Congressional Record Statements

United States
of America

Vol. 146 Washington, Tuesday, February 8, 2000 No. 10

House of Representatives


Tuesday, February 8, 2000

of New Jersey
Mr. Speaker, last week I chaired a hearing before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on promoting and protecting democracy in Montenegro . Montenegro is a small republic with only about 700,000 inhabitants, and yet it is among the strongest proponents of democratic change in the Balkans. As a result, Montenegro has the potential of being the target of the next phase of the Yugoslav conflict which began in 1991. Montenegro , with a south Slavic population of Eastern Orthodox heritage, is the Only other former Yugoslav republic to have maintained ties in a federation with Serbia. Since 1997, Montenegro has moved toward democratic reform, and its leaders have distanced themselves from earlier involvement in the ethnic intolerance and violence which devastated neighboring Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. In contrast, the Belgrade regime of Slobodan Milosevic has become more entrenched in power and more determined to bring ruin to Serbia, if necessary to maintain this power. The divergence of paths has made the existing federation almost untenable, especially in the aftermath of last year's conflict in Kosovo. We now hear reports of a confrontation with Milosevic and possible conflict in Montenegro as a result. One witness Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, presented the conflict scenarios. He said: `Other than surrendering Montenegro altogether, Belgrade has three options: a military coup and occupation; the promotion of regional and ethnic conflicts; or the provocation of civil war. More likely Milosevic will engage in various provocations, intimidations and even assassinations to unbalance the Montenegrin leadership. He will endeavor to sow conflict between the parties in the governing coalition, heat up tensions in the Sandjak region of Montenegro by pitting Muslims against Christian Orthodox, and threaten to partition northern Montenegro if Podgorica [the capital of Montenegro ] pushes toward statehood. The political environment will continue to heat up before the planned referendum' on independence. In addition to the ongoing operations to keep the peace and provide justice and democratic governance in Bosnia and Kosovo, Mr. Speaker, the United States and the rest of the international community will face the challenge this year of promoting and protecting democracy in Montenegro . Srdjan Darmanovic, head of the Center for Democracy and Human rights in Montenegro , said it is logical and understandable that the international community encourages the Montenegrin authorities to follow a policy of ambiguity on the republic's future. On the one hand, the international community already has the burden of two peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslav region and doesn't want another, yet it does not want Milosevic to seize Montenegro and stop the democratic development taking place there. Darmonovic concluded, however, that this situation `creates a very narrow space in which the Montenegrin Government has to play a dangerous chess game with the Milosevic regime in which the price of failure or miscalculation could be very high. . . . The `politics of ambiguity' has very dangerous limits. It cannot last forever.' Veselin Vukotic, head of the Center for Entrepreneurship in Montenegro , described the economic steps which Montenegro has taken to distance itself from Serbia. He said that Montenegrin citizens cannot wait for the day when Milosevic resigns, which may never come. Economic change must begin now. The introduction of the Deutsche mark as a second currency has allowed the Montenegrin economy to move away from that of Yugoslavia as a whole. This has led to a decrease in Serbian-Montenegrin commerce and permits Montenegro to receive outside assistance even as Serbia remains under international sanctions. Still, he noted that the Montenegrin economy needs to be transformed into a market economy. This will require transparency to deter the continuing problem of corruption, as well as the development of a more open society. Fortunately, Mr. Speaker, Montenegro is no longer alone in seeking to base its future on multi-ethnic accord, democracy and openness, rather than the nationalism of the 1990s. Beginning in late 1998, a similar trend began in Macedonia, and now in Croatia, new government leaders were elected who will reverse the nationalist authoritarianism of the Tudjman years. Hopefully, this will resonate in Serbia itself, where change is needed. The bottom line, as the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Marc Grossman said in a conversation, is that there must be change in Serbia In testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet made clear: `Of the many threats to peace and stability in the year ahead, the greatest remains Slobodan Milosevic--the world's only sitting president indicted for crimes against humanity. . . . He retains control of the security forces, military commands, and an effective media machine.' With good judgment and resolve, Mr. Speaker, conflict can be avoided in Montenegro , and those seeking conflict deterred. As democracy is strengthened in Montenegro , the international community can also give those in Serbia struggling to bring democracy to their republic a chance to succeed. The people of Serbia deserve support. Democracy-building is vital for Serbs, Montenegrins and others living in the entire southeastern region of Europe. Mr. Speaker, in the past decade, those of us who follow world affairs have had an in-depth lesson in the history, geography and demography of southeastern Europe. Places like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo were little known and little understood. Unfortunately, too many policymakers became aware of them only as the news reports of ethnic cleansing began to pour in. The Helsinki Commission, which I have now had the honor of chairing for the past 5 years, has sought for over two decades to inform Members of Congress, the U.S. Government and the American public, of developing issues in countries of Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Hopefully, with timely and well-informed attention, we can more effectively and quickly respond to a potential crisis, and perhaps save lives.




Citizenship and Political Rights
Conflict Prevention/Rehabilitation
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