Relations between Serbia and Montenegro could be improved, according to a recent survey, which also reveals that the two countries largely disagree on the question of Kosovo’s independence.
This is what a study recently conducted by the Center for Civic Education in cooperation with the Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy, with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Belgrade, reveals.
Serbs and Montenegrins expressed their wish that relations between the two countries were better than they are, said Daliborka Uljarević, executive director of the Civic Education Center, about the survey results.
Regarding Montenegro’s independence, respondents in both countries said it was final and indisputable.
Balša Božović, president of the Regional Academy for the Development of Democracy, says he is positively surprised that the paternalistic media discourse of the Serbian regime towards Montenegro has not been fully welcomed by Serbian citizens.
Meanwhile, the biggest point of friction between respondents from the two countries was Kosovo’s independence, with the issue not only related to the national or political affiliation of respondents, Uljarević said.
Although Serbs and people linked to Serbian President Aleksander Vučić in Montenegro consider this a problem, it does not constitute a stumbling block for Montenegro, according to the survey.
This is an important issue and citizens of Montenegro know that Kosovo is the biggest problem for Serbia, Božović added.
“But the survey also showed that most Montenegrin citizens recognize the independence of Kosovo. On the one hand, they know that this recognition poses a problem in relations with Serbia, but also that they retain their sovereign right for Montenegro to maintain its relations with Kosovo. And Serbia must respect that,” he believes.
According to an almost identical public opinion survey, 18% of respondents in each country said their respective country should be part of the EU.
Relations between Serbia and Montenegro are rated “neither good nor bad” (around 30%), with Serbia showing more skepticism and hostility towards the EU, and particularly NATO , than Montenegro.
The government of Montenegro is at the mercy of the official government in Belgrade, Uljarević said, emphasizing that this raises doubts about its resistance to influences from this center that are not in the interests of the state of Montenegro.
“There are already two such governments behind us, and the government of Dritan Abazović has been particularly harmful in this regard, as indicated in the latest report of the European Commission and the resolution of the European Parliament,” he said. she adds.
“These relations must be based on the recognition that these are two independent and sovereign states which must maintain close relations, but without a paternalistic approach from Belgrade or a servile view from Podgorica. As things stand, I understand that these relationships will not be placed within these frameworks. There will therefore be no substantial and lasting improvement,” she concluded in an interview with Euractiv.
Political commentator Jakša Šćekić told Euractiv that Montenegro’s new government would improve relations between the two countries, but not as much as Serbian nationalists would like, as they want Montenegro to leave the NATO pact, recognize Kosovo and joins Serbia.