Nation of Serbia and Montenegro replaces Yugoslavia

Unpopular compromise loosens republics' ties

February 05, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BELGRADE, Serbia and Montenegro -- Lawmakers in Belgrade's federal parliament consigned the name Yugoslavia to the history books yesterday, endorsing the constitution of a new, less binding union between the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

The new state, to be called Serbia and Montenegro, is a compromise between the aspiration among many Montenegrins for independence and an edict from international officials that there can be no further redrawing of borders in the Balkans.

It is a solution that satisfies few people, as yesterday's heated parliamentary debate illustrated, despite the adoption of the constitutional charter by overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

If anything, this latest incarnation of a troubled country has only increased nostalgia for the peace and relative prosperity that Serbs and Montenegrins shared with their Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Slovenian neighbors before wars ripped apart the socialist Yugoslavia created by Josip Tito in 1945.

Even those too young to remember Tito lament the passing of an era when they could travel freely around the region, with the time and the money to enjoy themselves, thanks to a quasi-communist economy sustained by a drip-feed of Western aid as an incentive to snub Moscow.

After brutal wars with Croatia and Bosnia that bequeathed the world the expression "ethnic cleansing," and a crackdown on separatist Kosovo Albanians that led NATO to bomb Belgrade, yesterday's Yugoslavia is still fighting to shed its pariah status, whatever its name.

"I am Yugonostalgic -- that's the way I was raised," said Ivana Jovanovic, a 24-year-old student.

"I miss being able to visit the Croatian coast. This whole thing with the Union of Serbia and Montenegro doesn't make any sense," she said.

Officials from the European Union, who have spent the past year cajoling Serbian and Montenegrin politicians into approving a plan devised in Brussels, Belgium, see it differently.

The new union, which binds Serbia and Montenegro together for three years but leaves them the option to part company after that, has one overriding objective.

"It buys us some time," a European diplomat said. "The last thing this region needs is further Balkanization.

"Instead people need to knuckle down to reforms if they want to be in a position to join the EU one day," the diplomat added.

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