Reaction: Announced amandments to the Law on public assemblies would be a setback of civil liberties

Following the Minister of Interior announcement that he will initiate amendments to the Law on public assemblies and public performances, in order to ban the protests on city roads, Institute Alternative warns that such legal provision would be a step backwards in relation to existing law. Additionally, it would represent step backwards from the European and international standards governing this area.

The Government has to take into consideration that, apart from freedom of movement, which is, in Minister’s word, endangered, freedom of assembly also constitutional right which cannot be limited in this manner.

Last year, Institute Alternative warned of the weaknesses of the Law on public assembly and public performances, recommending to delete provisions which ban the gatherings at specific locations. We remind that, according to the Constitution of Montenegro, public assembly can be only temporarily prohibited only in order to prevent disorder or execution of criminal offence, threat to health, morality or security of people and property. Although the Constitution of Montenegro regulates this area in accordance with international democratic practices, the Law on public assemblies and public performances, the Law limits this freedom in terms which are not recognized by the Constitution, introducing permanent prohibition of assemblies in locations listed in the Law.

The Minister is right saying that the right to assembly is not absolute, but this claim should be supplemented by the standards set by international authorities in this area, Venice Commission and OSCE, which recommend to eliminate blanket prohibitions regarding the assembly locations. Public assembly could be banned only in situations of high safety risks. Even then, the Police has to proactively work on eliminating risks so as to enable citizens to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protection, which is also the advice of the UN Human Right Committee.

We urge the Ministry of Interior to improve the law in force and align it with international standards, rather than taking a step backwards which would limit citizens’ constitutional rights to send a message to decision-makers in the country by gathering peacefully.

Institute Alternative team

Study: Freedom of Assembly in Montenegro

Interview for Monitor: We seem to be in a prolonged state of emergency

Interview with Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board of Institute Alternative for weekly Monitor

Institute Alternative has recently conducted a public opinion poll which has shown that problems within public administration are various. Nevertheless, it seems that the corruption and favouritism are burning issues. Would you say that it is only the follow-up of the “Audio Recording” affair?

Stevo MukCorruption is still widespread, while the recruitment and favouritism is only one of its forms.
The unfortunate follow-up of the “Audio Recording” affair happened in the Parliament, when Zoran Jelić, one of the key actors in that affair has been appointed in the State Audit Institution Senate – key institution for the oversight of the public financial system.

To prove that this situation is on the verge of paradox, the parliamentary committee has proposed his appointment on the same day when Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU, spoke in the Parliament of Montenegro. It is known that the EU has urged for judicial and political epilogue of the “Audio Recording” Affairs, but I truly doubt that they wanted political promotion instead of verdict.

Political crisis is deepening. What’s your view on the current situation and is what do you see as a way out?

Political situation looks like a prolonged state of emergency. Parliament works without the opposition on the verge of legitimacy. Political leaders of the Democratic front have been accused by the Special State Prosecutor’s Office to have participated in the attempted ”coup”, while they’re also being prosecuted for earlier similar acts. The rest of the self-proclaimed “civic” opposition, seems rather confused and outplayed, wedged between two poles. This state of affairs is particularly difficult for SDP and URA, which are under great pressure to, at least once, return to the Parliament, for which they claim to be the result of the ”coup” and irregular election.

Therefore, such Parliament should bring historically important decision on NATO membership. Bringing that decision in divided and half-empty Parliament could deepen the sense of injustice for significant part of the public and strengthen arguments of forces that oppose NATO for their future political action. Unfortunately, instead of a final settlement of this issue, I’m afraid that we will open a new page of deep historical division. History does not end by Montenegro joining NATO.

In my opinion, the solution of the political crisis would be a credible judicial process to all persons that DPS and Chief Special Prosecutor Katnić claim to be actor of the ”coup”, as well as the political dialogue of the government and opposition on early elections and in 2018 at all levels, including conditions for their organisation.

Expected outcome would be complete answer to the question: What happened on October 16th, who was involved and how, as well as – what needs to be done in order to convert this political crisis into a political dialogue within institutions. I am afraid that our, domestic institutions will not be strong enough to provide credible answer to citizens and that we will need some form of EU mediation.

After recently held local elections in Nikšić, DPS rules but with less than 40% of votes. There was also 11% of spoilt votes, which is perceived as resistance to the pressure of ruling structure. Đukanović has also lost the control over public broadcasting service (RTCG). We witness daily protests and social rebellion. What’s happening?

After having prevented candidates connected with ruling structures to be appointed as directors of RTCG, the public broadcaster now has a chance to begin a real transformation into public broadcaster. Whether this will happen depends on following appointments and personnel changes which are urgently needed for this media house. Impartial public broadcaster can make a significant contribution to the quality of the political process and help the healing of the media scene. For decades, citizens have set aside millions of euro for RTCG, but got very poor quality product. It is time that citizens get the value for the money they give.

I am glad to see awakenings in the professional association, such as those of health care workers, as well as the Union of medical doctors, and through changes in leadership in the Medical Chamber. This is a rare positive example in professional associations. Exactly because of this, these actions are met with obstructions and great resistance by the government, the same as the reform of the public broadcasting service.

Protest of mothers, after having their subsidies for three children reduced, has been temporarily stopped, due to Constitutional court ruling that the Law which reduced subsidies was legit. Do you consider it political decisions, having in mind that this court is in the grips of politics?

If there was necessary political savvy, that Law would have never been adopted, since it is the definition of fiscal irresponsibility, discrimination, costliness and on top of that, it does not achieve any of proclaimed goals, while also making damages in functioning of the state and society.

But the Government did not challenge this Law during the election campaign, only after, when it decided to significantly reduce the given subsidies. The problem arose from the expectation that mother benefits would be guaranteed for a lifetime in a fixed amount, and later, when the government decided to reduce its amount. The truth is that these women were misled, and then manipulated.

Instead of reviewing the constitutionality of the law, it has decided to review the constitutionality of its amendments. Other numerous decisions but also the postponement of important decisions are in favour of the claim that the Constitutional court makes political compromises, which is unfortunately expected, considering its composition and manner of appointment.

The Government had again tried to discredit a rebellion against their policy, by arguing that the protest is political.

When the protests are led by the person who is vice-president of the party – which is the member of the largest opposition group, the Government and their media were offered the key argument to mark the protest as political or oppositional. The presence of opposition leaders and activists has further encouraged the view that the opposition is waiting “for mothers to complete their work.” However, I have no doubt that the government would discredit these protests as anti-state even if they were led by someone else. However, then it would have less arguments and protests would have more legitimacy.

In your opinion, does the opposition adequately response to the current situation? Do you think that the boycott is effective?

Boycott cannot be only political strategy of the opposition. Beside boycott, opposition has to offer carefully designed political action. Strategy of waiting the crisis to solve itself cannot bring favourable outcome. Democratic front is persistent in offering protests as saving grace. The rest of the opposition rejects that method, but does not offer any alternative. I believe that four diverse parties “wedged” between DPS and DF have to come up with the best model of political cooperation and action, including the possibility of integration. Beforehand, SNP should solve its internal disagreements. At the end, what is of outmost importance, all opposition parties should remain free to advocate different individual stances and methods of action, as well as to be obliged to formulate common policy and practice which would distinguish them from the Government.

Cigarette smuggling is again hot topic. For decades, we have no adequate institutional answers to suspicions and accusations. Do you think we could get it now, when the Police entered the Tobacco Plant again?

Cigarette smuggling is only one of many practices within the organized crime. Unfortunately, for years, if not decades, the state perceives the organized crime as an economic opportunity, instead of a security threat. If you look at the description of different types and dimensions of organized crime, which is available in the analysis (SOCTA) prepared by the Police Directorate and compare it with results of the Police and Prosecutors, the conclusion is that we are still at the very beginning. In addition to action against “freelancers” in the drug trade (mainly skunk) and mandatory cooperation in the framework of international police actions, there is no progress worthy of attention.

Institute Alternative has recently assessed that 60% of activities envisaged in the Police Directorate Development Strategy has not been implemented. Does it tell us that changes are dominantly cosmetic?

For a long time, the Police was political resource for recruitment of politically suitable persons as well in the service of political, especially electoral processes. Important and large parts of the Police have been cooperating with organised crime groups, or have been hiding their activities, acting upon the orders of ruling elites. Reforming such system requires strong political will to make large and painful cuts. The lack of such will is evident also in this case, having in mind this unambitious Strategy which is implemented poorly. The resistance to reforms is obvious, and the changes are happening only under pressure. The key goal of the reform is to ensure that the competent staff with integrity gets recruited at important positions bearing great responsibility. The European Commission also demand that the reform continues, ensuring centralised and transparent recruitment process. Next to a number of oversight bodies which control the police work, abuses in the police service, ranging from torture after the protest to corruptive practices, are not investigated effectively.

At some earlier point, the public believed that the new prosecutorial duo works independently of their former colleagues, but now there are serious doubts that the prosecution is under the control of political leadership. How do you see the role of the Prosecutor’s Office, particularly regarding the ”coup”?

We have praised first results of the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Today, we are very reserved to results they achieve, the manner of conducting the most important investigations and their prioritisation of their work.

The public impression, perceived with a good reason, is that investigations are being lead only against those without actual political weight in government, and/or against those who do not belong to clan of Milo Djukanovic.

We are waiting for too long for the results of financial investigations, while the Prosecutor’s office penal policy is not convincing. There are serious doubts that the detention is used as prosecutorial pressure to accused for the purpose of entering into a plea agreement.

The method of leading the investigations of the ”coup” has deepened distrust of the public. Everyone who has seen the video footages from the trials can conclude that there are still many vague issues. And we can only suspect in which manner other investigations, which are not in the interest of the public and without such attention are being led. Therefore, it is important to provide the highest possible degree of access to documents on the work of the prosecution.

Interview, originally published in weekly Monitor, was led by Milena Perović – Korać

Conference: “Where Does Our Money Go? – Transparency and Accountability of the National Budget”

Within the project “Promoting financial accountability in Montenegro”, supported by the British Embassy in Podgorica, we have organised the conference “Where does our money go? – Transparency and accountability of the national budget” on March 27, 2017.

At the conference, we presented our new web portal My money ( The web portal contains visualisation and comparison of budgetary data for the period from 2011 onwards. The data was provided by the Ministry of Finance in the machine readable format.

The topic of our conference was the national budget – how do we guard it from misuse and how much do we know about the way it is spent. We gathered all the stakeholders relevant for this topic within two panel discussions – one dedicated to accountability for misuses of budget funds (political, criminal, misdemeanour) and another dedicated to budget transparency.

At the first panel representatives of the State Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Finance, State Audit Institution and Parliament of Montenegro discussed the key challenges for establishing different kinds of accountability for public finance management. The speakers were Branislav Radulović, member of the Senate of the State Audit Institution, Vujica Lazović, Chairman of the Committee for Economy, Finance and the Budget, Ana Krsmanović, Director General for Central Harmonisation in the Ministry of Finance and Aleksandar Damjanović, Member of the Parliament.

Our guests from the region discussed budget transparency at the second panel, based on the Open Budget Index survey, that was unofficially conducted by Institute Alternative (IA) for Montenegro this year. Our guests were Katarina Ott, from the Institute of Public Finance (Zagreb), Gabriela Dimovska from Centre for Economic Analyses (Skopje) and Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia (Belgrade) – each organisation conducting the Open Budget Survey in their countries for many years now.

Conference was held within the project Promoting financial accountability in Montenegro, supported by the Brisith Embassy in Podgorica, implemented by Institut alternativa.

Public Opinion Poll: Average Grade for Services at the Local Level

Citizens mostly use municipal services, but they think that the quality of local administration services is not particularly good.

According to the public opinion poll conducted by IPSOS agency for Institute Alternative, within our project “Civil Society for Good Governance: to Act and Account!“, citizens provided a 5 for municipal services, on a scale from 1 to 10.

According to the research, out of the total number of respondents, every fourth citizen had experience with local administration, and citizens mostly used municipal services.

Despite the average grade that municipal services obtained, 17% of citizens  who have had experience with a local administration have an extremely negative attitude when it comes to public administration services.

Citizens from the southern region, gave a better rate to the quality of services at the local level. On the other hand, citizens with the highest level of education are in majority and consider that the service delivery at the local level degraded (24%).

Even though the number of citizens who have small, medium or great trust in local administration is bigger, in relation to those who have very little trust (18%), the perception among the unemployed is rather negative. Namely, the unemployed have little or no trust at all in local administration (52%).

The goal of Institute Alternative and of “Our Administration“ network, consisting of NGOs that we established within this project, was to additionally put to light the attitudes towards public services at the local level. The reason for doing so is because the public administration reform is often reduced to state administration reform, while the key data on municipalities that provide services immediately linked to the citizens are lacking.

Data collection, conducted by IPSOS Agency, took place between 10 to 16 of February 2017. Within the quantitative research, 1.027 citizens of Montenegro aged 18 or more took part in the public opinion poll.

The project “Civil Society for Good Governance: to Act and Account!“ is implemented by Institute Alternative in cooperation with Centre for Investigative Reporting and NGOs Bonum, Natura and New Horizon, with the support of the European Union.

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Press release: Speed up the police reform

The result of implementation of the Strategy of the Police Administration Development is far from satisfactory – more than 60% envisaged obligation is not fulfilled.

At first sight, the strategy is comprehensive, since it envisages activities in key areas for the police service reform, such as fight against crime, citizens’ safety, fight against corruption and better human resources management. However, this strategy is not too ambitious. It also envisages a number of measures which actually represent the everyday police work, which is pointless part of the strategy.

The implementation of the strategy is satisfactory only if we look at the technical measures, but the first positive shifts have occurred in the field of human resources management.

The Police still has problems in human resources management. The citizens think likewise: almost one half of Montenegrin citizens believes that the police personnel are being recruited through political connection.

Several documents made by the Ministry of Interior and Police Administration have recognized the lack of accurate estimations of the necessary number of employees and other shortcomings, such as unclear law stipulations regarding promotion, and lack of long-term recruitment policy at the Police Academy, which later negatively reflects on Ministry of Interior and Police Administration.

Nevertheless, even though correctly identified, problems are not being solved. Current strategy envisaged the adoption of a five-year projection of the necessary number of police officers with Police Academy, which should have been realised by the end of 2016. Therefore, human resource in the largest public administration body is still being managed spontaneously and unplanned.

We remind that the European Commission has pointed out in its Montenegro 2016 Report the need to continue the police reform by ensuring a centralised and transparent recruitment process. In this respect, a positive development is the establishment of separate service within the Ministry with the mandate to take care of the human resource management, planning of the trainings and education, as well as the career system monitoring.

In addition to streamlining cumbersome Police service which lacks specialised personnel, in the remainder of the year, Police Administration has to simplify its structure by reducing the number of managers and the number of Security centers, in order to improve its internal communication and thus, contribute to efficiency in its operational work.

Aleksandra Vavić

Public opinion survey: Public administration problems pile up, despite the moderate trust

Citizens think that employment irregularities, inefficiency and corruption are key problems of public administration.

They recognize employment through private connections as the largest problem of the public administration. Every second citizen believes that this is only one of many problems (51%), while one in five believes that this is the biggest problem (22%). Recruitment based on private connections, as a problem, is more often pointed out in the northern region (34%), in rural areas (31%), and especially among those who are unemployed (33%).

This is part of the public opinion survey results, conducted by IPSOS Agency for the purposes of Institute Alternative, in the framework of the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and account!”.

One fifth of citizens thinks that the most prominent problem is inefficiency of public administration (21%). Interestingly, the inefficiency of public administration is recognized as the key problem among the citizens in central region (27%) and in urban areas (26%).

Corruption in public administration is the third problem that citizens point out: 39% of citizens listed corruption as one of the most pressing problems. In rural areas, the corruption is recognized as a problem (50%) more often than inefficiency of public administration.

Almost half of citizens (47%) believe that the Government will not solve the key problems of public administration by 2020. They are more numerous than those believe that the Government will successfully cope with problems of public administration (38%). Negligible number of citizens believes that public administration does not have big problems.

With the 2016-2020 Public Administration Reform Strategy, Government aims to create effective and service-oriented public administration, characterized by the increase of public trust.

Institute Alternative, through this project, has helped in defining the baseline situation when it comes to public trust in public administration. According to the survey, over 40% of the population has a high or moderate trust in state and local administration, while 18, or 19% does not trust public administration at all. A low trust in state and local administration has been noted among 23% and 24% of the population respectively.

Data collection for the survey was conducted by IPSOS agency from 10 to 16 February 2017. During the fieldwork, 1.027 adult citizens of Montenegro were surveyed.

The project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!” is  implemented by Institute Alternative in cooperation with the Center for Investigative Journalism and NGOs Bonum, Natura and New Horizon, with the support of the European Union.

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Institute Alternative team