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"New Opportunities" For Montenegrin Independence

(Washington, DC -- January 28, 2002) Montenegrin parliamentarian Alexsandar Djurisic told a recent RFE/RL briefing audience that the fall of Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic has offered his state "new opportunities" to gain full independence as a means to preserve Montenegro's heritage, freedom and culture. At the same time, Djurisic emphasized Montenegro's interest in maintaining good relations with all of its neighbors, including Serbia.

Djurisic downplayed polling data that seemed to indicate a lack of support for Montenegrin independence, citing polls by the Damar Agency in November and December 2001 that found that between 55 and 58 percent of the people in Montenegro favor independence. Djurisic also noted that opponents of a proposed referendum on independence, who want Montenegro to maintain its current status as a member of what remains of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, seek not to encourage supporters to vote "no" but rather to boycott the referendum altogether. "That's the only way [referendum opponents] can control their electorate," Djurisic said, "they don't trust their supporters" to vote against independence.

Djurisic said that securing the economic viability of an independent Montenegro would be the province of its government, not its legislature. However, he noted that "no one has yet claimed that remaining in the [Yugoslav] Federation would improve Montenegro's economic situation. Even if such a promise was made," Djurisic continued, "few Montenegrins would believe it."

Djurisic said that "the price was too high" in the early 1990's for Montenegro to follow Bosnia and Croatia in declaring independence from Milosevic and Yugoslavia. However, the image of Montenegro as a supporter of Milosevic was largely created by the media at that time, according to Djurisic. "Montenegro had only one state-owned television station, one state-owned radio station and one state-owned newspaper" in addition to Serbian-based media, Djurisic said, a situation that has changed dramatically over the past three to four years with the creation of 12 independent television channels and dozens of independent radio stations and publications throughout Montenegro.