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Southeast European Times: For Djukanovic, one chapter closes, another begins

Published date: 17.10.2006 12:11 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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By Antonela Arhin for Southeast European Times 16/10/06

The name Milo Djukanovic has become almost synonymous with Montenegro's campaign for independence. Only months after its successful conclusion, he announced that he is stepping down. SETimes correspondent Antonela Arhin takes a look at his career.

After suggesting in September that he is tired of political life, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic this month confirmed his decision to step down. On October 5th, he and Svetozar Marovic, the deputy head of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), both announced their resignations, saying it is time for "the affirmation of new people". They will, however, retain senior leadership posts in the DPS.

Both have been in politics a long time, Djukanovic noted, and the circumstances which Montenegro was going through made it impossible to focus on personal priorities. Today, when the newly independent republic has achieved full political and economic stability, it is the right time to turn to such matters, he said.

"I have just completed the first half of my professional career," Djukanovic added, "and now I am in a position to decide on the second half." Immediate plans include a holiday, after which he may go into business.

When asked if he is leaving his post with a feeling of success, Djukanovic said that a lot had been asked of him as prime minister -- even having to solve homicides. Although there are no perfect biographies or careers, he believes there are more reasons for satisfaction than anything else, Djukanovic said.

He also said he did not think voters were betrayed by his leaving the post. For 17 years, the outgoing prime minister remarked, he brought everything that he knew to state politics and the realisation of national interests. If that was not enough or the best, it was because of the limits to his ability, he said, not because he was unwilling to do it.

Besides, Djukanovic said, citizens did not vote for individuals but for the further development of democracy and the economy.

A team of people stands ready to continue developing the existing values in Montenegro's state politics, and the resignations will not impede the process, Djukanovic said. Montenegro is stable in every way and further international affirmation is ahead, he added.

The 44-year-old Djukanovic is still a young man, but his career has seen more change in Montenegro than many politicians experience in a lifetime. Starting out as a youth leader in a now defunct communist federation, he departs office as the leader of Europe's newest country.

A graduate of the Faculty of Economics in Podgorica and a former basketball player (he stands at 1.96cm), Djukanovic launched his political activity as a member of the Students' Alliance and the Alliance of Socialist Youth. At 26, together with Momir Bulatovic and Svetozar Marovic, he led the so-called "anti-bureaucratic revolution", ousting the president of the League of Communists of Montenegro and the president of Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro.

Djukanovic was the youngest ever member of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. On his 29th birthday, he became prime minister of Montenegro. At the time, he was the youngest prime minister in Europe.

Although once allied with Slobodan Milosevic, Djukanovic broke with him in 1996 and increasingly aligned himself with the West. The rift was further exacerbated when NATO bombed the former Yugoslavia as a consequence of Milosevic's policies in Kosovo. It was after 2000 that Djukanovic began openly advocating the independence of Montenegro. That campaign culminated with a referendum in May 2006, in which a decisive majority opted to leave the state union of Serbia-Montenegro.

Javier Solana, the EU's security and foreign policy chief, said that he respects Djukanovics decision to step down as the prime minister. "We have co-operated very closely for a long time in a positive and constructive manner," he wrote in a letter to the Montenegrin daily Vijesti. Solana was viewed as an opponent of the independence referendum, but in May, during their last meeting in Brussels, he congratulated Djukanovic on its successful outcome.

In his letter to Vijesti, he said he knows how hard Djukanovic fought for the interests of his country and its people. Djukanovic is a young politician, Solana said, with a bright future ahead of him. Even nowadays, I am surprised when I see his biography and his birthdate, Solana said.

Djukanovic says he is not yet sure which business he will venture into. "In order to make the right decision, I must have some rest . Montenegro is a challenging business destination for both domestic and foreign entrepreneurs, and I am confident that there will be something for myself as well."

He has ruled out the possibility of returning as president of Montenegro. The country already has a very competent president and a good Constitution that allows him to be elected for two terms. Provided that he is elected the leader of DPS at their spring Congress, he will not be looking for another party. After so many years in politics, it is impossible to be absolutely politically abstinent, Djukanovic said.