In strictest confidence: The Montenegrins are, frankly, paranoid about a lot of this. Bear in mind that the last few times Solana (or to be more precise Stefan Lehne) has intervened, the result was that Belgrade gave in to the Montenegrins (thinking here of twin-track approach in autumn last year, the agreement on the parliamentary elections earlier this year, and others). I think that the Slovenes and Italians are right on Solana’s current thinking, and Milo is wrong; and I don’t think he is listening to the real message from Solana, which is “Make an honest effort to talk to the opposition; if you can’t get agreement, and it’s clearly their fault, go ahead with the referendum.” The Venice Commission report is explicit that Montenegro’s current legislation is adequate to meet international standards (which surprised me; if I’d been them I would have made some concrete recommendations about technical improvements – they are actually more complimentary about it than our report is.)
Mico doesn’t help; I witnessed him tear into Labus at a conference we were both at in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, interpreting a remark that Labus clearly meant as a joke as if it were an overt threat of Serbia annexing Montenegro. Given Labus’ personal record of loudly saying he favours Montenegro’s independence, it was a really counterproductive intervention (and I told Mico so at the time).
Having said all that, the idea of the European parliament intervening is very interesting. There is no chance of the Austrians or Finns or Brits supplanting Solana, but the Parliament has actually been an effective mediator in the past – thinking particularly of Doris Pack’s intervention in the Albanian presidential election in 2002. Also a whole bunch of MEPs have just come back from Serbia and Montenegro so there is a higher level of awareness than there used to be.
I’m intrigued by the “Special Envoy” difficulty. We (as an organisation) have always instinctively favoured more rather than fewer EU special envoys; I’m aware from my own discussions with member states on other crisis zones that this is not a popular position, and that the Commission has played an effective spoiler role in this from time to time, especially when the actual conflict risk (as in this case) is comparatively low. It could well be that an MEP might be an acceptable EU special envoy to the various institutional interests here, for a one-month time-limited mission. The parallel here is with the EU’s election observation missions, which are often led by MEPs.
What might work would be for Milo (preferable but not essential to do this together with the opposition) to put forward a shortlist of specific MEPs to be the mediator. My candidates would be Joost Lagendijk or Jelko Kacin. Kacin has the language, Lagendijk has the gravitas. Both of course are busy people. I don’t think Doris Pack or Hannes Swoboda is very suitable. There are a whole bunch of others who I know are interested and could do it – Graham Watson, Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, Annemie Neyts, Ignasi Guardans, Cecilia Malmstrom – and that’s just the Liberals who have muttered to me at receptions that they are interested in developing their Balkans experience – but my first preference would be for Lagendijk or Kacin.
Don’t be under any illusions that the Council Secretariat can be kept out of this. But this may be a rather nifty way of reassuring key parties so that the situation has a soft landing.
Am very happy to talk about all this at greater length. (But have left my mobile phone at home today, so you’ll have to catch me at my desk.)
Dr Nicholas Whyte
Europe Program Director
International Crisis Group
149 Avenue Louise – Level 24, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 2 536 0066
Fax: +32 (0) 2 502 5038
Mob: +32 (0) 485 555 944
Crisis Group email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crisis Group – the international conflict prevention organisation
From: Mabel Van Oranje [mailto:Mabel.email@example.com]
Sent: 13 December 2005 11:15
To: ‘Shaun Byrnes’; Nicholas Whyte
Subject: RE: Montenegro
Dear Shaun and Nicholas,
I am bringing Nicholas into this discussion because I believe that it would be useful to hear his thoughts. I very much share the concerns apparently expressed by Djukanovic. I am, however, not sure whether the EP will be able to take the lead in the EU mediation role proposed by VC. Obviously, we would not want Solana’s team to take the lead (and the fact that Stefan Lehne is probably distracted by Kosovo might be a blessing). An alternative might be if one of the presidencies – either still the UK or the incoming Austrian – would take the lead.
From: Shaun Byrnes [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 13 December 2005 09:31
To: Mabel van Oranje
Subject: Re: Montenegro
I had dinner here last night with Mico and Dado. Mico is here to prepare the way for Vujanovic’s visit to the Pope in January. Despite the basically good news from the Venice Commission, Mico says Milo remains deeply concerned about Solana. Milo believes Solana still seeks to delay the referendum and he will now seek to do so through the mediation role the VC recommends for the EU. Mico, Dado, and Slavica all share this concern. (My Italian and Slovene friends say Solana has finally accepted reality, but they are not in Milo’s shoes…) Mico reported that Solana has proposed that he send a “Special Envoy” to mediate but so far that has not met with strong support within the EU, which does not believe Montenegro is on the verge of conflict. My thought was why not try to get the EU Parliament involved. That would serve two purposes: (1) keep Solana out and (2) put the mediation in an institutional context and thereby return the discussion inside Montenegro to the Parliament, where it belongs. Mico thought this made some sense and planned to raise it with Milo today. If they decide to proceed, we agreed Milo should contact Doris Pack before the end of the week to ask for her help. I can push it here with my EuroMP Italian friend after he returns from the WTO meetings in Hong Kong.
What do you think? Any other ideas?