still reside in Montenegro grumbled, but prosperity and peace meant that most people were happy. Still Serbian nationalism was displayed in some cities and through the Orthodox Church.

In 2019, Đukanović made his fatal error. To fight the Serbian nationals, he tried to split the local Orthodox Church from the Serbian Orthodox Church. A law passed said that any church property that could not PROVE ownership of land from before 1918 (the last time Montenegro was Independent) would be transferred from the Serbian Orthodox church to the Montenegrin Orthodox Church – which was not recognized by the Orthodox Patriarchy.

Protest brought down the government and a new national vote was called. In this vote, the ruling party that brought independence (headed by Milo Đukanović) lost by the most narrow of margins. The new coalition was made up of Serbians, but they do not have a majority, so they rule in conjunction with a Bosnian Party, a smaller Albanian Party and a few members of the local Green party.

New Problems

The new government coalition runs the Parliament, but not the Presidency, so Milo Đukanović is still President of Montenegro.  Parliament can pass laws, but the President can veto ones he doesn’t approve of. If it is repassed by Parliament, it becomes law - usually. 

This week, Milo Đukanović refused to sign a law - for the second time - that will change the way Judicial System works and make it easier to appoint prosecutors with no experience. He has stated that the new law runs counter to European Union rules – and he seems to be correct. But this has set up a showdown with Parliament. In part, this clash is a microcosm of the national problem. Does the country align itself with the EU, or does it align itself with Serbia – which is, in turn, aligned more with Russia. Parliament does not have enough members to push Montenegro back into a Serbian Federation but has too many members to ignore Serbian demands.

Parliament is now attempting to find enough votes to send this law to the Constitution Court. They need 26 members, but it is unclear if they have 26 members willing to defy Europe while they are in negotiations to join the European Union. This is all complicated by the fact, that everyone in the region wants to join the EU, but Montenegro is by far the closest to joining. Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia are all far behind. So does the Parliament jeopardize this by flouting European rules. 

Most European experts think this law would give some members of the EU a great chance to reject Montenegro now. And those members will use any excuse to keep out of the quagmire of Balkan politics. (link)

1 comment:

  1. 2?s when are “we” moving ? And where is the Beach ?


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