Blog: Freedom to the People!

It looks like the Government will “forgive us for beating us”. Prime Minister Marković told journalist during the meeting with the European Union High Representative, Federica Mogherini, that we have “quality and potential”, but we use it in a wrong way.

On the one hand, I was relieved, because if they think we are using it in a wrong way, it means we are on the right track.

What we, the four NGOs (CCE, CEMI, CDNGO and Institute Alternative) really called for, was probably blurred by a fearsome campaign run via pro-government media, from the stands of presidential candidate Đukanović and NGOs close to him.

Photo: Shutterstock

Our document titled “Montenegro – Between Reform Leader and Reform Simulacrum”, which we sent to the European Union a whole month before the elections, gave them a lot of worries. Only the truth can hurt so much. And the only truth is that we called on the EU to open its eyes wide and use the announcement of stricter conditionality in chapters concerning the rule of law, which it devised itself, so that real reforms would begin. In order for politicians to realise that they cannot not work and lie without sanctions.

Fortunately for us, during this month, there was no one who would refute a single letter from the document containing all eleven pages. Those who like to read and do not want others to interpret reality for them can read this document in its entirety on the websites of our organizations.

How did this document come into existence? It was drafted as a consequence of our conviction that only a serious warning or a decisive message from the European Union that it would “seriously consider activating the balance clause” can wake up our government and prevent the continuation of game in which “Montenegrin Government masterfully applies the exhaustion strategy to the process of European integration, abusing the EU’s need for a new integration optimism”. So we literally wrote in the document.

Who has basically written the document of the four NGOs? All those ministers, managers, assistants, secretaries, prosecutors, police officers, and judges who had in the last, this and all earlier years feverishly tried to turn inactivity into praise, empty talk into success story, poor indicators into bright statistics.

What is the fundamental difference between us and them? They want Montenegro to enter the European Union with nothing changed in the area of rule of law, fight against corruption and good governance!

We want Montenegro to use the negotiation process to change for the better! Simply, we want Montenegro to enter the European Union in a better state than Romania or Bulgaria were at the time of their accession, so there is not another Orban’s Hungary in the EU.

What is the content of the intimidation campaign that was and still is run?

Four non-governmental organisations have been proclaimed “political”, and deemed equal to “those who were chasing away foreign investors”, they are “reform inhibitors”, “domestic” (traitors was not pronounced but was implied). Editors and columnists of pro-government press have competed in vilifying us, so one even claimed that we would “call for bombing of Montenegro” and another one noted that “unfortunately in Montenegro there is…” one of us from NGO. I guess the lucky circumstance would be if we did not exist.

They also determined that our motives are “personal” and “lucrative” and that we do all this contrary to the citizens’ interests.

One high-ranking state employee stated that the requests of four NGOs’ would negatively affect students at universities, salaries and pensions, possibility of traveling to the EU without a visa, i.e. that our document almost caused thousands of tearstained and impoverished persons across our country. False. Also, pathetic.

Neither did Gordana Đurović’s explanation help, who condemned the document without even reading it. She previously stated that the balance clause is a “lighter form of suspension of negotiations that would manifest itself in the” blockade” of opening new negotiating chapters if there is no further and sufficient progress in chapters 23 and 24, which focus on comprehensive fight against corruption and strengthening efficiency and independence of the judiciary”.

That our initiative is political, and that it is in the function of the opposition and the elections, was best demonstrated by the opposition presidential candidate, Mladen Bojanić, who stated that halting negotiations would be in favour of Đukanović and DPS.

Either we from the four NGOs are some kind of double agents working both for the ruling party and the opposition or the matter is complicated and seedy all the way.

On the other hand, I am still “extremely worried” about the ability of the EU to understand how empty amiable diplomatic sentences which glorify the superhuman efforts of our authorities sound.

Although the report contains (mostly) all that the NGOs have been pointing out and that independent media have been writing about, political messages stated in relation to the report are still an unfortunate result of a hidden expectation as well as an old need to give one of the runners in the long European race a role of the one running first stages above its real abilities, so that it gives a faster pace to the whole race. It is to be expected that this race, after Albania and Macedonia start running, will provide healthier competition and a more objective comparative image.

There is no dilemma that the language of politicians and diplomats cannot be the same as the language of civil society. Our language is direct and open. Nevertheless, the political messages given in relation to the report blur the somber image of Montenegrin reforms contained in the Commission’s report.

Still, it must be that our willingness to openly question the EU’s approach and to point out shortcomings in measuring the government’s performance showcases our integrity, given that our work is dominantly supported by the European Union.

But let’s go back to the campaign against freedom of expression, which essentially lasts since government and its critics came into being, and which increases with sharper criticism, and is aimed against the key critics (NGOs, media, democratic opposition and other free individuals).

Umberto Eco referred to one of ten elements of fascism as “disagreement is treason” and explained that fascists cannot withstand criticism. It was therefore paradoxical to hear the regime leader calling fascists the media and NGOs who dared to criticise the affairs of his heir to the state.

Seems to be a matter of a serious mix up.

We must never forget that freedom of expression is an essential part of human rights and a precondition for democracy and civil society.

In the end, all these threatening messages to critics of wrong, undemocratic and corrupt policies and practices are in fact addressed to all citizens so that nothing similar occurs to them.

This is why we must continue to defend freedom of expression in every place! Without freedom of expression there is no freedom, people!

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board

Blog was originally published on the Vijesti portal

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