THE LEGITIMACY OF SECESSION AND THE CASE OF MONTENEGRO

Diploma

Abstract

The principle of self-determination traditionally refers to respect for state sovereignty. It has been inclreasingly employed to lower level communities as they have argued their right to national self-determination. National groups have, based on a common culture or likewise, made claims to secession. Secession can have severe consequences for either one of the two political units. It can also be extremely difficult to implement as it involves territorial aspects and the fundamental question of who belongs to the national group wishing to secede. A framework for evaluating the legitimacy of secession is developed in this thesis, based on three general types of secession theories applied and compared to the case of Montenegro. The framework builds upon a theoretical background defining what is meant by nationalism, nations and identity. The language used in this essay is therefore that of constructivism, rooted in the civic idea of nationalism. The belief that human identities are dynamic and subject to change is a crucial assumption. With the aid of an historical presentation of Montenegro, an evaluation of the region’s independence is made. To underline why secession should be implemented with care, arguments against secession are then presented. Secession should not be confused with a solution to ethnical tensions. Alternatives to secession are thus demonstrated, showing the complexity of the multiculturalist field in general. Multicultural policies risk fixing ethnical lines rather than dissolving them. The secession of Montenegro is legitimate as relatively stable democratic and liberal tradition existed prior to independence. The referendum in Montenegro was, more over, determined by a well organised referendum where civil elements dominated over

ethnical ones. 

  Introduction

The general understanding of world politics has, in the past few decades, shifted from having primarily an ideological dimension to having an ethnical one. The World Wars and the Cold War had sovereign nation-states as primary actors in conflict. The power of nation-states was reduced as globalisation came about and supra-national institutions grew in importance. International institutions are, however, still build up around the concept of the nation-state despite the widespread tendency of civil wars.

There seems to be a link between the convergence of cultures world wide and the increase in ethnic conflicts. This increase can be explained by a simultaneously increasing sense of anomie following the rise of globalisation and disintertwining of nation-states (Dunne, 1995). Globalisation came in the way of governments and their egalitarian promises made between 1945 and 1960, leaving them unfulfilled. At the same time nation-states lost significance and people needed new ways to make sense of the world, like resorting to an ethnic understanding of nationalism (Brown, 2006). 

Parallel to the increase in international interaction, an increase in ethnic conflicts took place and the Cold War came to its end. Particularly in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslav states the fall of Communism caused an upsurge of conflicts (Horowitz 1998, 200). The decolonisation of Africa was, more over, followed by an extraction of new states from previous political unions and units, further illuminating the tendency of intra-state conflicts. With a limited focus on the power of the nation-states, the perceptions of conflicts also changed (Dunne, 1995). The alternative understandings of concepts such as nationalism and the principle of self-determination that emerged, brought with them new tendencies in politics. Following the gradual increases in ethnic conflicts was, therefore, a trend towards identity politics.