Update No: 119 - (30/04/07)
March to independence
The mystery is how it took so long for the Montenegrins to obtain independence
which they did last summer. The referendum was only won by a whisker. But
everyone agrees now that, if rerun, it would be won by a landslide now.
Montenegrins are revelling in their independence and new-found fame.
As long ago as 1993, Montenegro opposed a plan by Serbia to abolish the
republican ministries of foreign affairs, defence and foreign economic relations
and transfer responsibility to federal ministries. The Montenegrin foreign
minister at the time, Miodag Letic, insisted against Belgrade's bidding in
having international observers monitor the Montenegrin-Bosnian border. Serbia
expelled such monitors from Kosovo, but did not dare do so from Montenegro. The
hardy mountain folk of the Black Mountain are fierce fighters, the cream of the
Balkans in that regard.
As Yugoslavia broke up, it was clear that the Montenegrins were chafing at the
bit. It was simply a matter of time.
Montenegrins are now reconnecting with their great history that culminated
in their leading the way to independence of the whole Balkans from Turkish rule
(bar a narrow strip west of Istanbul, which makes Turkey European in its own
It all started in its origins as Zeta, the sixth latter of the Ancient Greek
alphabet. It emerged on modern times as a defiant, violent and romantic
principality, ruled by elected Prince-Bishops, until in the eighteenth century
the throne became hereditary.
For centuries the Montenegrins fought off the Ottomans, who never really
succeeded in subduing them in their mountain fastnesses. The ascent of the
ill-fated, but highly talented Petrovich dynasty is the more curious in that it
produced, not just mountain commanders in battle, but fine poets too. Peter 1
and 11 in the first half of the nineteenth century established thoroughly
Ruritanian, but quite independent principality. It was Peter 11 who wrote the
epic poem, the Mountain Wreath, which, in the words of the author of Realm of
the Black Mountain, Elizabeth Roberts, "crystallised for Serbs and
Montenegrins everywhere the nationalistic spirit of the age."
It was the Ottoman massacres in Bulgaria and the brave Montenegrin resistance
that caught the attention of the West, notably Gladstone in the House of Commons
and Tennyson in his sonnet, 'Montenegro,' in 1877. This led the great Powers to
confirm their statehood and independence at the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, at
which Bismarck and Disraeli hi it off and both shone.
The ruler since 1860 had been Nikola, another debonair and flamboyant ruler, but
something of a buffoon, who tried constantly to increase his territory by
conquest. He was more successful in marrying off his daughters to European
royalty, then having its unwitting swansong. One married Victor Emmanuel of
Italy, another the future King Alexander of Yugoslavia, an enlightened monarch
who translated John Stuart Mill into Serb-Croat.
Two others were the "Black Princesses" who began the close
relationship of Montenegro with Russia by marrying Russian grand Dukes, the very
same who introduced Rasputin to the Tsar and Tsarina. This exalted company
emboldened Nikola to proclaim himself king in 1910. But the Balkan Wars of
1912-13 destroyed his kingdom and dynasty.
Montenegro then became part of the kingdom of Yugoslavia under the Serbian
dynasty, which was itself to be destroyed by Hitler in 1941 and replaced by Tito
in 1944-45. Montenegrins played a large part in the liberation of Yugoslavia
from the Nazis. Notable here was the Politburo member and fine writer, Milovan
Djilas, who was to fall out with Tito in 1954 after the latter's breach with
Stalin in 1948.
Djilas penned superb memoirs of the Kremlin, Conversations with Stalin, utterly
different in their candour and criticism from the fawning prose of Enver Hoxha,
the Albanian poltroon of Stalin's.
The Montenegrins may have been slow on the uptake in demanding independence as
Yugoslavia fell apart, but they are making up for lost time now. In particular,
they have attracted a lot of tourism and property buyers, particularly rich
Russians. Montenegro is the location where the latest James Bond movie, Casino
Royale, was filmed.
The Russians come to town
The total amount of foreign investments in Montenegro reached 640 million
Euro in 2006, including 70 million Euro (US$95 million) from Russia.
The data was made public by Montenegrin foreign minister Milan Rocen on April
20th after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. "The
Russian-Montenegrin relations are on the rise," Rocen said, adding,
"We are honoured to receive the foreign minister of friendly Russia on his
first state visit [to this country]." "We are meeting again in
Podgorica, slightly less than a month after my first visit to Moscow,"
Rocen said. "This confirms the fact that our relations are on the
"I think, the world has seen few examples of such a great friendship
between a small country, Montenegro, and such a large power as Russia," the
minister added. In his words, Montenegro "creates all conditions for
drawing foreign investments." "Russia's leading companies, such as
RUSAL, are already operating here," Rocen said, adding, "we are going
to create the most favourable conditions for activity of foreign investors in
our country." According to him, Montenegro and Russia plan to sign a free
trade agreement in the near future.
Earlier, Russia and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro had similar
agreement. "That agreement was an exclusive example of interaction between
Russia and a foreign country," Rocen went on to say. "I hope a new
such document will be concluded with Montenegro soon," he said. Rocen
expressed hope that Russian companies will take an active part in the
implementation of new projects, including development of the infrastructure,
building of hydropower plants, as well as construction of a road to the border
First steps are taken toward joining the EU
The tiny Balkan republic of Montenegro has made a significant step towards
joining the European Union, after signing a Stabilisation and Association
agreement (SSA) with the bloc, Mnnews reported.
The accord makes Montenegro an official EU candidate, along with the other two
republics of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Croatia.
Montenegro Prime Minister, Zeljko Sturanovic, and EU enlargement commissioner,
Ollie Rehn, inked the accord in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica on March 15th.
Rehn said the agreement would facilitate trade between Montenegro and the EU and
pledged European help in Montenegro's struggle against organised crime and
trafficking across the borders.
"Further progress on Montenegro's road to EU will depend on the
implementation of the agreement and the struggle against corruption and
organised crime and based on the reforms of judiciary and administrative
capacities," said Rehn.
He said the SSA pact is a real major milestone on the Montenegro's road to EU.
Sturanovic said the agreement represented the first phase of substantial
integration of Montenegro into the EU. Montenegro President, Filip Vujanovic,
hailed the agreement as a "great step forward for Montenegro," and
pledged his country would continue to fulfil all its obligations in the process
of European integration.
Montenegro started SAA negotiations with the EU while being a part of the state
union of Serbia and Montenegro in October 2005. The process was suspended in May
2006 due to Belgrade's failure to arrest Serb war crimes suspects sought by a UN
war crimes tribunal.
Montenegro has resumed SAA talks with the EU after the proclamation of
independence and completed negotiations on December 1st, 2006. Montenegro
pledged to work on the necessary pro-Western reform. The completion of the
agreement means that Montenegro will attain the status of an associated state,
which is a crucial step towards full EU membership. Ahead of his visit to
Podgorica, Rehn said the EU expected from Montenegro to draft the Constitution
in line with European standards, and provide the support of an entire political
milieu if possible for its subsequent adoption.
The European Union also demanded that Montenegro, as an independent state,
strengthen its institutions, and political and administrative capacities.
Meanwhile, the visiting NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, told
Montenegrin Defence Minister, Boro Vucinic, that NATO and Montenegro would sign
a security agreement, Mnnews reported.
NATO assured that it would fully support Montenegro in military reform and the
Euro-Atlantic integration process. NATO chief said signing of the Stabilisation
and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and Montenegro as
well as his visit to Podgorica show that Montenegro is moving in the right
FOOD & DRINK
Vektra wants 150m Euro investment in plants
The Podgorica-based company Vektra intends to invest more than 150 million in
the Montenegrin economy, New Europe reported on April 9th.
Vektra plans to construct a factory for processing and bottling drinking water
in Kolasin by end of the year, Milic Popovic, manager of the company for public
relations, said they will invest seven million Euro in the new factory with a
capacity of 140 millions of litres. Vektra got concessions for the usage of
water from the well Drijenak for 30 years. Popovic expects that the new factory
will start working at the beginning of the next year. Vektra also got concession
for 30 years on Pljevlja woods. The company has qualified for the public
competition for the purchase of the wood-processing company Njegovudja and wood
enterprise Zabljak. The company owns tourist complex Alert in Becici, spread
over 36,000-square metres where it intends to construct a five star tourist
lodge at a cost of 95 million Euro. Vektra is interested in the purchase of
hotel Boka and will participate in the open competition for its privatisation.
In Bar, they will invest 25 million Euro in a 23,000 square-metre housing and
business complex. Vektra has also formed an airline company with 10 millions
Euro, for business aviation for European and world destinations. Vektra was
founded in 1990 as a general representative of Peugeot for Montenegro and is a
strategic supplier of repro material for Aluminum Podgorica. Dragan Brkovic is
the founder and the president of the company and its most important investments
so far are housing - business space in Podgorica, Maritime agency in Bar. Vektra
has also privatised two transport firms - Rumijatrans and Moracatrans.