Milo Djukanovic, prime minister of Montenegro, and the longest serving politician in the post-1990 Balkans, resigned from his position earlier this week, leaving a remarkable legacy worth the praise. Where Lukashenko's seemingly endless tenure might cause some raised brows, Djukanovic tends to call mostly positive associations. He said his resignation was his personal choice and it wasn't caused by any pressure from anywhere. "It is a decision that is neither surprising nor hasty", he said, and he added that he's leaving with a clear conscience because of the great work done by his team. He announced that he'll remain chairman of his Social Democratic party, though. This effectively ended all rumors that he was resigning in order to pursue a high ranking position in some international institution like NATO.
First, you may still be wondering where the hell is that Montenegro?
Did you notice it? :-)
For nearly 20 years (!) Djukanovic had dominated the politics of the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. He lead his tiny but extremely beautiful country to independence (surprise-surprise, it was achieved bloodlessly and peacefully in 2006), and now Montenegro has been granted a EU Candidate status, just a few days ago.
When Djukanovic took office, he became the youngest premier-minister in Europe (he was 29 in 1991). Since then he has been re-elected five times, and he also served as President for one term. He left big politics for a brief period in 2006, but he stayed in parliament. Then he returned to head another government in 2008.
A former ally of Slobodan Milosevic, Milo managed to make a very successful career, crowned with his ultimate achievement - getting independence from Yugoslavia and stepping on the fast lane to EU and NATO membership. He did his best to turn Montenegro into a very attractive destination for investors and tourists, and he even started a program of granting Montenegrin citizenship based on economic criteria. His idea was to offer citizenship to anyone who would invest over 500,000 Euro in his country. But because the program drew lots of criticism from the EU it was eventually stopped.
Some local media linked his decision to leave the PM position with the speeding up of the Euro-integration of Montenegro. When the EU gave their recommendations about the candidature, they stated that Montenegro should increase the fight against organized crime and corruption. But so far there have been no arrests of major figures and no convictions of bribery, and the authorities had to take some concrete measures to demonstrate that they deserve to be viewed positively.
Granted, Djukanovic is a complex figure. He had to defend himself many times from various accusations. One was linked to the tobacco contraband underworld in the 90's. Djukanovic, who as a PM was at the time protected by his judicial immunity, denied these accusations.
In April this year a court in Bari, Italy started initial investigation against a group of Italian, Serb and Montenegrin citizens charged on cigarette trafficking in the 1994-2002 period. Some of them were close aides to Djukanovic.
We shouldn't forget his business interests, either. In 2006, when he temporarily left the government, he founded an investment association dealing with real estate, but then he froze his participation there when he decided to return into politics. It's a known fact that Djukanovic is a major shareholder in the country's second biggest bank, along with his brother. Coincidentally or not, the newly elected chairman of that bank was Radoje Djugic, who used to head the pension fund under Djukanovic's government before that. The previous chairman of the bank Ljubisa Krgovic (yes, the stress falls on "R") had some disagreements with Djukanovic because of the bank regulation regime and the economic perspectives of the country. His mandate was terminated ahead of schedule with a special law.
In May this year, Djukanovic featured in an annual chart of the top 20 richest world leaders in The Independent magazine. He took the last, 20th place there, with no less than 10 billion pounds.
But despite all controversial moments surrounding his personage, it's undeniable that Djukanovic made the biggest contribution for consolidating the Montenegrin state and keeping it as a stabilizing factor on the Balkans. As one of the main leaders of the opposition in the country, Nebojsa Medojevic said, Milo Djukanovic is among the key leaders of the 90's, he has always been regarded one of the most serious partners by the international community, along with the Croatian PM Ivo Sanader and the Kosovar PM Hashim Thaci, whose time has passed though.
But the fact is, guys like Djukanovic who may've been good visionaries (and who are rather deficit in a place like the Balkans) have certainly served their purpose. And it's time for a new generation of leaders now. The new era for the Balkans, that of gradual, sometimes painful, but inevitable, European integration, offers a new sort of challenges and it requires a new sort of politicians. So, we could say that Djukanovic's departure finally puts an end to a circle where high ranking politicians in the Balkan states were still doing their job while being simultaneously linked to structures of dubious reputation, and outright branches of the organized crime, and who were carrying with them the burden of a heavy legacy, related to this hard process that we all the people in the region called the Transition. A time of muddy privatization, grey economy, and all other anomalies that come with the first, painful steps toward market economy, and a healthy democratic nation with viable institutions and a functioning civil society.