Talks in Belgrade break down
Talks between Podgorica and Belgrade on the structure of a new federal government broke down almost as quickly as they opened at Belgrade's Federal Palace on Monday.
Representatives of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNS) were in Belgrade at the invitation of Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica. The SNS delegation was headed by party Vice-President Zoran Žižić, while Zoran Đinđić, Dragoljub Micunović and Zarko Korać represented the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS).
Although the SNS still maintains its alliance with Slobodan Milošević's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), it had given quiet signals that it was willing to consider participating in the federal government in return for being given the right to appoint the Yugoslav prime minister as well as at least one other key cabinet post.
Talks broke down, however, after the SNS demanded that Milošević's SPS be given at least one major portfolio in the proposed federal government. The DOS was unwilling to yield on the issue, and the SNS delegation walked out saying it will not continue negotiations until it's central committee meets at an unspecified date.
Vujanović recognizes Koštunica—sort of...
Prime Minister Filip Vujanović announced this week that Podgorica has accepted Yugoslav President Koštunica as the "political President of Yugoslavia" but said Montenegro is "unable to recognize the federal elections as either legal or legitimate," Radio B92 quoted him as saying.
"Montenegro will continue to accept Koštunica politically in full cooperation with his obligation to Serbia and Yugoslavia," Radio B92 reported Vujanović as having told the Voice of America.
Although the Prime Minister went on to say that Montenegrin officials had had "positive discussions" with Koštunica, he repeated that President Milo Đukanović will call a referendum on independence if Serbia does not enter serious discussions about redefining the federal arrangement as "a loose confederation of independent nations."
Koštunica in Podgorica
Yugoslav President Koštunica made his first visit to Montenegro this week to meet with President Đukanović.
After the meeting, Đukanović released a statement on behalf of his entire cabinet that read, "The central topic of our discussion was the future of Serbia-Montenegro relations. It was agreed that problems that have burdened these relations are to be solved through open dialog. It has been also agreed that this dialog is to be continued and expert teams constituted. The acceptable solutions will be finalized after the extraordinary elections in Serbia," Đukanović's satement said.
"Another topic of discussion was the constitution of a federal government," the statement continued, "President Đukanović informed Vojislav Koštunica about the reasons why Montenegro cannot take part in the work of the federal government."
Koštunica appeared unruffled by the setback. "Just the fact that I came to Montenegro today to visit Montenegro's president and prime minister speaks for itself," he said.
"Sometimes, one has to be satisfied with the mere fact that negotiations took place and that they will be continued. I think that's the nature of these talks," Koštunica concluded.
Koštunica also held private talks with Speaker of Parliament Svetozar Marović, Prime Minister Vujanović, and Deputy Prime Minister Savo Đurđevac before heading to Cetinje for a meeting with Serb Bishop Amfilohije.
A new federal constitution?
Speaking with the daily Blic, Democratic Party President and DOS campaign manager Zoran Đinđić said that Serbia would be prepared to enter serious negotiations on a new federal constitution after the Serbian elections on 24 December.
Đinđić said restoring Montenegro's equal position under the constitution will be a priority and, in that respect, he has spoken with President Đukanović by telephone. Đinđić claims Đukanović agreed it is appropriate for Prime Minister Vujanović and Speaker of Parliament Marović to travel to Belgrade for further discussions on the future of the federation.
Coalition split on approach to Serbia
The ruling coalition emerged split after a five-hour meeting in Podgorica to discuss Montenegro's future participation in the Yugoslav state, the daily Vijesti reported.
The Social Democratic Party has demanded that Podgorica call a referendum on independence before Serbia's 24 December elections. The SDP is afraid that, following Serbian elections, Yugoslavia will be that much more rehabilitated in the eyes of the international community and that this would lead to heightened international pressure for Montenegro to remain in a federal state with Serbia and Kosovo.
The Socialist People's Party (SNS) is advocating a "wait and see" approach until Podgorica sees the election's results, saying that Milošević's ouster has removed any reason to seek independence—a fact the elections will underscore. If a referendum is necessary, the SNS is reported to have said, then it should wait for three to six months.
The Democratic Party of Socialists, by contrast, wants to see Podgorica immediately open direct talks with the DOS on reconstituting the Federal Republic as an alliance or confederation of independent states.
Vijesti reports that the three sides will meet again in a week following meetings of each party's main committee.
Buržan: We still want independence
According to the Beta news agency, Deputy Prime Minister Dragiša Buržan is insistent that Podgorica should move for independence now.
"We refused to participate in the elections for that state's institutions, which is why we are not in position to recognise the newly-elected president, even if he is called Vojislav Koštunica," Beta quoted Buržan as having told Vienna's Die Presse, asserting that Koštunica was not a legal president.
Buržan also dismissed claims that Montenegro was ignoring changes in Serbia.
"We are not doing that. We want an agreement with Serbia and we want redefinition of our relations. That is why we are negotiating with the new authorities after all. That, however, does not mean we will give up our goal. Montenegrin citizens want to be free," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
Buržan added that, "Montenegro managed to survive as an independent state for centuries and was occupied by an armed force only in 1918." He emphasized that Montenegro should have the right to set its own destiny, and said Podgorica would "allow the people to decide for themselves on the future status of the republic."
Đukanović: Union of independent states
According to Radio B-92 and Beta, President Đukanović told Austrian Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Albert Rohan that Podgorica is looking to a "union of independent states" between Serbia and Montenegro.
Rohan was in Podgorica for a meeting with the President and other senior republican officials.
Under Đukanović's vision, Serbia and Montenegro would have common foreign, defense, economic and monetary policies managed by a federal president and a federal government (smaller than at present) in which both sides would be equally represented.
Both media outlets quoted Rohan as saying that Đukanović wants to resolve the question before Serbia's upcoming December elections and is hoping the question of a federal arrangement will be on Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica's agenda in the weeks ahead.
Đukanović is alleged to have claimed that if Serbia does not accept Podgorica's proposition, or at least enter negotiations on it, Montenegro will consider a unilateral declaration of independence.
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Beta news agency