Montenegro says it will not be Serbia's victim in EU talks
04.05.06 @ 10:16
BRUSSELS - Montenegro is confident it will not become a victim of Serbia's failure to arrest war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, with politicians predicting a vote for independence from Serbia in a 21 May referendum and continued talks with the EU.
The European Commission on Wednesday (3 May) froze talks on a Stabilisation and Association agreement (SAA) with Serbia and Montenegro, which currently forms a state union.
Brussels' move was sparked by Serbia's missing of a 30 April deadline to hand over Mr Mladic to the UN's war crimes tribunal, but also affects the EU ambitions of Montenegro.
Both republics have separate SAA negotiating teams, but legally they fall under the same umbrella under Brussels' so-called "twin-track" method.
Ranko Krivokapic, the president of the Montenegrin parliament, said on Wednesday that the disruption of the SAA talks with the Serbia and Montenegro state union will only affect Podgorica for a few weeks, as the 21 referendum is likely to produce independence from Belgrade.
"We have been hostages of Serbia during last 15 years. Our talks [on the SAA] should continue and I believe they will continue because after the referendum of 21 May we will be independent," Ranko Krivokapic told Balkans news agency DTT-NET.COM.
The Montenegrin parliament speaker argued that the disruption of SAA talks "is another reason why Montenegro should be an independent state."
His remarks were echoed by other Montenegrin politicians who said Belgrade holds Podgorica "hostage" in EU negotiations, with Montengro's president Filip Vujanovic saying "I hope this will end on 21 May" according to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Mr Krivokapic was in Brussels to explain to MEPs the reasons why Montenegro should split from the Serbia.
He told MEPs that Montenegro authorities are "fully cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia [ICTY], which is not the case with Serbia."
The politician added that Montenegro's economy has been suffering due to the state union. "We have lost during the last 15 years half of our GDP [national income]."
In this month's referendum, Montenegrin citizens will decide whether to remain together with Serbia or make Montenegro independent.
More than 55 percent of participating voters will have to support independence in order for the results to be approved by the EU.
The latest surveys have shown that independence is the most probable result of the referendum, although margins are close.
Two recent surveys said that around 56 percent of those expected to turn out are going to vote in favour of independence.
If Belgrade continues to fail to hand over Mr Mladic and derail Montenegro's EU path, support for independence could increase further.