|(E) officially, No MORE Yugoslavia
|By Nenad N. Bach |
(E) officially, No MORE Yugoslavia
Serbia, Montenegro Sign Accord
Thu Mar 14, 9:39 AM ET
By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC, Associated Press Writer
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) - Serbia and Montenegro signed a historic accord
Thursday to radically restructure Yugoslavia, giving the federation a new
name and its republics greater autonomy to prevent the country's final
The agreement, reached under mediation by the European Union (news - web
sites), was signed by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (news - web
sites), Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, EU foreign policy chief
Javier Solana and other Serbian and Montenegrin officials.
The new country, consisting of two semi-independent states, will be
renamed Serbia and Montenegro, Kostunica said after the signing ceremony.
Both republics will share a defense and foreign policy, but will maintain
separate economies, currencies and customs services for the time being.
"This document sets the shape of completely new relations between the
states of Serbia and Montenegro," Kostunica said. "This step means a break
with the previous regime" of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
(news - web sites).
"Amid the threat of disintegration in the Balkans, we are moving toward
integration and peace and stability in the region," he said.
Yugoslavia first was formed in 1918 as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and
Slovenes, and Montenegro gave up its statehood to join. The country was
occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, then tightly controlled
under the communist regime of Marshal Tito for four decades after the war.
Yugoslavia began to unravel along ethnic lines during Milosevic's reign.
Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina all declared their
independence by 1992.
Serbia and Montenegro stayed together when the other republics started
leaving Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. But their alliance began to crumble
in 1997 when Djukanovic distanced himself from Milosevic and began
advocating independence for Montenegro.
Kostunica said the political accord calls for new federal elections in the
autumn, and that the parliaments of both republics as well as the federal
Yugoslav parliament would set to work on constitutional changes. The
country's new name will not take effect until lawmakers in all three
chambers ratify the accord.
Solana praised the agreement, saying Montenegro and Serbia "should have no
doubt" about the EU's support.
"This is an important day and a step toward the stability in the region
and in Europe," Solana said. "This is not the end of anything, but a
beginning of a new chapter that will bring you closer to the European
Djukanovic, who is likely to face an avalanche of criticism in Montenegro
for giving up a planned independence referendum for the small republic
this spring, said he expected Serbs and Montenegrins to "have a positive
approach toward this agreement" and predicted it would win parliamentary
The tiny Adriatic republic continued its independence drive even after
Milosevic's ouster in 2000. Milosevic is now on trial before the U.N. war
crimes tribunal in The Hague (news - web sites), Netherlands, for
atrocities his forces committed in the Balkans in the 1990s.
Branko Ruzic, the spokesman for Milosevic's Socialist Party, called the
event "the most shameful date in the history of the Serbs."
"We went to bed in one state, and we woke up in another," Ruzic said,
adding that the Socialists are for "preserving the current Yugoslavia."
Montenegro's 650,000 people remain bitterly divided on whether to remain
in a federation with Serbia, whose approximately 10 million people
effectively determine Yugoslav affairs.
A draft of the agreement, obtained by The Associated Press, said that
after three years, "the member states will be entitled to institute
proceedings for a change of the state status, that is, withdrawal from the
The pro-Serbian faction in Montenegro praised the agreement.
"The dangerous divisions in Montenegro were averted. Djukanovic stopped on
the brink, and we approve of this," said Dragan Soc, the leader of the
Montenegrin Peoples' Party.
Kostunica said his office as federal president would remain and that the
new country would have one seat in the United Nations (news - web sites),
just as Yugoslavia does now, although Montenegrin and Serbian officials
would rotate as envoys to U.N. headquarters in New York.
The accord was a major policy victory for the West, which has opposed
Montenegrin secession, fearing the breakup could encourage other
independence-minded groups in the region — in particular, ethnic Albanians
in Kosovo and Macedonia.
Arguing that secession also would hurt Montenegro's economy and slow down
the process of integrating it into mainstream Europe, the EU has been
pushing for a new Yugoslav constitution that would preserve a joint state
while granting the two republics greater self-governance.
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