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NATO, EU Membership Depends on Resolving Serbia, Montenegro Relationship

(Washington, DC--September 1, 2004) Serbia and Montenegro must remain engaged in a stabilization and association process, according to Janusz Bugajski, a prominent East European expert who spoke at a recent RFE/RL briefing in Washington. This, in turn, will increase the likelihood of their future membership in NATO and the European Union. While the possibility of their separation into independent states exists, Bugajski said, "status before standards" is the reality for both republics.

Bugajski, Director of the Eastern Europe Project at the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS), presented eight points to argue that the stabilization process is crucial to the present and future status of Montenegro. He claimed that, since the 2002 Belgrade Agreement creating the Union, the resulting loose federation of Serbia and Montenegro has been another "failed Balkan experiment" to find a way to integrate both republics into international institutions. Bugajski supported his claim with a series of examples of the ways in which the Union does not function: Union decisions carry little authority, in comparison to those made at the republic level; the republics have yet to bring their constitutions into line with the Union constitution; no popular direct election to the Assembly of Serbia and Montenegro or other political bodies of the Union has taken place; no agreement has been reached on a common coat-of-arms and national anthem for the Union; no common Union currency exists.

Describing it as an "ambiguous state", Bugajski said that it was highly unlikely that either NATO or the EU would admit Serbia and Montenegro until the two republics resolved their internal, bilateral relationship. He argued that NATO will not allow into its ranks uncertain states or those that aspire to control territories where the views of the majority differ from that of the central government. For example, the Czech-Slovak "velvet divorce" of 1993 showed how security, market reform and international institutional integration are more likely to be achieved by ending broken federations and eliminating real or perceived territorial ambitions toward neighboring lands.

Bugajski also offered several arguments for why both republics should become fully independent states. He suggested that it is more economical and less costly to have two governments rather than three, considering that both Serbia and Montenegro have functioning governmental institutions. Bugajski countered the assertion that Montenegro is not a viable economic power, arguing that it, as a single state, could pursue free trade relations and better investment opportunities.

According to Bugajski, Serbia and Montenegro should "stand on [their] own feet," noting that it would be more efficient for both the EU and NATO to deal with independent nations in negotiating membership. He said that a rational policy for western institutions would encourage a divorce or, at least, take a neutral stance on the future status of the Union. Bugajski asserted that it was unlikely that Slovenia would be already be a member of NATO or the EU if it had remained in a confederation with the rest of Yugoslavia. As no history of violence exists between Serbia and Montenegro, Bugajski said that a useful opportunity existed for a peaceful and amicable divorce -- and that a mutual resolve to live as good neighbors would benefit both Serbia and Montenegro.

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