CSCE :: Statement :: Promoting and Protecting Democracy in Montenegro
United States of America
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 106th CONGRESS, 2nd SESSION
Washington, Tuesday, February 8, 2000
House of Representatives
PROMOTING AND PROTECTING DEMOCRACY IN MONTENEGRO
Tuesday, February 8, 2000
PROMOTING AND PROTECTING DEMOCRACY IN MONTENEGRO HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH 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.