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Montenegro Modern History

After Tito's death in 1980, the contradictions within Yugoslavia became clear. However, Montenegro remained loyal for a long time behind Serbia during the wars and crises in the traces of the disintegration of Yugoslavia: first as part of a "residual Yugoslavia", then as part of a looser union. However, following a 2006 referendum, Montenegro proclaimed its independence.

Yugoslavia's economic success and Tito's cohesive power had hidden the system's inherent contradictions. But in the 1970s, the country began to have financial problems, which only worsened during the 1980s. At the same time, the internal contradictions increased.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Montenegro. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The 1974 constitution, which was created after a Croatian uprising, gave the republics extensive self-government and at the same time weakened Serbia's influence, when the Serbian provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina gained far-reaching autonomy. After Tito's death in 1980, the Serbs began to work for a redistribution of power within their own republic and the federation as a whole. In 1987, Slobodan Milošević became leader of the Serbian Communist Party in a coup d'état and two years later he was elected Serbian president. Milošević fought to "restore the Serbs' importance" and made Kosovo a symbolic issue. In 1988, demonstrations in Montenegro, probably organized from Serbia, led to the replacement of the Montenegrin Communist regime with a more central government and Milošević-loyal leadership.

Contemporary History of MontenegroUp until the end of the 1990s, Montenegro came to a loyal end behind Serbia during all wars and crises.

The increased contradictions led to Slovenia and Croatia calling for a looser federation, without hearing it. They also wanted to see a more modern and more open Communist Party (the only allowed party), which led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav Communist League in 1990. The Communists remained at the sub-republic level but often chose to call themselves socialists or social democrats.

Yugoslavia is falling apart

The same year, for the first time, a multi-party was held in all the six Yugoslav republics. Nationalist parties won in four sub-republics, while the Communists, who also pursued a nationalist policy, retained power in Serbia and Montenegro. Unlike the others, Serbs and Montenegrins wanted to strengthen the federation. In 1991, however, the political, and economic, disintegration continued. In practice, the Yugoslav Federation ceased to function and in June 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence. Shortly thereafter, the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav People's Army went under attack but the fighting in Slovenia was blown off after ten days. The war in Croatia, where, among other things, Montenegrin troops were behind the shooting of the city of Dubrovnik, became more prolonged. Effortless attempts were made by the outside world to resolve the conflict.

In the spring of 1992, Bosnians and Macedonians also voted to move out of Yugoslavia. In Macedonia (later renamed Northern Macedonia) the transition became peaceful. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, civil war broke out since the EU, despite Serbian protests, recognized the independence of the republic in April 1992. Shortly thereafter, the Belgrade Federal Parliament adopted a new constitution, thus creating the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with only two states: Serbia and Montenegro.

Serbian advancement in Bosnia

The Yugoslav People's Army formally withdrew from the war in Bosnia, but its tactics to "send home" the Bosnian Serbs in the army with weapons during the outbreak of war contributed to the Serbs being able to subdue about 70 percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina in a short time. In conquered areas, the non-Serbian civilian population was driven away, killed or put in concentration camps. All parties to the war used these methods, but the Serbs put them into systems.

In the summer of 1995, however, the war turned back: partly, the Croats took back two areas in Croatia that the Serbs held, and partly the US intervened in the war, after the Bosnians captured and murdered about 8,000 men in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in southeastern Bosnia, which the UN promised to protect.

The three Presidents Slobodan Milošević from Serbia, Franjo Tuđman (Tudjman) from Croatia and Alija Izetbegović from Bosnia-Herzegovina were forced to negotiate at an air base in Dayton, Ohio, USA. Milošević had a mandate to negotiate for the Bosnian Serbs, whose leaders could not leave their country without risking being presented to the War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. On November 21, 1995, the parties signed a peace agreement (the Dayton Agreement), thereby lifting most of the financial sanctions against Belgrade as the EC (EU predecessor) and the United Nations introduced in 1991 and 1992, respectively. Although the war never came to war on Serbian or Montenegrin land the Yugoslav Federation was badly affected by the condemnations of the outside world, by UN sanctions, by large streams of refugees and by the general brutalization of society in the wake of the war.

War in Kosovo

When war broke out also in Kosovo in the spring of 1999, Montenegro tried to stay out. When NATO, in order to end the war, launched a bomb attack on the rest of Yugoslavia, it focused mainly on Serbia, although a few military facilities in Montenegro were also destroyed. However, the civilian population was not hit as hard as in Serbia.

Domestic politics, Yugoslavia continued to be dominated by Milošević, who in 1997 was elected Yugoslav president. A weak and disagreeable opposition enabled him to maintain his relatively strong position. As long as the economic sanctions were in full force, all problems could also be blamed on the outside world. When the sanctions were largely lifted without significantly improving the situation, the situation became a different one.

Before the 2000 federal parliamentary elections, Milošević tried to change the constitution so that he could be re-elected for another eight years, which widened the gap between Serbia and Montenegro. The Montenegrin political leadership under Milo Šukanović (Djukanovic) increasingly distanced himself from the decisions of the Federal Parliament. Nor did a majority of Montenegrins take part in the elections to the federal presidential post and the federal parliament that Milošević had proclaimed prematurely until September 2000 and which subsequently led to his case and that he was extradited to the war criminal court in The Hague.

Union of Serbia and Montenegro

The relationship between Serbia and Montenegro became more and more problematic over time. In Montenegro, many people relied on "big brother figures" from Serbia. Many Montenegrin also felt that they were being unfairly involved in taking on the blame for a conflict that the Serbs started. The Montenegrins further claimed that they have their own language and their own Montenegrin culture and history, separate from the Serbian.

During Milo Šukanović, Montenegro approached the West on its own. The economic reform process (including the privatization of companies and banks) had taken longer than in Serbia. Šukanović eventually also wanted a referendum on independence and Montenegro had adopted its own flag, national anthem and national day.

As a compromise to keep the two countries together, the Union of Serbia and Montenegro was established in 2003, with the help of pressure from the EU. Within the EU, there was concern that an independent Montenegro would inspire other Balkan groups, such as the Serbs in Bosnia and the Albanians in Kosovo, to demand sovereignty. The Montenegro government reluctantly agreed to wait three years to hold a referendum on independence.

When the referendum was held on May 21, 2006, 55 percent of Montenegro's citizens voted yes, while 44 percent wanted to keep the connection to Serbia. In early June 2006, Montenegro's parliament first voted and two days later Serbia's parliament for independence for each sub-republic.

Independent Montenegro

Montenegro's independence came into force on June 3, 2006. The population of the new nation was divided: coastal and urban residents as well as the Albanian and Bosnian minorities were largely for independence while the population inland and against the border with Serbia was mostly opposed.

Negotiations on how the resolution was to be implemented, as well as assets and liabilities allocated, began immediately, partly with the help of the EU.

The parliamentary elections in September 2006 were won by the incumbent government under Šukanović and the Coalition for a European Montenegro (where the Prime Minister's Socialist Party, DPS, was the largest party), got its own majority in Parliament.

When the newly elected parliament was to write a new constitution, the work was characterized by contradictions between the government parties and the Serbia-friendly opposition, and the government had to compromise on several points. The most important was that although Montenegrin was designated as official language, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Albanian were also given official status. In 2007, the new constitution was adopted by Parliament.

Temporary drop-off

Shortly after the election, Šukanović left his post to engage in business - successful, it would prove. In the summer of 2007, Italian authorities had begun to investigate his possible involvement in organized crime's extensive cigarette smuggling. Šukanović, however, had one leg left in politics when he remained as party leader for DPS and when his successor as prime minister resigned for health reasons in January 2008, he was asked to re-form government.

Presidential elections were held in April 2008. The incumbent President Filip Vujanović won by more than half the votes, which was seen as a confirmation of DPS popularity among the residents.

In December 2008, Montenegro applied for EU membership (see Foreign Policy and Defense). In January 2009, President Vujanović announced early elections to Parliament until March, when Parliament and the government needed a full four-year term to meet the requirements for EU and NATO membership. Despite growing economic problems in the wake of the global financial crisis, the governing coalition won a majority of parliamentary mandates.

In 2010, Montenegro gained official status as a candidate country for EU membership. Shortly after the EU decision, Prime Minister Milo Šukanović resigned. It was rumored that the EU had demanded his departure to approve Montenegro as a candidate country. The reason would be Šukanović's alleged ties to organized crime. He was succeeded by Finance Minister Igor Lukšić, but remained as the leader of the DPS.

EU candidate

To give Montenegro a start date for membership negotiations, the EU called for a new electoral law, which guaranteed the minorities a certain proportion of seats in the national and municipal assemblies. Only after a compromise on the status of the Serbian language at school (the school subject was called "Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian") Parliament voted unanimously through the new electoral law. In June 2012, the EU decided that membership negotiations could begin, but the Union's foreign ministers also demanded an examination of how Montenegro coped with the fight against drug smuggling, money laundering and corruption.

In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the ruling left-wing coalition, consisting of the DPS, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Liberal Party (LPCG), declined somewhat. In order to reach a majority in Parliament, two mandates were missing, the government coalition needed to seek support from the ethnic minorities.

For the eighth time, DPS leader Milo Šukanović was appointed head of government. Šukanović explained that the government's course was fixed in the quest for EU membership. However, the EU demanded a really tough grip on the corruption and crime that gave Montenegro a reputation as a "mafia state". Šukanović also suspected himself of conspiring with the mafia, but his involvement in cigarette smuggling had not been proven by Italian authorities. It is clear that his family, in connection with privatizations in the mid-2000s, had to take over the country's largest bank, Prva Banka (First Bank), at a low cost. While almost only public funds were invested in the bank, withdrawals, including in the form of favorable loans, were largely made by the Šukanović family and related persons.

Vujanović re-elected

In the April 2013 presidential election, popular sitting President, Filip Vujanović of DPS, resigned despite having already served a maximum of two five-year terms. However, since his first presidential term began before Montenegro's independence, many thought that it should not be counted. Vujanović was declared a winner with 51.2 percent of the vote, but the opposition accused him of electoral fraud, boycotted his installation in parliament and held protest demonstrations.

New protests were held in February 2014 against the Šukanović regime, which was accused of high unemployment, neglect of the economy and corruption. In the fall of 2015, extensive and protracted demonstrations broke out in Podgorica and other cities demanding that the government resign. The opposition alliance Democratic Front (DF) was behind the protesters. The government said they had evidence that they had the support of Russia and of nationalist circles in Serbia (however, the Serbian government would not be involved) with the aim of preventing Montenegrin membership in NATO and the EU.

At the beginning of 2016, on Šukanović's own initiative, a vote of confidence was held in Parliament on him and his government. Šukanović was supported by a majority, but had the government reshuffled, where the opposition also got some representatives, pending "free and fair elections" which were promised until October 2016. In the election, DPS again became the largest party with twice as many votes as the opposition with DF at the head. After the election victory, however, Šukanović chose to refrain from forming a new government in favor of his close confidant, Duško Marković, who among other things was the Minister of the Interior and head of the intelligence service.

 
 

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