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Expert: Montenegro is one of occupied Serb lands, like Kosovo

Stevan Gajic

The relations between Podgorica and Belgrade will not change in any way following Milo Djukanovic’s victory in the presidential elections in Montenegro, Stevan Gajic, a researcher at the Institute of European Studies in Belgrade, said when answering EADaily’s question whether Djukanovic as acting Montenegrin president could influence the Serb-Montenegrin relations at the moment when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is expected to make his proposal on Kosovo issue long-term solution.

Recall that the leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists, Milo Djukanovic won the presidential elections in Montenegro; he had already served as president of the country from 1998 to 2002. In addition, he repeatedly headed the Montenegrin government. During his reign, Montenegro left the union state with Serbia in 2006, and in 2017 it joined NATO.

One of the first who congratulated the Montenegrin leader on winning the election was the "president" of the separatist Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi. Djukanovic himself just before the campaign silence in an interview with the Novosti Belgrade newspaper advised Serbia "to face the truth and accept what has already happened."

Until now, Milo Djukanovic had excellent relations with Serbian President Vučić, Gajic said. We can say that Djukanovic is in some ways a teacher of Vučić, since the latter completely adopted the current system of government in Montenegro, the expert said.

But for Serbia, the fact that Montenegro has joined NATO creates great problems, Stevan Gajic believes. "We believe that Montenegro is one of the occupied Serb lands, and that it is currently under the NATO occupation, just like Kosovo," the expert said.

Nevertheless, Gajic does not believe that Djukanovic can significantly influence the outcome of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. In his opinion, the problem is that Serbia itself pursues two foreign policies. "The first one, quite understandable and more aimed at pursuing the state interests, is led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic. The second policy speaks of a compromise at a time when there cannot be any compromises, and when Serbia is humiliated. For example, the assault on Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica on March 26 by Albanian militants was humiliating not only for him personally, but also for the Serbian state," said Gajic.

The expert recalled that the territorial claims of Albanians were not exhausted after Kosovo declared independence unilaterally. Albanian separatists are talking more often about the municipalities in southern central Serbia Presevo and Bujanovac, he said.

"I consider the policy of the so-called compromise dead. Whether Serbia will be forced to agree with something, or President Vučić himself is ready to practically recognize Kosovo by signing the notorious "legally binding agreement with Pristina" and allowing Kosovo to join the UN, time will tell. It seems to me that now it is a little more difficult, because the Serbian Orthodox Church has expressed its position quite clearly. In his address to believers on the Easter, the Patriarch of Serbia, Irinej, stressed that we do not reject Kosovo, and most Serbs hold the same position," the Serbian political analyst said.

On the other hand, Gajic noted, the Montenegrin regime, unlike the Montenegrin people, is hostile to Serbia and conducts an openly anti-Serb policy. This concerns attempts to split the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as the issue of national identity, and the problems of language.

"One must bear in mind that Milo Djukanovic's regime is actually a NATO regime. Of course, there is a share of Russia's responsibility here that has not noticed this since 2006 and which has tacitly supported Montenegro's path to NATO. Now we see the results of such a policy. They are astounding. The whole essence of the Montenegrin independence project was to separate the Serbs, perceived in the West as Mediterranean Russians, from the Adriatic Sea and reduce their geopolitical role. We, the Serbs, are still not completely destroyed, given the fact that the pressure continues," stated Gajic.

According to the expert, Milo Djukanovic will remain in power in Montenegro, while it is part of NATO. "Nothing will change in Montenegro until Serbia itself starts to follow a clear pro-Serb policy, and this will not happen until Russia is firmly established in the Middle East," the analyst believes. According to him, the situation in the Balkans is already changing, given that China comes to the region with its economy, while Russia retains a political presence in it and strengthens military cooperation with the Balkan countries.

"The Balkans are becoming more interesting, and the Serbian issue is coming to the fore. But at the same time, Montenegro is a political province, Serbia is a semi-province, and the centers are Moscow, Washington, London, Beijing. In order for the people in Montenegro to vote against the criminal regime, they must feel the support of their center, Serbia. Serbia, in turn, must clearly pursue a pro-Serb policy. And for Russia to be able to strengthen its role in the Balkans, it is necessary that it finally established itself in the Middle East," Stevan Gajic summed up.

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