The Assessment of Legal Framework and Practice in the Implementation of Certain Control Mechanisms of the Parliament of Montenegro: Consultative hearing, control hearing and parliamentary inquiry

This document analyzes three control mechanisms envisaged in the Constitution of Montenegro and in the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro: control hearing, consultative hearing, and parliamentary inquiry.

Interviews were the methodological tool used in order to obtain information on the attitudes of the key actors in the process of exercising the control function. This envisaged the creation of three separate questionnaires:

a) for Representatives and members of parliamentary parties in Montenegro;

b) for representatives of institutions that were subject to parliamentary control;

c) for journalists who reported on the parliamentary practice and representatives of NGOs dealing with the functioning of the Parliament.

The findings presented in this document are the result of a comprehensive study of the legal framework and practice in Montenegro related to parliamentary control and the implementation of parliamentary mechanisms. The data received from the Parliament’s Service and the organs of state administration were obtained through requests for free access to information.

This document entails some comparative insights based on the analysis of the legal framework and pratice of certain countries from the region and the EU. During the process of research a thorough analysis of legal frameworks has been undertaken (Constitutions and legislative procedures in Parliaments), and coupled with the study of parliamentary practice in these countries. Institute Alternative organized a roundtable, whereby the draft version of this document was debated. Representatives of political parties, non-governmental organizations and media took part at this roundtable. The aims of this project are to enhance the quality of the legal framework and practice in the implementation of control mechanisms of the Parliament of Montenegro, to open a public debate on these issues, and to offer recommendations for improvement.

Parliament and Government

After all important and less important laws that have been adopted, it would be in order if the laws on the Government and the Parliament are finally adopted. Namely, these most important institutions of the political system are currently operating under the Rules of Procedure and Regulations. It is true that the Constitution generally defined their jurisdiction, but the legal regulation of their work is still missing.

The need for adoption of the Law on Parliament and Government is not a novelty and has been emphasized in the professional and political public on several occasions. This idea is a natural and logical preposition of legitimate work, clearer roles and relations of those two institutions.

Adoption of the Law on Parliament is needed primarily because of the control function of the Parliament in relation to the Government. Rules of Procedure cannot determine obligations of entities outside of the Parliament and therefore this represents an important limitation of the parliamentary authority.

Both domestic and foreign analysis and evaluations indicate the inferior role of the Parliament of Montenegro in relation to the Government. Except on the paper, the Parliament has not built up sufficient professional administrative capacities that would represent a strong support for quality, professional work of the MPs, particularly in the parliamentary committees.

Capacities of both the Government and individual ministries are incomparably greater than the capacity of parliamentary service. In a situation where the Government is reluctant to share information with MPs, there can be no talk of equality between ministers and MPs.

Example of this practice is Minister of European Integration Gordana Đurović showing the amount of papers that comprise answers to the European Commission’s Questionnaire to the MPs by using her hands. Unfortunately, that is almost everything MPs had the opportunity to see when it comes to Questionnaire answers – just as much as ordinary citizens, except for civil servants, interpreters or certain local and foreign experts. This example clearly depicts how the ministers relate to the Parliament and the amount of transparency the Government has toward those who elected it.

In part, this role is the result of the unchanged relation between political majority and minority, in which the Parliament represents opposition’s only window to the institutional world, and Government’s apparatus for the adoption of legislation it proposes. If the situation was different, or if there was even a hint that things would change inthe near future, the Government and the parliamentary majority would have a different attitude towards the question of adoption of laws on Parliament and Government.

Adoption of the Law on Parliament and would show that the current parliamentary majority is thinking about some future times, when the political power relations would change. When a different opposition would need a strong Parliament. Therefore, this issue is essentially a question of building sustainable institutions, and it requires long-term thinking, rather than that of the perspective of current positions and political power relations.

Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector, adopted by the Parliamentary Committee during 2008, first in draft form and later in the form of the proposal, represents a good step in this direction at the conceptual level. This law in no case can replace the Law on Parliament, but may be the first step toward the legal regulation of the control function of Parliament in one of the most important but also most controversial areas of the Government and state administration.

Analysis of parliamentary oversight of the defense and security sector, prepared by the Institute Alternative, showed that there was no justification for postponing of the adoption of this law since December 2008. Possible improvements to which we pointed out concern with the composition of the Committee, conflict of interest, the role of opposition MPs in the Committee, public work, required contents of the reports submitted to the committee, status and content of the minutes and transcripts from public sessions of the Committee, precise sanctions for persons who refuse to testify before the Committee, reports from other institutions which the Committee should discussed. However, with some good will and work of the Committee, this bill with recommendations could have been adopted long ago and thus provided smooth control of the Parliament over the military, police, National Security Agency, Ministry of Defense and other defense and security structures. Inactivity of the Committee concerning this issue in 2010 has not given much hope that the promise of President of the Committee that the law will be adopted before summer will come true.

There are many other arguments in favor of the thesis that the Parliament is not granted the legal basis and the opportunity to demonstrate in practice that it appoints the Government nor that the Government is accountable to the Parliament for its work.

For example, an important control mechanism that the Parliament has at its disposal has yet to be used. It is certainly the most powerful mechanism of parliamentary control – parliamentary investigation, prescribed by the new Constitution of Montenegro. The opposition has not proposed launching of parliamentary investigation in the past four years, and even if it did, parliamentary majority could block the initiative. If even the majority would give its approval to initiate a parliamentary investigation, the rules do not provide even the slightest basis for anyone’s obligation to appear before the survey committee of the Parliament. Even worse, those who would refuse to appear before the survey committee would not suffer any sanction, as they cannot be prescribed by the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. Another reason for adopting the Law on Parliament and the Law on Government, or at least the Law on Parliamentary Investigation as a compromise solution to the problems hampering the position of the Parliament and releasing the Government of its accountability.

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board

The opposition MPs refused to perform control of the ANB

Opposition MPs from the Committee for Defense and Security have missed the opportunity to obtain insight into the legality of the exercise of one of the most controversial functions of any intelligence service, including the National Security Agency (ANB).

However, after the Committee members from the ruling majority realized insight into ANB work, the Committee should have prepared and adopted a report on this visit, the assessment of the degree of legality and the results of applying measures of secret surveillance.

It is particularly important that the Committee officially highlights its assessment of the quality of information they have been provided by the ANB. It should be noted what type of documents and information Committee members had access to, under what conditions and with what restrictions.

Committee’s report should propose measures for avoiding situations like the one we witnessed yesterday, when part of the Committee members refused to participate in the control visit under the conditions imposed by the ANB.

These measures should involve a detailed explanation of security checks and procedures the MPs must pass in order to access information in the premises of the ANB.

In the interest of enhancing Parliament’s control functions and strengthening confidence in the security and defence institutions, conditions for smooth realization of control over the application of secret surveillance measures must be created as soon as possible.

Committee on Security and Defense should initiate proceedings for the application of equivalent control of the Police Directorate as well.

(Statement given by the President of the Institute Alternative’s Managing Board Stevo Muk on the occasion when members of the Parliamentary Committee for defense and security from the opposition ranks refused to enter the premises of the National Security Agency (ANB), because they refused to be searched and leave their mobile phones at the entrance. Members of the Committee were supposed to determine whether ANB respects the law during the process of implementation of measures of eavesdropping and covert surveillance.)