fr en de

The people's right to self-determination

On May 21 Montenegro voted for independence that was lost 88 years ago after the First World War. The Balkan Wars and the exaggerated reserve of the Western powers with regard to Kosovo postponed a conclusion which was however unavoidable. It was not necessary to be an expert in order to understand the European message; that of the respect of national identities and this was understood by the most isolated regions of the Adriatic; it was also understood that Yugoslavia, an artificial construction which is now synonymous to Communism had lived its day. We can only rejoice at this outcome. The Montenegrins are Europeans; they have demonstrated logic and reserve; they could no longer stand alongside Serbia which refuses to break away from nationalism as revealed in its refusal to surrender its war criminals. The Montenegrins so want to join the European Union that they have already adopted the Euro and have succeeded in establishing an open society in a troubled region; they also succeeded in organising an election considered exemplary by the international community. 

There is no future in Europe for those who take refuge in the past and do not accept the European message: the respect of difference, the State of Law, Human Rights … Size is not a criterion it is about being part of an alliance the heart of which is the European Union.

This message is not directed at the secessionist minorities of Europe who wrongly see an example in it. History also has its reasons which extremism does not acknowledge, in the Basque country as in Catalonia which have never been States. National identity is not regionalism. The right of people to live in a democracy overrides irredentism. Moreover this is the question raised in Kosovo. It will be independent if it is the only means for Kosovars to live freely in a State of Law.

We would have preferred a more lucid, enthusiastic European diplomacy. Making it obligatory for more than 55% of Montenegrins to vote in favour of independence for the result to be acknowledged was a serious infringement of the most accepted democratic principles. It truly was a mistake; we should thank the Montenegrins for having turned out to vote and for not having put Europe in an Ubuesque situation which would have happened if a majority of the citizens but less than 55% had chosen independence. Let us hope that the lesson has been learnt.

There are limits which should not be crossed within the complexity of diplomacy: these are principles. In democracy 50% plus one is a majority. All of those who have ever challenged this rule have done so for bad reasons.

Europe must remain the guardian of Democracy, of the State of Law, of Human Rights. The continent and the world need this on condition that it is irreproachable. It is true that the democratic battle is a daily one.

I say "Welcome" to our Montenegrin friends to the club of European democracies. We expect its neighbours now to look on them as an example!