Two weeks ago, in a referendum on its separation from Yugoslavia, the state of Montenegro saw just a slim majority of 55.5% of the population wanting independence. But 55% was what was just needed. It has now formally declared independence from its union with Serbia in a special session of parliament in the capital, Podgorica.
While some celebrated, needless to say, the other 45% of the population, mainly Serb ethnic groups, have been very unhappy. Correspondents say Montenegro is today a divided society, with a significant component of the population still backing the union with Serbia. It doesn't look good for its future.
Across the border, Serbian President Boris Tadic put on a brave face and sent a message of congratulation wishing the people of Montenegro ‘peace, stability and overall prosperity’.
He said that "Serbia will be the closest friend. I am in favour of preserving family, historic, cultural, economic and political ties, because they present an unbreakable bond between our two countries."
But Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian prime minister, was less diplomatic, saying that the parting will be correct but not amicable. He rejected European Union (EU) offers to assist the two countries in a ‘velvet divorce’.
Next week Serbia is also expected to declare its own independence, finally bringing to an end the break-up of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia into six fully-fledged states. Though of course the question about Serbian province of Kosovo is yet to be decided.
The breakup has effectively turned Serbia into a landlocked nation without any direct access to the seas.
I wonder how much influence the British had asserted on the EU’s recommendation of a ridiculous 55% as the percentage allowing a breakaway from Yugoslavia. I believe the percentage is not only questionable for such an important issue but also will fail to provide for a healthy society, where nearly half of them still wants ties with Serbia for cultural, historical, ethnic and emotional reasons. I fear more trouble lies ahead, perhaps like ethnic Serbians demanding for a province of their own within Montenegro, meaning the small nation will fracture further.
Since Churchill's days, the British has always had a phobia or obsession about the Balkans, believing it is the soft underbelly to the European continent. But a strong Yugoslavia doesn't suit their perception of the 'soft' underbelly. It was none other than Tony Blair who ‘persuaded’ Bill Clinton to bring the powers of the USAF to intercede in the Kosovo conflict. Blair did so not out of concern for the Muslim Kosovans but for British strategic interests.
Had there been any British 'interference'?