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Serbian question in Montenegro

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On August 5, 1999 the government of Montenegro announced a platform for new relations between Serbia and Montenegro, in order to review the status of Montenegro and electoral law. The Constitutional Court rejected this revision as being illegal. A little later, the question of Montenegrin independence was again raised – this time with the support of the European Union and the US administration. Montenegrin government has pursued a policy that has encouraged pro-independence policy, which resulted in the separation of Montenegro from Serbia in 2006. Montenegrin Serbs have been strong advocates of a joint state with Serbia, however, they were outvoted. And then at the referendum, the majority of the Orthodox population was for a common state with Serbia, but ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, along with national minorities, managed to win majority.

Many analysts expected that in future the absolute majority of citizens will be loyal to independent Montenegro, and that ethnic Montenegrins would make more than half of the population. However, the situation is completely different. Montenegro today is a deeply divided state. Montenegrin Serbs still do not accept the results of the referendum. They consider and publicly point out that the referendum was undemocratic with many irregularities. According to the 2011 census, Montenegrins make 44.98% of the population, Serbs 28.73%, Bosnians 8.65%, Albanians 4.91%, Muslims 3.31%, Roma 1.01%, and Croats 0.97%. It is important to point out that the citizens were pressured to declare themselves as Montenegrins. Otherwise, the Serbs would be an absolute majority in Montenegro.

The goal of the Montenegrin government is that Montenegrins are an absolute majority in the state, and this plan is implemented even before separation from Serbia. According to the census of 2003 year, 63.49% of the population said that they speak Serbian language, but Montenegrin government decided in 2004 to rename Serbian language. To that end, Montenegro has copmletely changed school programs. The Cyrillic alphabet is almost completely out of use, and almost all state correspondence is in Latin alphabet , Serbian poets were thrown out of school textbooks. Already on the 2011 census 42.88% of the population said that they speak Serbian language. Serbian National Council of Montenegro, in September this year, stated:

“The authority in Montenegro, in a coalition with minority nations, has stopped every prospect for citizens who declare themselves nationally as Serbs. In all spheres of social and political life she opposed, especially Bosniaks and Albanians, to the Serbs, discriminating all Serbs who are not ready to change their own identity in the already obvious project of the assimilation of the Serbian people in the national Montenegrins”. Discrimination against Serbs, is best illustrated by the statistics. In the last four years, in Montenegro, on average, only 13 Serbs received a state job annually. This is 37 times less than the number of Montenegrins, since the state institutions annually employed on average 486 citizens who declared themselves as Montenegrins.

The average number of employed Serbs is smaller even when compared with Bosniaks. According to official statistics, 82.11% of Montenegrins work in public administration, and only 7% of Serbs. All this is done with the aim that the Montenegrin Serbs are no longer a significant demographic and political factor in Montenegro. Basically, Montenegrin Serbs are the main opponents of Milo Djukanovic and the Democratic Party of Socialists. It is important to note that the Democratic Party of Socialists is the ruling political party in Montenegro since the introduction of multy – party system in 1990. The main political goals of Montenegrin Serbs are, one state with Serbia and brotherly relations with Russia. It is precisely for this reason that the West is silent on the discrimination of the Serbs.

Montenegrin Serbs were the main opponents of Montenegro’s entry into NATO. One of the main reasons for that is NATO’s aggression against Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Russia’s position that NATO expansion is dangerous and unnecessary. NATO aggression on Serbia and Montenegro, began 19 years ago. Aggression started without the approval of the UN Security Council. The attacks that lasted without interruption for 78 days severly damaged infratucture, commercial buildings, schools, health facilities, media houses, cultural monuments. The cost of the damage is estimated between 30 and 100 billion dollars. The final number of victims has not been officially declared, but Serbian estimates range between 1, 200 and 2, 500 dead and about 5, 000 injured.

From the above reasons and facts, Montenegrin government avoided the referendum on NATO, because most of the population was against the entry into NATO. The decision on entry into NATO was taken in the Parliament. By entering Montenegro into NATO, the West achieved a significant geopolitical victory. The territory of Montenegro has important geo – strategic signifance. It has access to the Adriatic Sea, controls the Strait of Otranto. From Montenegro, NATO will have an even stronger impact on the Raska (Sandzak) region in Serbia, northern Kosovo, as well as in eastern Republic of Srpska.

In Montenegro, for years there is a project of changing the traditional Serbian/Slavic – Orthodox identity into Montenegrin, Roman Catholic and Western identity. That is why Russia is also the target of the Montenegrin authorities.

“The Serbian Orthodox Church remains the main frontman of Greater Serbian nationalism towards the region and Montenegro, the striking fist of what ideologues of “big Serbia” and imperial Russia in the Balkans want, and must remain the subject of Montenegro‘s state policy in the coming period”, stated Milo Djukanovic, president of Montenegro. Djukanovic publicly also stated that Montenegro wants to change its “ civilization circle”. And in new” civilization circle”, except Serbia, there is no place neither for Russia. On this statement every analyst who deals with situation in Montenegro should pay attention. Under the rule of Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists, began an open revision of official history. And among the revision are also the relations between Russia and Montenegro throughout history. Regarding Russian-Montenegrin relations, history is clear.

The first instance of official Russian – Montenegrin diplomatic contact was made in 1711, when Russian Tsar Peter the Great sent his envoys to “duke of Serb land” Metropolitan Danilo. Since then, Russia has always helped Montenegro and the Serbs. It is precisely because of this help through centuries that  in Montenegro there is a pro – Russian cult. Russia has for centuries been the protector of Montenegro, and played a key role in helping Montenegro remove the Ottoman Empire. The people of Montenegro remember that and are very grateful to Russia. As a result of that, there is the term  in Montenegro ”Mother Russia”. However, today Montenegro’s foreign policy is being adapted to the private interests of Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists. This could be seen on the marking of the establishment of 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Montenegro and the United Kingdom, in June this year. Than, in old royal capital Cetinje,  president of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic stated:

“We do not forget that London was among the first to support twenty years ago the democratic turn and the European course of Montenegro. At that time, the British Know How Fund and the British Council played a particularly important role. But also the Government of Great Britain, with its decisive and comprehensive support … Time has shown that the struggle of our English admirers and friends for Montenegro in the twenties of the last century was not futile. The United Kingdom has strongly supported Montenegro in the process of joining NATO, where we again are allies.” When it comes to Montenegrin-British relations, history is clear. Within the so-called Eastern Question, which stretched from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the First World War, and which in essence signified the global conflict of the West against Russia, the essence was not to allow Russia to get out to the warm sea. First via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits, and later at any point in the Mediterranean that would be available to Russia. At the same time, Britain and the West always considered Serbs (and under the Serbs should not only be regarded the Serbs from Serbia) as the “Balkan Russians” or “little Russians”. Knowing that besides Bosphorus, Russia could only get to the Mediterranean via the Serbian-Adriatic Sea, Britain in the wish to neutralize Russia’s aspirations, from the late 18th century practically conserved the Ottoman state and did not allow her ruin almost to the beginning of the 20th century, which significantly prolonged the occupation of the Balkans by Ottomans. The current British policy towards Montenegro is based on the disabling of any Russian influence. Britain will help Djukanovic until this regime carry out unquestionably anti-Russian policy. That’s what is happening now.

Serbia and Russia should jointly respond to this policy, and stand in protection of Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbs in Montenegro. This is primarily reflected in the insistence on the recognition of fundamental rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Montenegro. Russia has all the preconditions for the development of soft power in Montenegro. Regarding the soft power of Russia in Montenegro, progress is notable but not enough. A special accent should be placed on the Russian – Montenegrin historical links, and in this regard, scientific conferences should be organized in which Russian and Montenegrin historians would remind the people of Montenegro, as well as the intellectual community, for all the assistance Russia has provided to Montenegro over the centuries. And  therefore send a clear message that it will not allow revision of history. Also, it would be wisely that serious Russian investments come to Montenegro.

The largest number of foreign tourists in Montenegro are Russians. In accordance with that, Russian investments in Montenegrin tourism should be significantly increased. In Montenegro, all TV news stations are pro – Western, as well as almost all daily newspapers. Brainwashing in Montenegro is performed on a daily basis. Montenegro urgently needs pro – Russian television, which would make the media scene of Montenegro more balanced. In this way, Russia would clearly position itself in Montenegro and help resolve the Serbian question, but also would satisfied its interests in this small, but strategically important Balkan country.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Europe

Italy steps up political activities in the Mediterranean

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The Mediterranean serves as a platform for Rome’s geopolitical efforts in the region which are aimed at creating a powerful configuration of strength that would leave the three main vectors of Italy’s foreign policy – the southern (directed at North Africa), the western (directed at the Atlantic) and the eastern (directed at the Balkans) – open and easy of access.

The Gibraltar, the Bosporus, the Suez Canal, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait – the world’s busiest transport arteries –  acquire a particular strategic importance for Italy as a Mediterranean power.

The so-called geopolitical theory of “extended Mediterranean” was devised recently to justify Italy’s right to secure its presence in these regions . This theory is designed to put an end to the narrow perception of the Mediterranean Region as a space bounded by access to the sea and, accordingly, with a limited role of Italy.

Rome has conceptually “expanded” the Mediterranean at the expense of the adjacent Atlantic and land areas, having included the Sahel, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Thereby, Italy has assumed a “greater” geopolitical role in the region as a country whose economic stability depends on the stability of the territories adjacent to the Mediterranean region.

First of all, this refers to troubled countries, such as Libya, Algeria and Tunisia, which supply Italy with gas. Italy’s intention to politically establish itself in the Sahel as part of the “expanded Mediterranean” was dictated by the desire to create a controlled space in the rear of Libya, Tunisia and Algeria to prevent their further destabilization.

Italy is among the top six EU countries with highly developed sea trade. According to Eurostat, in 2016 this figure was 61% (of which 66.6% were imports and 55.9% were exports). By this indicator, Italy loses to Portugal (81%), Cyprus (80%), Greece (77%), Spain (74%) and Malta (67%). None of Italian ports is included in the ten busiest EU trade harbors. The Italian authorities intend to change this situation.

Under the EU parameters, maritime trade accounts for 51% of overall trade, of which 53% is export and 48% is import. 19% of the global sea traffic and 30% of oil haulage pass through the Mediterranean Sea (an increase of 120% over the past 16 years). 65% of all energy resources are delivered to Europe by the Mediterranean. As these indicators tend to show an upward trend, Italy is set on  ensuring a more pronounced economic and political presence in the Mediterranean .

Given the situation, the Italian diplomacy face the following agenda in the region:

– to promote an equal distribution of power among top players in the Mediterranean in order to avoid any imbalance, be it in favor of countries that have no binding agreements or strategic cooperation agreements with Rome, or in favor of states whose political, military and economic potential is equal to that of Italy (France, Spain), or exceeds it (Germany);

– strengthen the political and economic presence of Italy in areas designated as the “extended Mediterranean”, thereby ensuring the participation of the Italian fleet in international anti-piracy missions;

to promote the peaceful settlement of current conflicts in the region (Syria, Iran, the Cyprus problem) with a view to prevent a buildup of other countries’ military presence within Italy’s strategic interest zone;

– to promote the diversification of energy supplies with due regard for Italy’s 77% dependence on external supplies, to initiate the development of gas and oil fields in Libya, Algeria, Egypt (Rome plans to invest € 175 billion in the development of the energy sector and related environmental projects by 2030.)

– to contribute to the transformation of Italy, located at the junction of sea routes from North Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, into a leading transport and distribution hub of oil and gas exports and imports for the EU ;

– to prevent the weakening of Italy’s positions in the EU in case of the strengthening of the Berlin-Paris axis, which will not be easy to achieve amid the emerging conflict between Brussels and Rome over the Italian budget.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Le Pen’s under-plot for the French President

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The President of the French National Rally political party, Marin Le Pen, is trying to take little stances on the new protests in her country. Some French politicians have accused her of interfering in the recent protests in favor of the French National Rally. Meanwhile, many analysts believe that, ultimately, the outcome of Macron’s removal from power will be the presence of far-right nationalists (led by Le Pen) at the Elysees Palace.

 In any case, Marin Le Pen and the French National Rally continue to make lots of propaganda in their country’s political and social atmosphere. It should be acknowledged that the recent protests in France have doubled their chance to win the public vote, and he has greatly encouraged Le Pen and her entourage to win the European parliamentary election which is to be held in June.

In 2014, the French National Rally was able to shine exceptionally well in the European parliamentary elections and overcome other French political parties. In the 2017 general election, Le Pen was able to reach the final round of the presidential competitions for the first time since the establishment of the French National Rally. However, at that time, Le Pen couldn’t act against the broad opposition of the Socialist and Conservative parties. But the equation seems to have changed now!

Polls conducted in France suggested a decline in the popularity of Emmanuel Macron as the country’s president. This is while only 18 months has passed since Macron’s presence at Elysee Palace. Under such circumstances, Le Pen and her companions will naturally try to change the French citizen’s mind to the benefit of the French National Rally.

 This is a very good time indeed, as many of the French citizens no longer trust Macron and his promises for making economic, social reforms in France. Le Pen and the senior members of the French National Rally, argue that the Socialist and Conservative Parties won’t be able to redefine themselves in the near future, given the crisis that has stuck the two traditional French parties.

 The removal of Socialist and Conservative candidates in the 2017 general election, was well indicating the political and social isolation of these two traditional parties in French society. As a result, French citizens should once again choose between Macron and Le Pen. Le Pen believes that indicating a new face in France political scene as an independent politician is not possible under the current situation, and that’s because the bitter experience of Macron’s presence at the Elysée Palace prevents the formation of such a phenomenon.

 Le Pen is now trying to remove Macron from power through holding an early elections; “It is necessary to implement proportional representation and dissolve the National Assembly in order to hold new proportional elections”.

 Simultaneously, she attempts to attract the attention of French citizens to herself as France’s next president.

“We believe that the way out of the crisis is essentially political. This decision excludes any use of violence that only adds chaos to adversity,” Le Pen said in a letter published on the party’s website.

Le Pen also emphasized that the political solution to the recent crisis depended on the French officials, while uttering that French President Emmanuel Macron “is deprived of sympathy for the people, constrained by arrogance and indifference of the elites.”

It is not clear, however, that Le Pen’s calculations would all come true. The French National Rally President opened a special account on Macron’s former supporters to change their minds, and as a result, their votes to her benefit! This is while some of these votes may turn into silent votes or white votes.

 Also, it’s quite possible that France political atmosphere in 2017, would once again repeat in 2022, or during the country’s possible early elections. In this case, to right-wing extremists of French National Rally are going to lose the elections again. Therefore, Le Pen is really cautious about her positions right now, though she believes that Macron’s incapability provided the ground for her political and social success in Paris.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Will there be another referendum over Brexit?

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Brexit continues to be an implicit term in the Britain’s political equations. Complicating the process of the British withdrawal from the European Union is a joint measure taken by the British government and European authorities.

At the same time, the British government, with its widespread negative propaganda against the Brexit, is seeking to re-arrange a referendum. In other words, the European authorities are trying to direct the public opinion about the Brexit.

Recently, some western news sources are speaking of an issue called “repeating the Brexit referendum”, and name it as a possible option! An option that had been previously denied by British authorities, including Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the country. According to the France news agency, regarding the increasing doubt about the British Prime Minister’s efforts to conclude an agreement with the United Europe, the possibility of holding a second referendum on Brexit has multiplied.

This source has also announced that there are major obstacles on the way of confirming this agreement between Theresa May and European leaders, which has, in turn, intensified this trend. The existence of legal complexities in this agreement made its implementation difficult for both sides.  Meanwhile, it is possible that the members of the parliament will vote in favor of Theresa May’s decision.

Although it seems that Theresa May is trying to convince legislators to give a positive vote to this agreement, not only members of the Labor Party, but also some members of the Conservative Party are opposing it. The MPs argue that the Brexit is basically contrary to the interests of the UK.

Meanwhile, supporters of the “People’s Vote” campaign, who are now very active in England, believe that the parliament’s negative vote will pave the way for a new referendum on the Brexit. This issue is no way contrary to the demands of Theresa May and the Conservative Party, but it’s secretly supported by them. The negative propaganda of the Theresa May’s government against the Brexit since 2016 is known to everyone. After the British citizens voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the two Labor and Conservative parties (as UK’s two traditional parties) tried their best to change the general vote on this issue. The active role played by people like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair can well indicate the dissatisfaction among British authorities over the Brexit.

Supporters of the People’s Vote campaign are currently trying to convince the public for holding a new referendum on Brexit. “The People’s Vote campaign seeks to ensure that the government’s Brexit deal is put before the country in a public vote so that we can decide if a decision that will affect our lives for generations makes the country better or worse off. Good deal or bad deal, it’s definitely a big deal – and that’s why it should be put to a People’s Vote”, that’s how the campaign’s supporters define their goal.

Proponents of this campaign believe that the parliament’s negative vote to May’s plan is the best opportunity to hold another referendum. On the other hand, Theresa May doesn’t intend to violate the people’s vote in the 2016 referendum explicitly, so she tries to appear to be opposed to a new referendum, but she set the game in a way that it will eventually lead to the UK’s remain as part of the European Union.

Labor Party officials led by Jeremy Corbin have also agreed to vote again on the Brexit, and have officially backed this issue. The fact that Britain’s two rival parties have come to an agreement on holding a new referendum has provided the ground for its ultimate realization.

First published in our partner MNA

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