This past Sunday, 55.4 percent of the voters of Montenegro, the smallest of the six former Yugoslav republics (population slightly over 600,000), decided in favor of independence – by a narrow margin of 0.4%, in a heavy turnout.
Below are some bloggers’ reactions to the May 21 referendum results.
Doug Muir of A Fistful of Euros points out that the campaign has been peaceful – “by Balkan standards” – but that motivations and convictions of the leading pro- and anti-independence players aren't too hopeful:
Long-time readers of this blog already know my opinion of Montenegrin PM Djukanovic; I think he’s an amoral opportunist who is gunning for independence in large part to keep himself in power. That said, the pro-Union opposition isn’t exactly a band of plucky democrats; they’re dominated by Serb nationalists, many of whom used to be fellow travellers with Milosevic.
Doug Muir's first post-referendum entry begins this way:
It looks like Europe has a new country.
He continues by describing one heavy blow (though not the only one) that Serbia seems to be getting this year:
This is a huge blow for PM Kostunica. He staked a great deal on opposing the referendum, up to and including making vague but ominous threats as to what his government would do if it passed. Now it has. And while the departure of Montenegro won’t have much effect on the ground — the two countries have been de facto separate for a while now — psychologically, it’s a blow.
Viktor of Belgrade Blog doesn't expect major changes anytimes soon – with or without Montenegro's independence:
If Montenegro becomes a independent state – Serbia becomes independent too and we all go back to leading our everyday lives. If we stay together, the situation goes back to as it was before and we all go back to leading our everyday lives.
Come to think of it, it's actualy a win-win situation. We should have these referendums more often.
In short – good luck to all voting Montenegrins today, be calm, wise and stay out of trouble, and congratulations on whatever you may choose – because nothing will change either way, anyway.
Srdjan Kosutic also mentions Serbia's forthcoming independence as one of the results of the vote – and he's rather optimistic:
…to be honest, I’m really glad about their independence. Now, finally, Serbia is independent once again, after many years of God knows how many federations. Anyway, I wish good luck to Montenegro and even more I wish good luck to Serbia. Those two states have always been connected (somehow) and I believe that it will stay that way in the future. And, in like 5 years from now we’ll maybe join the EU, so, it will all be the same once again. Maybe I’ll even have both passports just for fun (and for the fact that they will maybe enter the EU sooner), since my mother is from Montenegro!
His one concern is Kosovo, however:
The sad thing in this whole issue is that Kosovo will profit the most from Montenegro’s independence, since the talks are already being made regarding the independence referendum in Kosovo. That is, unfortunately, the bad news.
Srdjan Cvijic of The TransAtlantic Assembly points out one aspect that often gets misrepresented in the mainstream media – “the mirage of ethnic difference”:
…foreign correspondents fall into the trap of perceiving the political division in Montenegro as ethnic division.
Brooke of Desperate Serbwife has been in Montenegro as an observer and she hopes the split would not turn Serbs and Montenegrins into enemies. She criticizes the ruling party in the Montenegrin government for starting the celebration when only very rough estimates were known – and explains why she is neutral on the issue of independence:
I have refrained from having an opinion on this because I know too many people on both sides – Montenegrins who want independence, and those who don't. Serbs who understand why Montenegrins would want independence and those who don't. It is an extremely touchy subject here and I can honestly say that I don't have an opinion about which would be better since I can see the logic in most people's arguments.
Rachel of Pustolovina: Adventure in Serbian does have a strong preference: she is against the independence of Montenegro – and here's why:
The only beer I like to drink here is made in Montenegro. For that selfish, silly reason, I am hoping that they stay together. Yes I am lame, forming my decision about an entire people's self-determination based on my own need for good beer.
A commenter – Rachel's “Belgrade fan” – responds:
Don't worry everything stay the same. “Niksicko” [beer] also.