By Miodrag Vlahović, @Mico_Vlahovic
Podgorica, 07 July 2023, dtt-net.com / peacefare.net – Newly-elected President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, has chosen Belgrade for his first bilateral visit after assuming the office. This comes as no surprise.
Confirming the obvious
Milatović considers President Aleksandar Vučić’s Serbia as Montenegro’s principal and privileged partner. For Milatović, Serbia is “more than a neighbor.”
He even dared to explain recently to the Viennese Standard the similarities between Austrians and Germans, on one side, and Montenegrins and Serbs, on the other. This remark provoked comments that a certain Austrian national-socialist politician with similar ideas in 1930s and 1940s ended his life in the “Fuhrerbunker.”
Milatovic’s trip to Serbia will come on July 10. This raises the question whether he will attend the anniversary commemoration of Srebrenica Genocide the next day. That remains an undeniable “litmus-test” for any Montenegrin official.
Milatović intends to continue the policies that have characterized two governments in Montenegro after its August 2020 elections, which brought the opposition to power. He will mouth EU rhetoric and claim Euro-Atlantic orientation. But this is mere lip-service. Co-operation and more with Serbia is his real interest and objective.
In the meantime, Brussels officials continue to issue direct warnings that Montenegro’s EU-agenda goes nowhere. The slow down and stagnation is turning into regression.
Technical Prime Minister Abazović and his allies – formal and informal – pay no attention to messages from EU Commission. Even worse: they ridicule the entire process. They ignore efforts of the EU member states to remind the Montenegrins that the EU doors are still open but that the EU cannot remain interested in accession if there is not even minimal willingness of Montenegro’s political leadership to engage.
In the latest among numerous scandals, Brussels decided no Montenegrin request for EU funds was serious enough for acceptance. This provoked a tragi-comic confusion in the ranks of technical government, as responsible officials were not even sure whether they have applied for funds!
The sudden death of Open Balkans
The Vučić-Rama “Open Balkans” project that some in Montenegro favored has come to sudden death with a simple statement of Albanian Prime Minsister Rama. He nonchalantly declared that “Open Balkans” has “fulfilled its role” and that the Berlin Process – favored by most EU countries and Germany specifically – is now the needed and desirable framework for regional co-operation.
This death notice has ruined President Milatović’s ambitions for his Belgrade trip. Without Albania, the regional initiative has left only Serbia and North Macedonia on board. With Open Balkans kaput, the Belgrade talks betweem Serbian host and Montenegrin guest have lost any significance beyond Serbian domination over political and social processes in Montenegro.
The Belgrade and Moscow connection
That is still significant. Vučić controls a large chunk of Montenegrin politics. Milatović is his new principal ally, or, better, executer. Signs of that liaison are already present. It is reported that the President has strongly advocated participation of pro-Serbian/pro-Russian parties in the new Montenegrin government, likely to be formed under the leadership of the president of his own party (Europe Now).
The EU and QUINT ambassadors have shown no support for inclusion of anti-NATO and pro-Russian/Serbian forces in the new Cabinet. But Montenegro is now moving North (towards Serbia) and Northeast (towards Russia), instead of West. This will lengthen its already long journey to European institutions and European Union.
This mistaken path will continue until Montenegrin voters understand the difference between populist rhetoric serious policies. That lesson may be unpleasant to learn. And the moment seems distant.
Miodrag Vlahović, is former Montengrin Minister of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to US. He is now president of the Montengrin Helsinki Committee. This opinion of his was first published at peacefare.net website.