Anna HusarskaWhy should Serbia represent a Neighbor at the UN?
Paris, Tuesday, August 15, 2000
NEW YORK - Presidential, parliamentary and local elections are to be held on Sept. 24 in Yugoslavia. This was announced in Belgrade, the capital of - what? Since Montenegro, one of the two republics that make up Yugoslavia, is refusing to go along with the balloting, this exercise in democracy is a good excuse to take a closer look at the legal status of Yugoslavia.
New York's East River shore is probably the only place in the world where the "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" is alive and well. As a result of a 1992 backroom deal at the United Nations, the international body is housing a country that is no more.
A flag with a star in the middle flies on a UN mast next to reformed flags of old-new member states Germany, the Czech Republic or Russia, which duly reapplied to be UN members after reincarnations.
Serbia, while it has been unsuccessfully trying to prevent disintengration of the old Yugoslavia, has started four Balkan wars in the last decade.The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - the FRY, as opposed to the old SFRY - does not have UN recognition but does have a UN ambassador, Vladislav Jovanovic, a Serb from Serbia. He has not been indicted for war crimes yet is a loyal envoy of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, himself eagerly awaited in The Hague, where the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia has indicted him for genocide.
The U.S. representative to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, who has many a score to settle with Mr. Milosevic, would like to see Yugoslavia evicted. He has two objections.
First, Belgrade's is a rogue regime whose members are under indictment for war crimes, and there should be no room in UN debates for a representative of "that nationalist, extremist regime."
Secondly, given that the SFRY has ceased to exist, the FRY should apply for UN membership.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Jovanovic, from Serbia, wants to speak also in the name of Montenegro, Serbia's little sister republic, even though Montenegro and Serbia are on what the United Nations' special envoy in the Balkans, Carl Bildt, calls a "slow but steady collision course."
In the last two years Serbia has become increasingly entrenched in its anti-Western phobia. Its media are muzzled. Members of the regime are banned from travel. The opposition is unable to unite. Businessmen are unable to trade with anyone but Russia, China and such other partners as Libya, Iraq or Burma.
No wonder president Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro is keen to show that his republic is pro-Western, moderate, civilized. He has been proceeding with a salami-secession, slice by slice, slowly drifting away from the embarrassing company of Serbia without ostracizing Belgrade with an open call for independence.
Now Montenegro has its own foreign policy, monetary policy, customs, border controls and police force.
Last August it proposed a redefinition of its relations with Serbia. Almost a year later, still waiting for an answer, Montenegro got a slap in the face last month when Mr. Milosevic changed the federal constitution, altering the electoral rules and giving himself the possibility to remain in power for eight more years.
The changes reduced the role of Montenegro from that of an equal partner in the federation, with a 50 percent say in the election of deputies to the House of Republics, to a minor partner with a symbolic 6.5 percent say corresponding to its share of the electorate.
One way for the outside world to assist Montenegro would be to give its government status of some sort at the United Nations.
In June, the Montenegrin foreign minister, Branko Lukovac, addressed the Security Council as a guest of the Slovenian delegation. He declared that the Montenegrin authorities did not accept "that Serbia's leadership as well as its diplomatic officials and institutions ... should represent Montenegro's policy and interests." Ambassador Jovanovic fired off an angry protest.
Without going so far as encouraging Montenegro's independence, the international community should acknowledge this republic's efforts to act in a moderate way and avoid confrontation. Some special status at the United Nations, such as a standing invitation to participate as observer, can be worked out by an organization that has the flexibility to fly the flag of an inexistent country.