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February 23, 2005

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Eric

This is one of those baffling questions -- why does CG raise the question of independence when they benefit from the federation (such as it is) more than they would from independence? And why does the EU insist on a federation when support for it in both Serbia and CG is fairly weak?

First off, the federal state is expensive and nonfunctional. I know that expensive and nonfunctional things exist in government everywhere, but SCG has a tiny enough tax base that it makes a difference. The federal government does not control banking or foreign policy, and it only nominally controls the military which is only nominally under legal control. So what is the federal government good for? 1) It is a lovely structure of patronage, all kinds of lucrative no-work jobs to be had, and 2) it can occasionally be brought in as a way for Serbian or Montenegrin political parties to block the initiatives of their opponents. That is really about it. So my general take on independence is that it could be good for Serbia, would probably be costly for CG, but in the end would make very little difference to anyone. Also that it is not likely to happen, mostly out of inertia and the realization that nobody is ready to build the consensus it would take to get legitimate new constitutions, which both republics need very badly.

Doug Muir

(For non-Balkan readers, CG is Montenegro -- Crnagora, which is what Montenegro is called at home. SCG = Serbia-and-Montenegro.)

This is one of those baffling questions -- why does CG raise the question of independence when they benefit from the federation (such as it is) more than they would from independence?

I really think it started as a bluff, but has acquired a life of its own. The Montenegrins fondly believe that since they have no war criminals, they have no problems with the Hague. So, hey! EU membership and prosperity await. If the Macedonians can make it to candidate status, why can't we?

There's also a long and glorious tradition of bashing Belgrade for everything that goes poorly in CG. This has continued even though Belgrade about as much power over CG as Washington does over Canada. It's just too handy, and fun too.

Finally, from a distance I get a vibe that Djukanovic is starting to get a case of Tudjman's Disease: I Am The Father Of My Country!


And why does the EU insist on a federation when support for it in both Serbia and CG is fairly weak?

Oh, it makes sense from their POV. The Balkan region has enough damn countries already. Does Europe really need Montenegro as an EU member? (Pause to imagine the rotating EU Presidency being held by Montenegro. The mind reels.)

There also seems to be a vague concern that letting CG go will encourage separatism in the region -- Kosovo, Republika Srpska, Macedonian Albanians, blah blah. This is an argument I've grown increasingly skeptical about. It's not like Balkan separatism needs much encouragement, and CG independence would at least be along the lines of a former Yugoslav republic. (Although, like the Slovenes, they'd inherit a tasty little border dispute with Croatia.)

Finally, there's the perfectly reasonable point that an independent Montenegro MAKES NO FREAKING SENSE.

1) It would be an economic basket case.

2) Independence would be expensive. Doubly so if Serbia takes it badly; but anyhow expensive.

3) They're linguistically and culturally closer to Serbs than New Yorkers are to Texans. Montenegrin nationalism (as opposed to Montenegrin regionalism and specificism... different things) is almost entirely a post-Communist construct.

4) The Djukanovic government, while decent in several respects (they've been admirably slow to play the race-baiting card, despite CG's significant Albanian and Muslim minorities) is corrupt, inbred, intolerant of criticism, and deeply linked with CG's criminal elites... and any subsequent government is likely to be worse rather than better... and independence is likely to make this worse, by imposing significant additional costs and burdens, while giving CG's elites new toys to play with. ("Hey, who wants to run the new State Investigative Bureau? No, not you, you're already ambassador to Italy.")

5) It would be an economic basket case.

There would be endless fiendish details to work out. Frex, there are over 100,000 Montegrins in Belgrade alone. By some estimates one out of every three M'grins lives in Serbia. There's a very substantial brain drain out of CG -- ambitious young M'grins tend to go north. What becomes of those people? Even Slovenia can't deal adequately with this issue; will Serbia do better?


So my general take on independence is that it could be good for Serbia, would probably be costly for CG, but in the end would make very little difference to anyone.

I think you may be underestimating intangible effects. Brooding Serbian paranoia -- which really should be represented by a single word or character in discussions of this sort -- BSP will not be improved by this. It'll be a shot in the arm for wingnuttery of every sort.


Also that it is not likely to happen,

A year ago I would have agreed. Now I'm a bit less sanguine. I'd call it an even bet now.


the realization that nobody is ready to build the consensus it would take to get legitimate new constitutions, which both republics need very badly.

Well, Serbia at least seems to be suffering from a mild case of constitution fatigue. They had new constitutions in 1990, 1995, and then the "constitutional charter" in 2002.

Raoul Djukanovic

Brooding Serbian paranoia -- which really should be represented by a single word or character in discussions of this sort...

how about a word made up of the same character in a quadrant of crooked crescents? "CCCC" comes with a bonus side-order of red-rag ahistorical misrepresentation, as debated furiously on the link above. failing that, "inat" ought to do the trick just as well. especially when mixed with rakija: stirred but not shaken.

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