TV Vijesti Interview: Passivity of MPs in Montenegrin Parliament

Dina Bajramspahić, public policy researcher has issued a statement for TV Vijesti that the Parliamentary oversight is at the lowest level possible.

“Security and Defense Committee has held only two sessions in this year, despite having important competences in controlling security and defense sector. It is worth mentioning that MPs receive monthly fee for Committee membership, regardless of whether they have worked or not”, Dina said.

A large number of sessions of the plenum and working bodies is being postponed due to the absence of MPs, making the quorum unachievable.

Institute Alternative would support potential amendments to the Code of Ethics of MPs, that would foresee fines for MPs who do not come to the sessions of the working bodies and the plenum.

“If we have a situation that the law foresees the obligations of working bodies, and that no such obligations have been performed, then it is really necessary to consider a more rigorous solutions in order to force MPs to do their job,” says Bajramspahić.

And that such a solution would not be a novelty, since that is something that is supported by the slightly older democracies, shows the comparative practice of a number of European countries. For example, in German Bundestag, for each absence to the session, MP receives 100 euros a lower salary. MPs in France who are absent more than twice in a month, get fined by 355 euros less of their salary and more. There are sanctions in the European Parliament as well. MEPs exercise daily lump sum of 298 euros, in case you do not show up in the days of plenary sessions, the amount they will be reduced by half.

However, there are some positive examples: “The most active working body is the Committee for Economy, Finance and Budget, which despite the approaching elections, and the situation in the Parliament on the political level is very complex, still insists upon the holding sessions and filing initiatives, by all MPs. However, other committees are lagging very much behind this committee,” Bajramspahić concluded.

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IA’s Comments on Draft Law on Public Assembly and Public Performances

We have delivered our comments and suggestions for improvement to the Draft Law on Public Assembly and Public Performances, which is to be discussed soon, to the MPs, members of the Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration.

Generally, this Draft is better and far more precise when compared to the Law on public assembly which is currently in force. The greatest breakthrough of this draft is the transfer of responsibility for maintaining public peace and order from the organizers of public assemblies to the Police Administration. If this solution were to be adopted, the state could meet its obligations: negative, to abstain of interfering in exercise of right to public assembly and positive, to ensure the possibility to organize a peaceful assembly. Another important change refers to the more effective legal remedy, given that the organizer of can submit a complaint directly to the Administrative Court, which has to decide upon it within 48 hours of receipt of the case files from the Police.

However, we recognize that there is still space for further improvements of the draft, as well as for the more precise definition of the obligations of the state and the rights of citizens, in order to contribute to legal certainty and security of this act which is regulating this area of human rights. Aforementioned mainly concern:

a) locations where public assemblies are banned,

b) the duties of the Police Administration in cases where it temporarily restrict freedom of assembly,

c) the legal recognition of different forms of public gathering.

IA Comments in their entirety can be found here (so far, only in Montenegrin)

Press release: Urgently stop the persecution of Vanja Ćalović

NGO Coalition “By Cooperation To the Goal”, which in addition to the Institute Alternative gathers another 100 NGOs from Montenegro, has called upon the Constitutional Court to suspend enforcement of the judgment of the High Court by which is the director of MANS Vanja Ćalović has been ordered to publish the judgment in a dispute with Vladimir Popović in all media outlets in Montenegro and Serbia.

This judgment represents the persecution of NGO activist because by creating a disproportionate obligation for Vanja Ćalović, from which the bailiff requests to pay 25,000 Euros in advance, at the expense of publishing the judgment in all media in Montenegro and Serbia.

Given the fact that thousands of media operate in Montenegro and Serbia, it is clear that this judgment intends to destroy the livelihood of Vanja Ćalović, since it is not known what is the final amount necessary for execution of the judgment in its entirety.

If the Constitutional Court does not respond immediately and suspend the execution of the judgment of the High Court, the conclusion will be that the entire judicial apparatus has joined the persecution of NGO activist.

Instead of justice for the victim of an unprecedented campaign, the court continues with the prosecution.

Announcement: Five stars of transparency for the Institute Alternative

For a third year in a row, Institute Alternative was awarded with five stars for the transparency of its finances, according to the research conducted by the non-profit organization Transparify

IA transparify logoThe report published today, as during previous years, included Montenegro where Institute Alternative was awarded with five stars for transparency, together with the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT). Therefore, we were ranked among prestigious research centers, such as Bruegel and International Crisis Groups from Belgium and Amnesty International from Great Britain.

“The report enables citizens, journalists and decision-makers to identify those research centers that are devoted to integrity and transparency of research and advocacy of public policy. At the same time, the report points to those organizations that are funded behind closed doors”, the report emphasized.
A total number of 200 research centers that this year’s research encompassed, were ranked on a scale from 0 to 5 according to the transparency of their financing. Those centers that have gotten five stars allow the public to see clear and detailed information on who they are financed by, with how much money and for which activities, and they can therefore serve as an example that should be looked upon.

Transparify is an international initiative, started in 2014 and inspired by the fact that research centers from all over the world play a greater role in public policy shaping and public debates.

Towards opening of the discretionary expenditure of public enterprises

We call for the opposition representatives appointed within managing authorities of public property enterprises to firstly ask for and publish all the Board of Directors’ meeting minutes and particularly all records of sponsorships and aid. It is necessary to publish all decisions on the management of the so-called “free assets”, the discretionary decision-making on the income allocation, housing decisions, as well as all other ways of allocation of assets to employees, and to all other physical and legal entities not related to enterprises, besides salaries.

This type of expenditure (sponsorship, donations, aid) is entirely discretionary and an object of decision-making of the enterprise management, therefore it is a key area where (besides employment and procurement) various misuses of public resources for political gain can occur.

Since last year, Institute alternative has been trying to gain access to certain data in possession of public enterprises, coming across great issues due to silent administration and rejection of requests, precisely when it comes to the records from the Board of Directors’ sessions and its decisions.

We remind that the PEFA World Bank Report of 2013 has warned that the enterprises in public property are the least transparent part of the public sector, with a significant lack of information when it comes to public finances transparency. (World Bank, Evaluation of public expenditures and financial responsibility – the report on results of public finance management, July 2013).

The Law on the Implementation of the Agreement on Free and Fair elections (Lex specialis) implies that the opposition representatives in management authorities of enterprises, which are in majority owned by the state, have a right to get a report on any aspect of financial business in the enterprise (Article 15).

By this we do not imply only six national public enterprises where opposition representatives were appointed (Elektroprivreda, Montenegro Airlines, Plantaže, Pošta, Aerodromi, Monteput), but also the rest of 33 national enterprises, as well as numerous public enterprises, that are under the obligation of Lex specialis.

Even though according to Lex specialis mandate is limited to 2016, we consider it is necessary that the opposition representatives make an effort to access the data from previous years, which have to be public as there are no legal obstacles for doing so.

We have defined a set of information that every public sector authority has to publish proactively on their webpages together with the Center for Civic Education (CCE) and Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS). On the list of over 90 transparency requests public enterprises are particularly represented, and the key requests are those of expenditures that public enterprises have in the area of discretionary expenditure and payments for the entities that do not make part of enterprises.

Stevo Muk

President of the Managing Board

Institute Alternative presented research findings on Freedom of Assembly in Montenegro

Ivana Bogojević and Aleksandra Vavić, on behalf on Institute Alternative, have participated at Expert Conference on Freedom of Assembly in Western Balkans.

Conference was held on June 21-22 in Skopje and organized by European Center Non-for-Profit Law (ECNL). During the event, pilot-research findings were presented, regarding legal framework and its implementation in five Western Balkans countries (Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia)

Next to Institute Alternative, research findings were presented by Research in Action – REACTOR from Macedonia, Civil Rights Defenders from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Human Rights House from Croatia and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights from Serbia. Apart from findings, organizations formulated and presented recommendations for legal and institutional improvement.

Through the research, IA has notices deficiencies of current legal solution, while also looking back on its compliance with international standards. The problems, which we have recognized, refer to the duties and responsibilities of organizers of public gatherings with strict fine policy, overlapping responsibilities of national and local authorities, as well as the lack of pro-activeness of key institutions in this area, the Ministry of Interior and the Police Administration.

We have also analyzed Draft Law on Public Assemblies and Public Performances, which is currently in parliamentary procedure, lauding improvements and giving recommendation for its vague stipulations.

Report in its entirety will be available soon.

The project is made possible by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law through the Civic Space Initiative, implemented in partnership with ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the World Movement for Democracy.