From E-Government to Digital Transformation: An Overview of key challenges in Montenegro

Digital transformation implies using new information technologies to reform work processes and public administration services, and delivering that reform in a way that extends beyond “online” access to traditional administrative services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) uses the term “digital government” to convey taking strategic decisions about and using digital technologies and data to rethink how policies and public services are designed and implemented to meet the changing needs and expectations of citizens. Therefore, in the context of digital transformation, it does not suffice to merely digitalise existing services, which do not necessarily have to be user-oriented, but to adapt them to new technologies with the aim of achieving the best possible user experience.

This publication shows an overview of key challenges in the process of digital transformation, apostrophises its importance, as well as the general awareness which is maturing in Montenegro. In addition to strategic documents that directly concern the introduction and use of new technologies, there is a whole series of sectoral strategies, which take into account certain aspects of digital transformation, mostly through the introduction of new information systems, data digitisation, and to a lesser extent, digitalisation of services.

WeBER closed-door meeting in Brussels: Advocating for WB PAR Monitor 2021/2022

Yesterday, at the European Policy Centre – EPC Brussels premises, EU WeBER PAR Monitor 2021/2022 results were presented at the closed-door round table organised and delivered by our partner, EPC Brussels.

Western Balkan countries have been pursuing EU membership for years, and this path has often proved to be as challenging as ever. Within the entire package of conditions that need to be met before the eventual accession, public administration reform was and is one of the multi-faceted but fundamental areas of intervention but with still suboptimal progress. It is drawing the attention of the EU Commission and domestic civil society in these countries alike. The expectance is that the increased external pressures will bring the region closer to the EU and to human-facing public administrations, making lives and livelihoods easier in dealing with the bureaucracy.

Since 2015, the WeBER has monitored the progress in the public administration reform in countries of the Western Balkans and has opened the public space for more dialogue on the need for citizen-oriented administrative apparatus. Moreover, it has increasingly involved citizens in deliberations on their experience dealing with central state authorities and service providers.

The revised enlargement methodology of 2020 set out to instil new dynamics into the accession process for the Western Balkans and restore the process’s credibility. In that context, it promised, among other things, to increase the use of third-party indicators in the Commission’s assessments – a promise which has not been fulfilled to date. One such third party is the region’s civil society, which has, over the past years, developed and implemented several independent, evidence-based reform monitoring initiatives, offering ample data for the Commission to use and reference in its reports. The event included a presentation of a policy brief which makes a case for the utilisation of the findings produced by such initiatives, as they can greatly contribute to the quality and credibility of the Commission’s reports and strengthen the civil society’s impact in the EU accession process.

Miloš ĐinđićJulijana Karai and Alban Dafa presented the monitoring results from the Accountability and Public Finance Management areas at the event.

  • Practices related to Transparency and Accessibility of the Budgets of the WB countries were presented, highlighting good aspects and shortcomings. The results per country mainly remain the same, with the exception of North Macedonia, where the results have decreased since the last monitoring cycle. There is no progress when it comes to this aspect. The participants discussed the causes of stagnation and different incentives which can be used to push governments to improve their transparency (DG NEAR Kloe)
  • SAI External Communications and Engagements towards the public and different stakeholders have been one of the highest-scoring areas, and the practices of SAIs in each country have been improving throughout the years. Results in each country are high. In some countries, SAIs cooperate with CSOs and listen to their suggestions on how to improve the practice of SAI. Kloe from DG NEAR suggested that cases in which SAI audit findings led to a change in policy.
  • The aspect of Proactive Transparency was focused on the case study of 7 central administration bodies in each WB country, accessed based on several criteria. The conclusion of this monitoring cycle is that even when the information published by the institutions is complete, up-to-date and easily accessible, it is still often bureaucratic and not really citizen-friendly. The critical area when it comes to proactive transparency is budget and activity reports, and chronic issues in all WB countries have remained the same since 2018, with results in this area remaining very low. Corina suggested that the results from different cycles may not be comparable since new practices are introduced.

Milena Lazarević, Programme Director of CEP and Team Leader of WeBER 2.0 presented a paper which focused on different tools developed by CSOs which can be utilised to follow the reform in the Accession Process. The paper pointed out certain problems of the European Commission’s reporting approach, such as the lack of citations and quotes of third-party indicators, which compromises the transparency of the report. CSOs have been cooperating with the Commission in the process of developing the country reports and providing written inputs for the enlargement package, but their contributions are not referenced. Good examples of regional and national initiatives developed by the CSOs, which have a big potential for dissemination, have been presented in the paper. These initiatives include indicators which allow following the situation in different areas of society and can be useful to the Commission. Recommendations have also been presented in order to resolve the issues which persist when it comes to Commission’s reporting approach.

Sandra Laquelle, Chloe Berger and Florian Hauser from DG NEAR discussed the findings of the paper.

Appointments and employment in the public sector

Political parties fight for meritocracy only when they are in opposition, alongside the media and the NGO sector. Undue political interference in public administration recruitment is legalised because there is no guarantee that the best candidates will be chosen.

Milena Muk, a public policy researcher at the Institute Alternative (IA), was a guest on the political talk-show “Naglas” on RTCG. She stated that the law has provided ample room for political interference in the process of appointing members of the boards of directors of public companies. Muk added that this happens due to the fact that the Law on Business Organisations has not defined any specific requirements that appointed board members are obliged to meet.

Muk u emisiji Naglas na RTCG
Milena Muk, IA’s public policy researcher

“We notice that political parties and politicians criticise certain appointments only when they are in the opposition. It is undeniable that the opposition has its right to criticise, but it is also true that advocacy for meritocracy is reserved for political parties only when they are in opposition, as well as for the media and the non-governmental sector. When it comes to appointments in Podgorica, we must distinguish that some of them are a kind of engagement that does not represent employment in the legal sense, considering that public sector employment is regulated differently, far from perfect but better regulated”, Muk stated.

Procedures, she added, are often superficial. There is no legal obligation in any part of the public sector to select and appoint the best candidate, even at the positions that require prior public job advertisement.

Highlighting the complexity of the issue, Muk explained that there is a certain confusion in public, as different functions and job positions are discussed using the same categories, although they are subject to different legal acts. IA’s Map of risk of inappropriate influences and corruption in public sector employment has shown that even state authorities are not doing well in order to be marked “green”. That means that there are no guarantees for minimal competitiveness or prevention of inappropriate political influences, as there is no guarantee that the testing commissions will not be composed of politically exposed individuals.

Muk added that politicians should not promise public job competitions, as it is a sign that the employment system in the public sector is deeply flawed. She emphasised that it is common for all political parties to try to divert attention from this important issue.

The show also featured Dragan Koprivica, Alija Košuta, and Milan Radović. You can watch it at the following link.


Open format data publishing – A practice that is yet to gain traction in Montenegro

Montenegro’s obligation to publish open data, i.e. data in a format that facilitates its reuse, is stipulated by the Law on Free Access to Information.

Publishing data in an open format is particularly important for its reuse, allowing for analysis and digital processing.

The aim of this analysis is to provide an overview of the current situation in terms of open data, and to scrutinise the latest PAR monitoring cycle in the Western Balkans region, the results of which were published in 2025, to illustrate the extent to which public institutions in Montenegro publish data in an open format in relation to each area of public administration reform (PAR), and to show how Montenegro ranks in relation to countries in the region in terms of the publication of these data.

Potential application of the Staged Accession Model to Montenegro

After harmonising the legal and strategic framework with the EU standards, Montenegro has been stagnating for years or making very limited progress, having failed to deliver concrete results and to implement the most complex reforms by applying EU standards on the ground, while the European Commission (EC) has been reiterating its concerns and recommendations year by year.In order to address this stagnation, it is necessary to overcome the existing binary model, according to which most of the EU integration benefits occur only after full membership, without sufficient incentives to reward reforms on the way or to sanction the lack of progress. An idea that is more often mentioned in this context is the introduction of the Model of staged accession to the EU, which was developed by the European Policy Centre (CEP) in Belgrade and the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.

This document will analyse whether and in what way the proposed model could be applied in Montenegro. First of all, the document tries to show what are the key shortcomings of the current Enlargement process, as well as whether the proposed model would stir up or solve some specific problems in the case of Montenegro. The document also analyses key stakeholders and their potential role in deciding on the application of this model within Montenegro’s EU talks. A special section of this document is the assessment of the level of preparedness of Montenegro to join the EU, expressed in figures, by quantifying the assessment from the most recent EC country report. Finally, recommendations that Montenegro must fulfill in order to meet the conditions for entering one of the stages and move from one stage to another in line with the proposed Staged accession model, have been singled out.