Update No: 114 - (28/11/06)
A new place in the sun
Montenegro is an exciting place, with fabulous scenery, great architecture,
unspoilt beaches and a good climate. People are enjoying their newfound
independence and the attention it is drawing from all and sundry.
Montenegro has become the fastest growing tourist attraction in the world, with
soaring house prices. It is eclipsing Croatia in this respect, with Russians and
British coming into the country in droves.
Regional implications of independence
Since May 21st, when Montenegro held a successful referendum on independence, it
has joined the worldwide family of independent states and soon will become the
56th state of OSCE and the 192nd of the United Nations.
On June 3rd the official declaration of independence was proclaimed by the
Parliament of the country and the newest and smallest country in the Balkans
came into existence. Despite the fact that in various historical periods
Montenegrins and Serbians were part of the same state, as well as, steadfast
partners; the recent development has showed that the "Balkanisation"
process is splitting larger nation states into smaller parts and that eventually
will have serious implications for the whole of the region.
The referendum, by which Montenegro declared its will to break loose from its
union with Serbia, was confirmed by 55.5% of the population, just enough to
prevail, as 55% was the threshold. It would certainly be larger if there was a
A closer look reveals that the Albanian minority and the Bosniak one that
comprise a fair share of country's population have played the leading role in
turning the outcome in favour of the independence process. This amongst others
reveals the current power politics in this state that are inexorably connected
with the presence of a large Muslim component, traditionally adversary to
Serbia. Therefore for the first time in many years Montenegro sees itself
outside the larger Southern Slavic family that has traditionally dominated
Western and Central Balkans since the medieval years and the last centuries of
the Byzantine era. In essence Montenegrians are drifting away from their
ethno-cultural vicinity and become a possible subject of control by other
neighbouring cultures and people.
Relations with Serbia foremost
The ramifications of this newly established state, first and foremost
reflect on the other part of the former union, namely Serbia. On June 15th
Serbia officially recognized Montenegro's independence and a few weeks after
diplomatic relations between them had begun. The first effect of this event is
the creation of a Serbian state which is landlocked for the first time since the
beginning of the 20th century. This is a major geopolitical drawback for the
country, since the exodus towards the open sea was always beneficial for the
country for economic, commercial and political reasons.
Moreover the sentiment of psychological isolation could well prove to be
stronger, since the continuous wars of the 90's have resulted into reducing
Serbia's ethno-cultural territory and the current Montenegro independence proves
to another element of frustration for those that believed that Serbia would at
least manage to hold its Adriatic entrance.
On the other side it is probable that relations between the two countries will
become even stronger in the future, due to fears of the Albanian Irredentism and
the general expansion of Islamic elements in the Balkans. Needless to say that
the ties between Serbians and Montenegrians have been solidly sustained over the
centuries and so would be for the foreseeable future. In the long term though
should the demographics of Montenegro continue to support an enlarged Muslim
community, then those historical ties might weaken to an extent.
The area in the Balkans where the independence of Montenegro has the strongest
influence is Kosovo. Currently, despite the fact that according to
international, and Serbian Law, this province is a part of Serbia; the nearly
total ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Serbians has resulted in Albanian
dominance. Since the international pressure for the recognition of the
independence of Kosovo is getting stronger towards Belgrade, the development in
Montenegro, results in providing a clear-cut legal precedence for the Albanian
side. In the coming months it is more than certain that pressure on the Serbian
side will intensify and one wonders what will be the precedent for the whole of
Europe if a country loses 15% of its territory-Serbia- with the compliance of
the United Nations.
Other regional states such as Macedonia will have to cope with an increased
pressure because of its sizeable Albanian community or even Romania with its
also large Hungarian minority, concentrated for most of its part in the Western
parts of its territory. Lastly the absence of robust nation states in the centre
and in the Western Balkans will most probably result in the perpetuation of the
organized crime and the political and social instability that its existence
Relations with Bosnia vital too
Another area where Montenegro's independence will have its implications is
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Even though the Serbian-Bosnian community is not eager
enough to disband the Union, one should wonder how long this
Muslim-Croatian-Serbian artificial state might last, in relation to the recent
developments that call towards the creation of smaller state units like
Montenegro or even like Kosovo, as so many members of the international
community have addressed over the past time. From a symbolic point of view the
independence that was achieved by Montenegro is a strong stimulus for other
groups in the Balkans that don't have their own state and feel that were treated
unequally by the international community. The Serbian community in Bosnia is a
type that confirms the previous description and it has also far more population
and resources than the current Montenegro state.
Overall the creation of one more state in the Balkans- the seventh, if one
includes Moldova as well- since 1991 - is not a factor that will create
stability in the region, but instead a development that might cause further
decomposition of the already feeble Balkan structure.
This Peninsula which is close enough to Europe and Russia needs stability and
prosperity in order to offer to its neighbours alike over the coming decades. In
any case the Balkans is a region of clearly Pan-European importance and its
progress is not only a responsibility but also a vital interest for the West,
should it wants to retain its current supremacy in geopolitical, geo-economic
and cultural terms versus the East and Russia.
Hungarian OTP acquires 100% of Montenegrin CKB unit
Hungary's leading bank OTP will take a short break from its campaign of
acquisitions after it closed its purchase of its Montenegrin unit CKB, news
service bbj.hu cited Deputy CEO, Laszlo Wolf, as saying at a recent press
conference in Podgorica.
Wolf said that OTP would stop buying further banks for some time. "We have
not decided officially how long the break will take, but we will not launch new
acquisitions in the first half of 2007," Wolf said. "We would not
ignore a special opportunity, but such an opportunity is unlikely," he
added. Wolf said the reason for the decision was OTP's capital situation. OTP
acquired 100 per cent of CKB for 105 million Euro on August 29th.
Trade deficit at 528.4m Euro
Montenegro's trade deficit in the first eight months of this year amounted to
528.4 million Euro, while coverage of imports by exports was 38.46 percent,
according to the preliminary results of the country's statistic bureau, Italian
news agency ANSA recently reported.
Montenegro's trade in this period was worth 1.189 billion Euro, of which 858.7
million worth was imported and 330.3 million exported. Montenegro's most
significant trading partner is Serbia, followed by Italy, Germany, Greece,
Slovenia and Croatia. In the eight months of this year, trade with Serbia was at
more than 349 million Euro. Montenegro imported 248.5 million Euro worth of
goods from Serbia and exported goods to the value of 101 million, it was
reported. Coverage of Montenegro's imports from Serbia with exports in this
period was 40.7 percent.