Milović: Punish those responsible for the attack on Dubrovnik, Russian influence in Montenegro is decreasing

When asked how he assesses relations between Serbia and Montenegro and whether there is still pressure from Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who is said to want to destabilize Montenegro, Milović said that the Montenegrin house is governed from Podgorica, and the Serbian one from Belgrade.

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Milović, Photo: Luka Zeković
Milović, Photo: Luka Zeković
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Justice Minister Andrej Milović announced that Montenegro should punish those responsible for the attack on Dubrovnik in 1991.

"It is a great, the biggest shame in our history, that raid on Dubrovnik. That is where the age-old glory of Montenegrin weapons failed in the test of honor. However, as the Minister of Justice, I will be, as my calling obliges me, extremely specific, so I will tell you now that we need punish the responsible people who took part in it, because war crimes do not have a statute of limitations. I hope and believe that we will prosecute those people. Some were prosecuted in The Hague precisely to remove collective guilt...", said Milović in an interview with the Croatian "Večernji sheet".

He said that he can talk about it from two aspects, as a man, a Montenegrin, and as the Minister of Justice of Montenegro.

"If you ask me as a man, as a Montenegrin, I think it was a completely wrong move. The most wrong move in Montenegrin history. It was made under the influence of the then JNA and the leadership from Belgrade. Then the leadership in Podgorica caved in," Milović assessed.

When asked how he assesses the relations between Serbia and Montenegro and whether there is still pressure from Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who is said to want to destabilize Montenegro, Milović said that the Montenegrin house is organized from Podgorica, and the Serbian house from Belgrade.

"We have to take into account that we are now two countries, two houses and that, quite simply, the Montenegrin house is governed from Podgorica, and the Serbian house is governed from Belgrade. This is a healthy approach, the only one that creates the conditions for the best possible relations that we have with Serbia , as well as with Croatia, after all, we want to," explained the Minister of Justice.

When asked whether Russian influence is still strong and whether it can destabilize Montenegro, Milović said that this influence is getting smaller and smaller.

"I would say that this influence is certainly getting smaller and smaller. I think that the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and this ongoing war have damaged the reputation of Russia a lot, and that people who were pro-Russian today are overwhelmingly against Russian policy towards Ukraine." Milović pointed out.

Asked when he expects Montenegro to become a member of the European Union (EU), and whether he fears that Croatia will block that path due to a cross-border dispute, Milović said he believes that Montenegro will join the EU by 2028.

He added that Croatia had previously said that it would not be to Montenegro what Slovenia was to it, when Croatia was conducting negotiations with the EU, and Slovenia was already a member.

"If we fulfill all the tasks, which I am sure we will because I know how this government works and what our goal is, I believe that Montenegro will enter the EU in 2028. I hope and believe that they will not put these, as I said, small bilateral problems in front of that road, in front of what is strategically important for both Montenegro and Croatia, which is for us to be an orderly, European country and as such a good neighbor and sincere ally to Croatia. Croatia said earlier that we will not be what Slovenia was to her, when you were conducting negotiations with the EU, and Slovenia was already a member," Milović said.

"Večernji list" journalist: Are you sorry today that some Montenegrins participated in the attack on Dubrovnik?

Milovic: I can tell you about this from two aspects, as a man, a Montenegrin, and as the Minister of Justice of Montenegro. If you ask me as a man, as a Montenegrin, I think it was a completely wrong move. The most wrong move in Montenegrin history. This was done under the influence of the then JNA and the leadership from Belgrade. Then the leadership in Podgorica gave in.

But it took a long time to prepare the ground for that. You know, some people said in the daily newspaper that thirty thousand bloodthirsty Ustashas with knives are waiting to enter Boka and slaughter people. Can you imagine the feeling of ordinary people, who could not verify this in any way? Then certain people created an atmosphere to justify what they were planning, which is an attack on Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is the jewel of Europe and Montenegrins are proud that Dubrovnik is on their border. We regularly travel to Dubrovnik and stay there. Having Dubrovnik within a radius of two hours' drive or less, depending on which Montenegrin city we are talking about, is wealth, and someone then thought that this wealth should be bombed.

We watched those scenes. I want to tell you that I personally am not ashamed that I, or someone from my generation, was guilty at the age of five, but I am deeply ashamed of the actions of those people.

It's a big, biggest shame in our history, that raid on Dubrovnik. There, the age-old glory of Montenegrin weapons failed the test of honor. However, as the Minister of Justice, I will be, as my call obliges me, extremely specific, so I will tell you now that we need to punish the responsible people who participated in it, because war crimes do not have a statute of limitations. I hope and believe that we will prosecute these people. Some were prosecuted in The Hague precisely to remove collective guilt...

Vito Nikolić, a great Montenegrin poet, wrote one of his most beautiful poems "Night with Dubrovnik", one of the most beautiful Montenegrin poems he wrote precisely about that terrible and shameful attack on Dubrovnik.

"And what awaits you, Mr. Grade, in this night of fraternal bloodshed, while the executioners calmly do their job? God, don't let my premonitions get the better of me!” the lyrics say. And Montenegro is ashamed of that. Only fools can be proud of that. But the justice system needs to react and punish all these people. In order to remove collective guilt, because it was not done by Montenegrins, Montenegro, but by someone Marko, Janko, Petar... we need to know exactly who issued the order, who did it. And that is why it is good to punish the genocide in Srebrenica, and the snipers in Sarajevo, and all the crimes against the Serbian population, so that it is not said that Bosniaks killed Serbs here and there, but that this and that Bosniak killed Serbs. So-and-so Serb killed Bosniaks. So-and-so Croat killed Serbs. That Serb shot, killed a Croat, so that it is known by name and surname.

Because if you look at who we are, you and I are now drinking coffee in Zagreb, last night we sang together Croatian songs, Montenegrin songs, that's who we are. We took the guitar last night, we didn't take the gun. The one who took the gun, the one who committed the crimes, let him be punished, and we will sing along with the guitars. Rejoicing, hanging out, collaborating, making money, opening businesses, doing business, building... I am a man who cheered for Goran Ivanišević and cried when he won Wimbledon. And that was shortly after the war. And every success of Janica Kostelić was also my success because I cheered for her like Croats cheer for Novak Djokovic, like we cheer for Edin Džeka. How can I not support Modric? I am a man who jumped for joy and cheered when Croatia entered the final of the World Cup, I cheered for those guys with all my heart, as did, believe me, a huge number of people in Montenegro.

"Večernji list" journalist: Do you believe that after so many years in Montenegro, those who committed war crimes will be prosecuted?

Milovic: I recently signed the Ljubljana-Hague Convention on War Crimes and Genocide, which is a new mechanism. Eighty countries have signed it and we cooperate in that field. Montenegro does not have a statute of limitations for war crimes in its legislation, which is of key importance in this and similar issues. I proposed the formation of a special court for the fight against organized crime, high corruption and war crimes, and Montenegro will deal with it intensively and consciously. After all, I want to come to Croatia as a Croatian grandson who proudly represents his country, Montenegro

"Večernji List" journalist: Minister, you are talking about a pro-European government, and the government has the support of pro-Serbian and pro-Russian radicals from the coalition For the Future of Montenegro (ZBCG), who are becoming the most important political factor, whose leader is Chetnik Duke Andrija Mandić and in which they are also who publicly say that they support Serbia, Russia and so on?

Milovic: But that Andrija Mandić sends European messages and he constantly says that he is in favor of the European Union and everything he does as president of the parliament shows that he is in favor of Montenegro joining the EU. He was now in Brussels and, as our Prime Minister Milojko Spaić says, he sent messages of peace stronger than the Dalai Lama. That man sends messages of peace. Isn't it good to transform some different policies into pro-European ones?

Attacks on Prime Minister Spajić are not random because his first address is Brussels, and then Washington. However, these and similar attacks and accusations will neither discourage nor prevent our government from fully integrating into the EU.

"Večernji list" journalist: How do you assess the relations between Serbia and Montenegro? Is there still pressure from Aleksandar Vučić, who they say wants to destabilize Montenegro?

Milovic: Montenegro has a brotherly relationship with Serbia. There is a joke with us that we will share something "brotherly or half-and-half", and if we share brotherly, it is never half-and-half. Because the older or younger brother always gets something more. This is also the case in this relationship between Serbia and Montenegro. It is undeniable that we are extremely close, genetically and in every other way, practically one and the same people, there is no doubt about that. Serbia and Belgrade accepted us in the best possible way, many of our generations were educated, treated and worked there, we cannot and will not forget that.

But we must take into account that we are now two countries, two houses and that, quite simply, the Montenegrin house is governed from Podgorica, and the Serbian house is governed from Belgrade. It is a healthy approach, the only one that creates the conditions for the best possible relations that we with Serbia, as well as with Croatia, after all, want.

There will always be a desire for the one who is the "bigger and older brother" to get a little more than the younger brother, that's normal.

There is nothing tragic about it, but I wouldn't say that it is now some terrible meddling. This is not only characteristic of the Balkans, it is characteristic of the whole of Europe and the world. That's politics. The one who is bigger and stronger, more powerful, he wants a little more influence. It is important that this influence does not damage our friendship and Montenegrin interest. As far as our government is concerned, it absolutely protects Montenegrin interests, which, after all, are also the interests of the EU and NATO, our international partners. We know what our priorities are and where we want to be.

"Večernji list" journalist: I have to ask you if the Russian influence is still strong in Montenegro? Could this influence destabilize Montenegro?

Milovic: I would say that this influence is certainly getting smaller and smaller. I think that the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and this ongoing war have damaged the reputation of Russia a lot, and that people who were pro-Russian today are overwhelmingly against Russian policy towards Ukraine.

Anyone with common sense thinks so. You know, someone can be right in politics, but when you see dead children, then the story of who is right is lost.

When you see a child blown up, a woman blown up, a pregnant woman killed, an old man killed, then my and your political conflict loses its meaning because someone dies. We know, we went through it in the nineties. What does it mean to the people of Sarajevo who is right when a sniper hits a child? What do some percentages mean to me when I, as long as I live, will remember the scene of a sniper hitting a child?! I cannot forget those scenes, I am a father, I have a child. How will you explain to a Serb that 49 percent of the territory is a success, and he doesn't have a son to mourn, or a daughter?!

For those mothers whose children were killed, 49 or 51 percent of the territory means nothing to them. She has no child. For any intelligent man, war is defeat. There is no victory in war. That mother and that father lost the war because they lost their child. Look at what Sarajevo looks like, what other cities look like. It was killed there, so that we don't keep to one side, Orthodox children, Muslim children, Catholic children were killed, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks were also killed. This is a tragedy that befell us, and now Ukraine is also going through it. Look at what is being done in the Middle East.

What now? What does victory in the Middle East mean to someone now when there are dead children? Israel defeated Palestine, Palestine Israel, and dead children everywhere. There is no winner. These are wounds that will never heal. What happened in Sarajevo, Srebrenica and other places and in places where people died, be it Serb, Croat, Bosniak people... these are places that have no winners.

"Večernji list" journalist: When you expect that Montenegro could become a member of the EU, are you afraid that Croatia will block your path to the EU because of a cross-border dispute?

Milovic: If we fulfill all the tasks, which I am sure we will because I know how this government works and what our goal is, I believe that Montenegro will enter the EU in 2028.

We are all fully committed to it and we are not thinking about plan B at all. We are not interested in any other scenario. And as for Croatia, it is our sincere partner.

I hope and believe that they will not put these, as I said, minor bilateral problems ahead of that path, ahead of what is strategically important for both Montenegro and Croatia, which is for us to be an orderly, European country and as such a good neighbor and sincere ally Croatia. Croatia previously said that it will not be for us what Slovenia was for her, when you were conducting negotiations with the EU, and Slovenia was already a member.

I hope that they will respect it, and that we will solve the problems through certain commissions and in the best spirit of cooperation and alliance. Because, I repeat, this is a question of strategic issues, and it is not in anyone's interest, neither Montenegro nor Croatia, for things to take a different course.

We need Croatia's hand as an ally, Croatian European experiences are precious to us, Croatian knowledge, and until now Croatia has given us sincere, friendly and selfless help. I firmly believe that it will continue because Croatia is led by mature politics.

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