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Europe

Holding What's Left of Yugoslavia Together

EU officials take Serbia's side, pressuring Montenegrin leaders to abandon their drive for independence.

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Slobodan Milosevic's military campaigns broke Yugoslavian unity; his arrest may restore its remnants

Slobodan Milosevic has been described time and time again as the one who bears most responsibility for Yugoslavia’s violent breakup. The former president, now imprisoned awaiting trial in the Hague, defends his actions as last ditch efforts to hold the federal republic together.

But diplomatic action since his arrest suggest that Milosevic’s critics are right.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the reformers who ousted Milosevic last year, aim to hold what’s left of the country together. Unlike their controversial predecessor Kostunica and Djindjic are welcomed, at least, to talks with other regional leaders.

At a meeting Monday in Belgrade, they met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

Solana and the Belgrade leaders are both pushing for Djukanovic to drop the drive for Montenegrin independence he started during the Milosevic years.

Solana called for an “appropriate solution” to continuing tensions between Belgrade and the Montenegrin leader.

But Djukanovic said he would prefer an alliance of two independent states to the continuance of the Yugoslav federal state.

The concern, internationally, is that further dissolution of Yugoslavian power could lead to more violence.

A Montenegrin breakaway would constitute yet another fracturing of the once-large ruined Yugoslavian federal republic. The government in Belgrade once held sway over Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and the republic of Macedonia. Through successive conflicts, it has lost each one.

In a smaller but parallel development, Belgrade reached for better relations with Bosnia Tuesday, as Kostunica travelled to Sarajevo for a meeting of the Bosnian-Serbian inter-state council.

The Belgrade leaders' preference for diplomacy rather than force appears to play well in neighbouring capitals weary of bellicose Serbian threats.

But the old union ruined by war is long gone, and its remnants are home to simmering tensions.

A powerful drive for independence continues in Kosovo, while Montenegro’s is more muted. Literally, the only territory Belgrade could still potentially lose – aside from Kosovo and Montenegro – is Vojvodina, a northern province with a sizeable Hungarian minority situated just north of Serbia proper and east of Croatia.

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