Copyright by Vijesti

The path to independence

The fall of Milosevic in October 2000 eliminated the risk of violent conflict between Serbia and Montenegro. However, it did not resolve the question how their relations were to be restructured.

In September 2001 supporters of continued union in Belgrade and Podgorica proposed a renewed federal arrangement. The Montenegrin government responded in December 2001 with a proposal for a "union of independent states".  

It was clear that these two proposals were incompatible. However, pressure by the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana lead to the Belgrade Agreement signed on 14 March 2002. This created a "State Union of Serbia and Montenegro" and brought a three-year moratorium on any independence referendum in Montenegro.

It soon became clear that this arrangement was not going to last and that there would be a referendum in the end.  What was not clear, however, was which rules would apply then.  Would Montenegrin residents in Serbia be able to cast their vote?  Could a referendum be held that would be accepted as legitimate by all sides?

In December 2005 the Venice Commission stated that voting by Montenegrin residents in Serbia would "jeopardise the legitimacy of the referendum."  Miroslav Lajcak, EU envoy and Slovak diplomat, then recommended a minimum turnout of 50 percent of eligible voters and a qualified majority of 55 percent.  This was accepted. Thus the road to a consensual and legitimate outcome to this complex problem was opened.

Documents:

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Montenegro
Montenegro and the EU
Return to Europe film
ESI Montenegro reports
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We thank the Montenegrin daily Vijesti for access to their photo archive.