Montenegro – Reform Leader or Reform Simulacrum

Montenegro - Reform Leader or Reform Simulacrum

Six years since the start of accession negotiations, Montenegro is still a showcase of state capture. In the same manner it has been exhausting domestic democratic public for decades, Montenegrin Government masterfully applies the exhaustion strategy to the process of European integration, abusing the EU’s need for a new integration optimism.

Citizens cannot see progress in curbing the entanglement of public and ruling party’s interests, or in dismantling the links with organised crime and corruption at all levels of the government. Weak and politicised institutions, impunity for the corrupted officials and misuse of public funds, state interference into media market and jeopardizing of the independence of public broadcaster feat by ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), hostile actions towards critically oriented NGOs and targeting its leaders — all of them are still alive and well in Montenegro, Western Balkans “frontrunner” toward EU.

Hence, a key question in the EU-Montenegro relations must be answered — will the EU keep turning a blind eye to the absence of track record, perseverance of old and introduction of new undemocratic practices?

Accolades for the progress, as well as the persistent emphasis of the “leadership in the region” fail to motivate the authorities to do more and to do better. They also neither strengthen nor meaningfully include civil society, media and democratic opposition interested in reforms.

No one in Montenegro expects the EU to change the government or influence political developments in that respect. However, it is reasonable for the promoters of European integration to expect the European Commission (EC) to credibly demonstrate that a candidate country can earn leadership status and achieve progress by no means other than political will and implementation of reforms that deliver sustainable results.

It is about time that good neighbourly relations and constructive foreign policy, aligned with the EU and confirmed by the NATO membership, do not stand as major indicators of the country’s success and cease to be a trade-off for ever-growing need for the internal democratic reforms.

This paper presents a series of examples illustrating failure or facade of reforms in the key areas of rule of law, including the lack of follow up to electoral frauds, inflated statistics which mimics the lack of substantial results in the fight against organised crime and corruption, and selective approach of key anti-corruption institutions. They demonstrate a need for a different attitude of the European Union towards Montenegro, which would prevent authorities from faking reforms and make them deliver results needed for the lasting societal change.

Unravelling Montenegro’s Frontrunner Status in the EU Accession Process

Unravelling Montenegro’s Frontrunner Status in the EU Accession Process

Montenegro opened accession negotiations with the EU in June 2012, being the first country to undergo the new approach, which frontloads rule of law criteria. The new approach places emphasis on Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security). The two chapters are opened early in the process, with the aim of allowing the country to adjust to complex reforms, which alongside technical aspects, capacity building and legislative alignment, require a track record of fighting organized crime and high level corruption.

Between June 2012 and January 2018, Montenegro opened 30 chapters and provisionally closed 3 chapters. In addition, following the “State of the Union” address by Commissioner Juncker, the newly announced Enlargement Strategy for the region outlined a clear perspective for the first time, with a potential date for Montenegro’s accession to the EU of 2025.1

Government officials often use the opening of negotiation chapters as an indicator of success. Nonetheless, the closure of most chapters is still pending. This depends, at least officially, on meeting selected interim benchmarks, which should lead to the closing benchmarks. The aim of this analysis is precisely to assess the selected interim benchmarks within Chapters 23 and 24. By benchmarks we imply concrete requirements which key EU enlargement documents specifically formulate for the Montenegrin authorities, whose conditions for implementation signify further progress along the country’s path to EU accession.

Apart from assessing the content of benchmarks and their adequacy for the domestic context, as well as moni- toring their implementation, we have tried to assess the monitoring tools used to judge the implementation of benchmarks and the achievement of the objectives which they define. In our view, this can serve as an indicator of the effectiveness of EU conditionality, and should provide guidance for enhancement of the current bench- marking system and EU conditionality in general.

The selected benchmarks encompass various aspects of Montenegro’s alignment with EU standards: legal and technical as well as the required track record of prosecuting organized crime and corruption, or the emphasis on establishing merit-based recruitment in public administration and the judiciary. The importance of analysing benchmarks is indicated by the lack of qualitative discussion about the content and consistency of EU conditionality. On the other hand, some countries are labelled frontrunners or stragglers in the process, despite a lack of in-depth analysis of the conditions imposed and their actual compliance with them.

The selected benchmarks are taken from official documents which outline the key conditions that Montenegro needs to meet for the two chapters, especially the EU’s common positions on the two chapters and their action plans. This analysis forms part of a wider regional project, which permits comparison of the benchmarks set for the two countries that are currently undergoing accession negotiations – Montenegro and Serbia. Conditions set for other candidate countries, as outlined in other enlargement documents (country reports; roadmaps; Enlargement strategy), have also been taken into account.

Insufficient Citizens’ Participation in Policy Planning Process

Local self-governments in Montenegro reduce strategic planning to a wish list without measurable results, and citizens’ participation in the policy-making process is almost completely disregarded, as concluded at the panel discussion “Governance for Results in Local Self-Governments”

Our researcher, Aleksandra Vavić, participated at the closing event of the Center for Democratic Transition, which was organized in the framework of the same project through grant program provided by the regional WeBER project, and implemented by six research centers in the Western Balkans, including Institute Alternative.

The Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) project “Governance for Results in Local Self-Governments” aims at enhancing transparency, accountability and efficiency of two local self-governments – Kotor and Nikšić, through increased citizens’ participation in policy making affecting them directly and in controlling its implementation.

The research showed that citizens are not sufficiently involved in the policy planning process at the local level. This is also confirmed by the results of the public opinion survey conducted by IPSOS agency for the needs of Institute Alternative, within the framework of the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!”. The results showed that 60% of Montenegrin citizens are not at all informed about public consultations, which represent one of the basic forms of civic participation. About 34% heard of at least one public consultation, and out of those, only 2% participated in it.

“We know that the situation is not good at the central level or at the local level, but the poor situation at the local level should maybe worry us more as it concerns public policies at the decision-making level closer to us physically. At this level of democracy, a real, direct dialogue between citizens, civil society and political representatives is created and maintained,” said Aleksandra.

She also reminded that the Government of Montenegro set as the main objective of the Strategy for the Public Administration Reform establishment of administration characterized by growth of citizens’ trust.

But the trust is not growing at all. Citizens of Montenegro generally have no trust in state or local administration. Data from the above-mentioned survey show that only 12% of citizens have great trust in state administration, while slightly more, 13% of citizens have great trust in local self-government.

“Tendency to not consult citizens on topics of crucial importance is a reflection of undemocratic work of the administration, which is completely contrary to good governance practices. If the government “does not listen” to the citizens and if this is constantly repeated, a vicious circle is made which leads to alienated institutions and decline of trust in the administration, “she added.

The possibilities are enormous, and the administration cannot consider sufficient to publish a public call on its web site or in one of the newspapers with low readership. Administration, whether state or local, is the one that has the resources and capacity to involve citizens in the decision-making process, ranging from discussions in local communities and broad consultations to targeted use of information technologies.

IA Team

Ministry of Culture violates the Government Regulation and continues Clash with Unsuitable NGO activitists

We call upon Ministry of Culture to publish the Decision on appointment of representative of NGO in the working group for Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on National Public Broadcaster Radio and Television of Montenegro. Ministry should have published this decision more than 15 days ago, and the working group for drafting this regulation held its first meeting already last week.

Candidates of NGO for membership in the working group were Kristina Cetkovic and Goran Djurovic. On 2 March, Ministry of Culture has published a List of candidates of NGO for membership in the working group, and a group of non-governmental organisation requested the Ministry to annul the list and repeat the procedure of selection of representatives of NGO on the basis of submitted candidacies.

Ministry ignored this call and continued the process of development of the Draft Law with no participation of NGO who fulfil conditions prescribed by the Government Regulation on manner and procedure of exercising the cooperation of the state administration organs and NGO. Namely, the Regulation, in Art. 11 clearly states that:

‘Candidate of a non-governmental organisation for member of the working body may be a person who:

– is Montenegrin citizen, with residence in Montenegro;
– possesses experience in relation to the task of the working body;
– is not a member of organs of political party, civil servant, state official, or employee.’

We are not familiar that Kristina Cetkovic has, in public appearances or in her activities, dealt with amendments to the Law on National Public Broadcaster, or that she was giving suggestions and proposed amendments to this regulation. On the other hand, candidate whom we have proposed, Goran Djurovic, has participated in previous working groups with the same task formed by Ministry of Culture and has been proposing concrete amendments to this regulation and other laws from the media area for years, of which there is record in reports and documents in possession of the Ministry of Culture. Only if a candidate fulfils the previous condition, i.e. possesses experience in relation to the task of working body, it is possible to count the support of NGOs which, also, should fulfil conditions prescribed by the Article 10 of the Regulation.

Our objective is for the process of amending the law to be conducted on as better and more quality level as possible. Thus, we believe that there can be no one’s interest for working group to be one more in a series of formal bodies, without substantial influence on the process of development of the Law. A quality representative of NGO should contribute to the substantial role of the Working Group, who is proposed to membership of this body by organisations engaged in the area of media regulations’ reform.

Simultaneously, while the Ministry of Culture is violating this Government’s Regulation, the Ministry of Public Administration is calling upon NGOs to give their suggestions and comments for improvement of provisions in this regulation. We convey to the Government and Ministry of Public Administration that consultations on amendments of regulations have no sense when the existing regulations are being violated by ministries themselves. It is clear that consultations with NGOs are being used as expression of alleged will for cooperation, while in the practice the decisions about the representatives of NGO are not made in line with the law and regulation, but apparently by will of ministers and his associates.

We invite the Ministry of Culture to publish the decision on appointment of representatives of NGO for member of working group for amendments to the Law on RTCG so that, due to obvious violation of this regulation on all aforementioned grounds, we could initiate the proceedings before the Administrative Court.

Daliborka Uljarevic, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Ana Novakovic, Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (CDNGO)
Milka Tadic Mijovic, Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIJ MNE)
Ivana Vujovic, NGO Juventas
Zlatko Vujovic, Centre for Monitoring and Research (CEMI)
Ruzdija Strujic, NGO Bonum
Milena Stanojevic, NGO Active Zone
Mustafa Canka, Ul Info
Stevo Muk, Institute Alternative
Zeljko Djukic, Multimedijal Montenegro

DPS continues with an offensive against independency of RTCG

Today’s dismissal of PhD Vladimir Pavicevic and election of Ivan Jovetic for new president of the Council of RTCG, represents a continuation of political offensive of Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) against independency of public broadcaster RTCG.

At the new session with participation of new members of the Council of RTCG, Ivan Jovetic and Goran Sekulovic, a party mission was implemented and a former member of Commission of DPS for international cooperation, European and Euro-Atlantic integration was brought to the head of the public service. By this, a second phase of overtaking of RTCG was done, which has started by dismissal of unsuitable members of the Council Nikola Vukcevic and Goran Djurovic, and by bringing party associates Pajovic, Jovetic and Sekulovic.

DPS is firm in the intention to bring even this institution which has started to show signs of autonomy back under its control. Not even the well-intentioned calls of governments of countries partners of Montenegro, multiple times stated via public and diplomatic channels, have not borne fruit, and DPS has, as we have announced, decided to realise its notion until the end.

We express concern that the process of overtaking of RTCG will be brought to the end by dismissal of the Director General Andrijana Kadija and Director of Television Vladan Micunovic.

Instead of expanding media freedom and strengthening independency of public service, the Montenegrin authorities are clearly showing by this that they do not wish to democratise the society, and that there is no doubt that they wish to slow down the accession negotiation process.

Ana Novakovic, Executive Director, Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (CDNGO)
Daliborka Uljarevic, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Stevo Muk, President of the MB, Institute Alternative (IA)
Zlatko Vujovic, President of the MB, Center for Monitoring and Research (CEMI)